What Wasim Akram happened to say recently on Pakistan cricket needs to be taken a note of. Not because it is the legendary Sultan of Swing or great achiever saying it, but because it is coming from a space of honesty and integrity.
“I think the world underestimates how powerful our security forces are. Cricket is more than a sport to us and we will do everything in our power to prevent cricket being taken from us again. The world needs to give us a chance to prove that!”
It’s important to, at least, give Mr. Akram’s recent thoughts a listen. Not because Netflix is getting boring or that you don’t have anything entertaining to watch.
But because an important fragment of our game that’s given Cricket so much, including inspirational figures- whether Hanif Mohammad or Sana Mir, Waqar Younis or Bismah Maroof, Fawad Alam or Syeda Nain Abidi- is being pointed fingers at for no apparent reason.
That could be out of a stench of bias, and if not, then perhaps out of implausibility.
To act intentionally stupid is purely a matter of one’s choice, but to form a preconceived notion about something points to a concern. That’s where problems begin.
The fanboys and those who downtalk Pakistan will not like this, but here’s the truth:
None of the teams that happened to visit Pakistan in the recent past were harmed. None of the players threatened, pointed a gun to or spewed venom at.
The West Indies went there a while back, circa 2018. They came back thrashed, but only on the cricket turf. Elsewhere, they were celebrated, welcomed, loved. The placards said it all.
Recently, South Africa visited Pakistan. Everyone from the Proteas camp came back in one piece.
In fact, to even iterate the fact that they (cricketers) returned back safe would actually be taking a stupid dig at a country that’s, time and again, said that cricket here is ‘safe.’
And social media posts of past, current cricketers- revered or not- aren’t the only evidence. The fact that none of the recent cricket contests in Pakistan have had any incident suggests we change our attitude toward a country that’s been subjected to bias.
But here’s what is happening.
For starters, there are those who don’t seem to like Pakistan cricket- and if that’s actually the case- then, they cannot deny the fact that it is a part of world cricket.
Has been. For ages. And shall be, unless one were to snatch away the rights from Pakistan to play cricket with other nations, which in an age where every PowerPoint slide says it bold and clear- Diversity and Inclusion- would be a hideous demonstration of double-standards.
But let’s not go there. For that’s a really dark place, right?
How about visiting facts first?
One reckons, we forget that there’s this critical thing inside the head of every human body that must, at least, on occasions, be put to some use.
Not that one needs to visit some Brain bar to induce some sense in every time, but anyways.
First things first.
If Pakistan would have wanted to actually impose a terrorist threat to New Zealand, why would it, in the first place have agreed to host the team?
Now, B- if the above, say hypothetically, were the truth given the convenient narrative of portraying Pakistan as a terror state is about as banal and frequent an occurrence as is a sneeze accompanying another in the case of common cold, what benefit would the cricket board be achieving actually with such a thing?
C- and this is really C grade, what is being achieved by calling off a tour at the very last moment?
Doesn’t help the cause of maligning Pakistan cricket alone by portraying it as ‘unsafe,’ when it’s the others too, who lose out in the process. Here’s how.
There being no cricket meaning no pays and no match practice, every bit of which would’ve been handy given New Zealand, who anyways play Pakistan in the T20 world cup (fast approaching), had a chance to improve their recent form. This is when the Kiwis found themselves wanting versus Bangladesh who beat them 3-2 in the two’s most recent outing.
The world’s attention is on T20 cricket format at the moment, though it appears it’s the IPL, one of the most popular leagues, that’s the talking point.
We don’t know as yet what stand the ICC took on India’s sudden and widely-debated departure from England with a Test still to be contended. We don’t know even now what the ICC’s clear stance on Pakistan versus New Zealand series is.
Never before has the need for cricket to be upheld, its participants to be treated ‘justly’ and ‘fairly’ been more important than at present.
It’s not down to some fanboy reason that both Babar Azam and Virat Kohli command massive fans bases and not just in their respective countries; but primarily because of the fact that sport today has reached- and beautifully so- geographies where it never was.
The world’s eyes are on Cricket. The ICC have done a remarkable job as have the stars and talents to take the sport so loved to regions where cricket never really was thought of as a possibility.
For instance, did you know in the land of chocolates and snow-capped mountains they are playing Cricket? Yes, very country where a certain Shahid Afridi, from Pakistan, was seen telling an Indian fan to properly hold her country’s flag as the cricket-lover was requesting for a picture?
Not that you need to confirm it from a Swiss jersey cow! Moreover, whether it is the land from which Marcelo Rios emerged or the land of the Iceman Kimi Raikkonen, cricket is far-reaching, inclusive, wider than before and diverse in its representation of talents.
Chile and Finland are just some of the massive examples of how beautifully has the sport breached boundaries and become a rising prospect in lands where it never existed once.
Lastly, only if you are living under a rock would you not know that women’s cricket is rising with every tick of the clock, becoming every more important and powerful than ever before.
To some, the 2017 ODI women’s world cup was the turning point, which was undoubtedly, a strong push in the right direction, but cricket had greeted women even before it shook the hands of men especially where it comes to the Women’s World Cup.
Every time we suppress a Pakistan, or it’s men’s team as seen most recently, or ignore the plight of women whose payments reached them after a painfully long delay, we do an absolutely shoddy job of mistreating the sport itself.
The sport isn’t suffering from some mortal danger of any kind so as to be allowing such instances to occur.
The sport certainly needs to step up the Action instead of ‘controlling, altering and deleting things’ just as it pleases.
And if it can’t, it is time it issues clarity on what to expect only so that further developments that break hearts, create doubts and instil a loss of faith in the sport’s governance and the way it treats certain teams doesn’t come across as a shock, and can be expected as normality!