Afia Salam's Blog

Life is a journey

Posts Tagged ‘Cricket

Hospital, Gilchrist & cricketing DNA!

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When one visits someone in the hospital, the conversation usually is about the hows and how are yous, doctors, medicines, and what have you… besides of course  expression of good wishes for the patient and prayers for a speedy recovery, and offer of assistance to the caregivers.  Hardly, if ever, it veers too far away from the topic.

Well I was in for a different lesson in my hospital visit to see a very dear person who has been very ill. I also realized that while in Urdu, if something becomes a distinct character trait, we usually say ‘yeh uski ghutti mein hai;’ the closest phrase to it in English is the contemporary term of something being a part of the DNA! I know it is usually said as a form of exaggeration, but how true it actually is hit home today.

The legendary cricketer Hanif Mohammad, our Little Master has been very ill, and hospitalised for days. Yes he has been battling cancer, very bravely, but what got him into the hospital was a severe chest infection, because of which he was barely able to speak. Aggressive treatment and admission to the special care unit stablized but exhausted him out, so that he was in a deep sleep for hours.

The visitors too were careful, talking in barely audible whispers so as not to disturb him. However, as he opened his eyes, he spotted former Pakistan captain Mohammad Yousuf standing by his bedside and after the greetings and inquiries about the health were over, launched into a purely cricketing discussion, reminiscing about when he almost got a century in each innings against Australia, thwarted by a bad umpiring decision, which of course he didn’t contest and walked off, but which was admitted to by the opposition players as well.

While his son Shoaib attempted to take charge of the conversation by recounting the incident, Hanif Mohammad, who had woken up when our conversation had probably risen above the level of whispers, was absolutely lucid in his interjections. The drawl in his voice was there due to the weakness but there was not a hint of uncertainty about the games of long ago. I immediately understood that this clarity was because  it was cricket he was talking about which was in his ghutti… in his DNA… which no illness could alter!

Call from another Pakistan captain, Zaheer Abbas meant that the conversation stayed the course, with Hanif Mohammd complimenting  the caller by reminding him of his title of Asian Bradman and of his several double centuries. Such clarity after serious illness? Deep drug and exhaustion induced sleep? Nah! put it down to DNA!

IMG_20160802_215456And then came Gilchrist in the room… that fearsome West Indian pacer, the nemesis of all batsmen in the line of his lethal projectiles.

Aided by Shoaib, Hanif Mohammad took us on a trip down his memory lane to that glorious match at Barbados in the West Indies where he not only faced the fearsome Gilchrist, but walked right into the record books with his knock spread over 999 minutes… erroneously written in the Wisden as 16 hrs. 10 minutes.

(The actual duration of the longest innings to date in Test cricket has been mentioned as 16 hrs 39 mins … with its entire commentary etched onto a LonIMG_20160802_215148g Play record presented to him after the match.)

Innings that started with Pakistan in dire straits, following-on with a deficit of 473 as the score card would show, a familiar situation for the young Hanif Mohammad.

IMG_20160802_215251He faced the pacers any which way he could, in the days of folded towels inside pockets serving as cushioned guards, and flimsy (by today’s standards) pads, NO HELMETS, and certainly no No Ball calls from the umpires to the beamers aimed at the head by Gilchrist each time his ball was hit for a four!

Gilchrist was the stuff of every batsman’s nightmare, with arms dangling down to below knees, and a fiery temper spurring his catapulting of the ball out of his hands at speeds hitherto unknown. Hanif recalled with a chuckle how even a slight touch of the bat would make the ball race to the boundary, simply because it came at him with such great speed.IMG_20160802_215154

The father and son recounted Gilchrist’s vile temper which ultimately led him to being jailed for assault and battery as he had hit his wife with an iron! And to think that our diminutive  Little Master faced him and his ilk of equally ferocious fast bowlers simply on the dint of his determination and technique.

IMG_20160802_215420This firmly established him as the mainstay of Pakistan’s batting line up and earned him accolades across the cricketing world and recognition at home from the highest quarters. 337 with 26 fours, 16 threes, 40 twos and 105 singles were no mean feat!

Between his daughter in law Shazia and my exhortations to him not to speak too much, I couldn’t suppress a smile on his very matter of fact answer ‘well he didn’t really get to hit me on my pads’ (of course… perfect technique after all) when Shoaib asked if Gilchrist’s deliveries hit the body!

DNA again eh? The frailties of the physical body have done nothing to the sharp mind and wonderful memory. Get well soon Hanif Bhai. May we accompany you on many more of these trips down memory lane.

