August 16, 2010

There's more to Pakistan than Punjab and Karachi

Karachi may have a genuine gripe about being sidelined in terms of national selection at the moment - but that's how the rest of country has felt forever

A batsman from Karachi and a bowler from Punjab and that's your lot. For years this has been the truth of Pakistan cricket. On this has been built the Lahore-Karachi tale, a healthy, productive rivalry when times are good and a crippling divide when days are bad.

It has been around probably forever, though it first picked up some heat during the late 60s, when Karachi's Hanif Mohammad and Lahore's Saeed Ahmed (both born in pre-partition India incidentally) slugged it out for the captaincy. Not coincidentally, Pakistan was struggling.

Its most visible face came in the days of Imran Khan and Javed Miandad, days in which it became clear how much good and damage can be done by the tensions, egos, talents, friction and cooperation of two cities. They are actually two schools of thought. The roles are defined. The groans come from Karachi, where little excuse is needed to be a victim. Lahore simply carries on with the unconcern of the entitled.

The more Pakistan fails, the louder becomes this dispute. No one cares, after all, that the XI that won the 1992 World Cup final had nine players from Punjab (five from Lahore, but Karachiites will lump all of Punjab together to strengthen their case) and two from Karachi. The break-up of the XI that drew with West Indies in 1987-88 was usually of seven players from Punjab and four from Karachi.

Bad times are at hand again and so Karachi's belated outburst about the selection of the Test squad for the tour to England. Fourteen members of the 17-man squad are from Punjab, eight from Lahore alone. Tanvir Ahmed is the only Karachiite left. If neither Yasir Hameed nor Tanvir makes the cut in the next XI, the entire side will be from Punjab. That will be the first time ever in Pakistan's 351 Tests that the entire side is from one province. And if Tanvir doesn't replace Umar Gul, it will be the first Pakistan Test side ever to not have a single player from Karachi. To boot, David Dwyer's endearing Sydney drawl is the only non-Punjabi voice to be heard among the coaching and management staff.

Two points to consider. The immediate one is the Karachi gripe of bias and a lack of merit in selection. Many questions have been flung the way of cricket's governors, some more answerable than others. Why is Mohammad Sami not in, especially after that Sydney morning burst? Answer: Because, surely, he is Mohammad Sami, of 34 Tests, 84 wickets, and a 50-plus average. Where is Faisal Iqbal? Presumably somewhere near where a man with four fifties in his last 14 Tests (average 24) might be. The point nobody in Karachi raises is of the role Shahid Afridi, presently the city's most popular son, played in picking this squad.

In 58 years as a Test nation not a single player from Balochistan has represented Pakistan. Not a single Test player has come from the vast, forgotten interiors of Sind that surround Karachi. Not one even from Hyderabad

Others are tougher. How does Shoaib Malik, for example, after nine years of not convincing anyone that he can play Tests, continue to deny Fawad Alam an opportunity in the middle order? What sin has Sarfraz Ahmed committed? Having been Kamran Akmal's understudy for three years, he was given one Test, where he dropped no chances, and is now not even in the Pakistan A side. Did Danish Kaneria deserve to be dumped from the squad altogether after one poor Test? If so, then jettison as well the keeper who has missed 17 chances off him alone over 24 Tests. And try as they might, still nobody has a convincing theory as to why Wahab Riaz is in this Test squad. If you chuck in the cases of Khurram Manzoor (77 in Hobart in his last Test innings), Khalid Latif (averaging 46 as opener over the last four domestic seasons, with 11 hundreds but zero Test calls) and Asad Shafiq (this season's top scorer in the Quaid-e-Azam trophy), a certain Karachi fury is understandable.

But consider the second point, of far graver concern. The great conceit of the two great cities is to act as if nothing exists beyond them, that the roughly 150 million people outside don't matter.

In 58 years as a Test nation not a single player from Balochistan - the largest province area-wise - has represented Pakistan. Not a single Test player has come from the vast, forgotten interiors of Sind that surround Karachi. Not one even from Hyderabad, where much more depends on Azeem Ghumman, Pakistan's Under-19 and now A team captain, than anyone can imagine. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (formerly NWFP) has produced barely a handful.

Of Pakistan's 18 centrally contracted players, only one is from outside Punjab or Karachi. Of the 19 stipend contracts, given to future stars, 15 are to players from Karachi and Punjab. In the U-19 team that finished runners-up in the World Cup earlier this year, 12 of the 15 were from Punjab and Karachi. Of the country's 200 Test players, a fraction under half come from either the cultural or commercial capital. What Karachi feels now and will feel this week if Tanvir doesn't play, the rest of the country has felt forever.

That a team comprising representatives from more than one province - or one province and the biggest city - cannot be produced in a country this big is damning not just of the current administration but a whole line of them, from the very first. This is how limited the spread of the biggest, most fabulous, most lucrative and most glamorous game, the only game that matters apparently, has actually been in this land.

The lazy, long-held assumption is that there is neither the talent nor the inclination for cricket in a lot of these areas. (In Balochistan, for example, football and hockey are popular.) The same was once said of East Pakistan. Nearly 40 years on, I know which top six I'd rather have. The truth is, no administration has been able or willing to put in place any serious, sustainable development plan for areas beyond these two. No infrastructure has been developed, facilities are poor, and access to the game remains difficult. The curse of modern Pakistan - the security situation in Balochistan and the north-west - has not helped.

It is admirable that players such as Mohammad Zahid and Mohammad Irfan from places as obscure as Gaggu Mandi, or Mohammad Amir from Gujjar Khan, can be found. Cities such as Faisalabad and Sialkot, and smaller satellites such as Sheikhupura, are contributing to the Pakistan side. This is good; cricket, it suggests, is the one grand equaliser in a country of great disparity. But it is not nearly enough because this is also a land of great diversity.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Azim on August 25, 2010, 15:28 GMT

    To subedar486: Has it ever happened that ten players were selected from Karachi? I think you need to understand the meaning of "what's goes around, comes around" Selection of ten players from one province without merit is racism period! Any one equates racism to "what's goes around comes around" dwells in racist mentality and it will destroy cricket in Pakistan just like it has done to Field Hockey! By the way just FYI cricket setup in Pakistan starting from Senator, PCB Chief, Secretaries, other officials; if vast majority of them are not from Punjab then Punjab can barely manage four players on merit in the playing eleven. You have played first class cricket great job but keep in mind cricket is the table talk in Karachi Pakistan and people have ample knowledge & understanding about this subject that it can surprise you!


  • mohammad on August 19, 2010, 18:35 GMT

    Good article. Here are some data of partisan attitude by the Pak rulers ( civil/military/sports). From East Pakistan(now Bangladesh), there was no test player till 1970, very poor representation in Civil service and specially in the defense forces. You all know the results. Now Bangladesh can possibly play competitive cricket with the current pak team. If you do not give equal opportunity to all, how can you see the ability from all corners. Pak cricket has always been controlled by a selected group and fairness was not there at all. Malik and Kamran and Farhat are the prime examples, that these players were given repeated chances after dozens of failures whereas Younus,Yasir Hamid and Fuad Alam and many others are not getting chances. See the result of the 3rd test with Yusuf and Hamid included. Would not 2 more replacement make it a much better team? Why that was not done? Because crazy PCB and selectors. Get rid of them ASAP and you can be the champion with the talents you have.

  • Shumail on August 18, 2010, 20:11 GMT

    @pccb. How the in the world can we get akrams and waqars from karachi if cricketers from karachi are not given a chance....Ridiculous..Everybody remembers Imran Khan's grudge against Javed Miandad when he declared the pakistani innings in the 1982 test against india when Javed Miandad was 280* not out and he was in such fantastic form in that match that he could have scored 400 if he continued to bat...Why is Fawad Alam not getting a chance...Just because he is from Karachi??With a test average of 41.66 and ODI average of 40.87..Look at Umar amin's average who is from Punjab..His average is 12.37..His high score is 33...Look at Azhar Ali (from Lahore) has an average 21.5...Azhar ALI and Umar Amin have talent but Fawad Alam is better than both of them but still he is not given a chance..Asad Shafiq from Karachi has an List A and First Class average of 43.7 and 38.33..But he is not given as many opportunities compared to Umar Amin....

  • Haroon on August 18, 2010, 18:08 GMT

    Well we in sub continent are best at none but brilliant at one "complain" rather than finding a solution, we run to blame!

    Pakistan should have 5 domestic teams, namely Punjab, Sind, Baluchistan, Kashmir/Northern areas and Pukhtunkhuwa (i call it Pakhtunkhuwa since the name Khyber-Pakhtunkhuwa sounds ridiculous- )

    Under these provincial teams headed by businessmen/business should be clubs. These teams should pick players from these clubs. The National team picked from 5 provincial teams. Now here u have club cricket fighting hard to make a name, provincial teams pick players on open auction for the season and you have the best talent out. Now the opponents of this simplified idea talk about poverty and departments helping cricketers. So much so that Tauseef played domestic cricket for so long that his son used to come pick him up (kidding). Departments should own clubs have shares in provincial teams and it should be privatized so the stake holders do not succumb to favoritism.

  • Syed on August 18, 2010, 17:15 GMT

    This is a very touchy article but we need not to shy away from this. Cricket is the most likeable and most coverable game by media in Pakistan. I agree that Squash produced great players from KPK province, Snookers, Boxing and recently athelete from Karachi, Hockey players from mix of Karachi and Punjab, Tennis players from Punjab. In cricket Punjab produced fast bowlers abundantly of pace and quality. In cricket it has been seen recently that quality talented players from Karachi especially batsman were given very few chances and they were kick away from team after one or two failures. Average players from Karachi like Faisal Iqbal, Sami, Shahzaib were selected and tried too often despite failures. While batsman from Punjab are given repeated chances despite failures of themselves and Pakistan losing test matches. So the uproar from Karachi seems genuine on this aspect (batting) and wicketkeeping. I dont think Karachitis will protest in bowlng department as merit prevails there.

  • Dummy4 on August 18, 2010, 14:01 GMT

    I can not disagree more. There should be no quota system. But instead there should be a transparent selection system. It should not have a hint of biased decisions. Apart from this I see no juice in this story. If someone is from Lahore or Karachi should not be the reason for their selection simple, it should be what they are/will offer to the team. We still think like tribal ppl,our, us, me, mine etc nonsense. We are Pakistanis and should think like one.

  • Shehzad on August 18, 2010, 6:14 GMT

    @pakistaniblood. I strongly support your arguments.There must be Quota plus Merit system, otherwise these allegation continuously haunt PCB. Remember if you suppress somthing it will explode ultimately........

  • Ahsan on August 18, 2010, 1:05 GMT

    I feel for Fawad Alam I think he is not 20/20 player, but his Test average is 41 in 3 test and 40 in 17 One Day And his domestic average is 50 plus . I don't knw how the hell he is not in the team .I think in all the young lot he got far better technique & have temperament to play test . Y including Yousuf i knw he is a fine player but he not fit i rather have Younis i think he can play another for 2 year and he take catch. Imagin Yousuf score 50 and drop Petersen Twice . Can some one explain y Younis band still existence.

  • Humayun on August 17, 2010, 23:45 GMT

    Dear Nuur. When certain patterns are openly apparent it is only natural that they will get pointed out especially if they are consistently not delivering and still being maintained. And it is not merely a matter of a city whining, if you or anyone for that matter is truly honest they should themselves point out such patterns regardless of affiliations. For that matter Karachi's population of between 15-20 million is more than Blch'stan's entire pop. and equal to the entire KP's pop of around 17 million(wikipedia). So if not a single person from that city finds his way into the national squad there has to be an issue. The make up of the board tells the story. Chairman- Lahore Punjab Manager- Lhr Captain-Lhr VCapt-Lhr Coach#1- Burewala Punjab Coach#2 Lhr Coach#3 Lhr As a natural consequence the selection of the team follows a particular pattern as well. But still no one would have a gripe if they would deliver. Fawad Alam! Century on debut under pressure and not worthy? Come on brother

  • Dummy4 on August 17, 2010, 23:07 GMT

    It's not only Pakistan, the issue can be seen elsewhere. For e.g, India and Australia. There is always a debate when players are picked from NSW or Victoria. For instance, Usman Khuwaja made through to the national team ahead of others simply he represented NSW. I myself am from NSW and was delighted on his inclusion but that's not the point. I don't agree with the Quota system. Look at South Africa, they lost players like Kevin Petterson. I think they should fix the system of favourtism. You can't ignore these politics, it's only this time they are very apparent.

    I agree Azhar Ali and Umer Amin had no chance if they didn't know Salman Butt. Same can be said about Imran Farhat, Shoaib Malik and Kamran Akmal. Cricket is their job, I don't know how many chances do you get at your workplace if you keep making crucial mistakes.

  • No featured comments at the moment.