IMG_20160802_215356

All pictures from Hanif Mohammad’s autobiography “Playing For Pakistan”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by afiasalam

August 2, 2016 at 9:36 pm

Slight, Not Invite

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The resumption of a much awaited bilateral series would ideally call for celebration. But in this instance, the feeling of having been shortchanged is inescapable…

So what is it about an India-Pakistan cricket series that brings on the ultimate adrenaline rush for billions in the sub-continent — this teeming mass of humanity who own up to having an alternate religion — cricket! This is the force that binds us, while at the same time, dividing us into two very partisan, polarized nations. Nations that carry heavy baggage of history that makes the keenly contested Ashes between England and Australia seem like a tea party in comparison.

In this part of the world, cricket is more than a mere sport. It is a passion that lifts people to the highest levels of euphoria when their team is winning over the ‘arch rival’ and drives them to the depths of despair when it is on the losing end. The players are demi-gods when hot, and worse than criminals when not! Cricket has also been used as a tool for diplomacy when nothing else would work to thaw relations that resembled the polar ice cap.

It has also had the ability to melt hearts and open minds to welcome people from across the border in a display of genuine warmth, all the Shiv Senaiks on ‘that’ side of the BRB Canal and protagonists of perpetual enmity on ‘this’ side notwithstanding. For countries that emerged through a river of blood, which continued to flow through two full scale wars and many and frequent skirmishes due to festering, unresolved issues between them, it was always a difficult task to forge relations at another level.

However, after the Seventies the new thought emerged that normality could not be restored while sitting across a military or diplomatic table. People had to become friends. Thus Bishen Singh Bedi brought his team to Pakistan for a series in 1978, ending a 13-year drought, and opened the floodgates of warmth and affection between the people of the two countries. Mind you, the underlying motive for the series may have been political, as those were the days of dictator Zia ul Haq, who managed to be present during most matches. But politics took a back seat and cricket, and cricket lovers emerged as winners in a pulsating series which Pakistan won comprehensively.

Visa regime was relaxed and special arrangements were made for Indian fans in the stadiums, and in Lahore, many came directly from the train station to the stadium, all with bag and baggage, and saw the match before heading into the city to find boarding and lodging. While most of those who came were cricket fans, many came to go see their ancestral homes from where their families had migrated during Partition. Many a tear of joy and sorrow were shed when they went into the old city and met their or their parents’ neighbours who welcomed them with open arms. They were plied with gifts not just by those whom their elders had known but by the ordinary shopkeepers who wanted to contribute to this spirit of hospitality and friendship.

On the field, the relations between some of the younger players may have seemed strained, but the fact that Bedi, and Pakistan’s skipper, Mushtaq Mohammad were best of friends and county mates at Northamptonshire kept things under control, even jovial despite the victories Mushy’s crafty captaincy made possible. Many other players also had played English county together so the entire series achieved the objective of thawing, and improving relations, especially on a people- topeople level.

But this was a nostalgic trip down memory lane. A lot more water has flown down the BRB since then. We have had Kargil, and then Ajmal Kasab in Mumbai who did no-one any favours, and then the most ignominious of all, the attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore in 2009, which turned Pakistan into a pariah as far as playing host was concerned. No-one was willing to visit, certainly not a high profile team like India, despite many contractual agreements at the ICC and bilateral level. Pakistan also found itself out in the cold as far as the jointly staged World Cup was concerned and its coffers started to run dry, creating more bad blood. Now, that a series has been announced for December this year, and everyone’s hopes have been raised for a resumption of cricket ties that may result in better relations between the two countries, why are so many nay sayers emerging?

In the din of excitement over seeing two of the world’s most exciting teams play against each other, not at aseptic, neutral venues that Pakistan had had to settle for, let us not drown out the voices of caution. We must really see whether this series will be all that great a thing. Granted we have had Bal Thackery of Shiv Sena threaten to disrupt matches in Mumbai before. Some fanatics did dig up the wicket. But he has been around, and matches have taken place willy-nilly. But do not forget, that the other son of Mumbai, Sunil Gavaskar, who carried a reputation as an ardent supporter of Pakistan and its players on many international forums, has also opposed the series on the grounds that Pakistan is not cooperating with the Mumbai attack investigation. On Pakistan’s part, former captain Rashid Latif has also sounded a note of caution. He says instead of getting all excited about this almost-series, Pakistan should get India to resolve the unsettled issue of revenue sharing.

This is something India has been procrastinating on. After the Mumbai attack, India had cancelled its tour to Pakistan, which was a great financial setback for the Pakistan Cricket Board. Despite repeated calls for revival, and security assurances, India had refused to visit, and did not even agree to play at any neutral venue. Now, even though the invitation for this stop gap series, which is to be played while the visiting English players go home for a quick Christmas break, has come from BCCI, no revenue sharing formula has been worked out. This is despite forecasts of revenue generation to the tune of billions of rupees which is a given whenever these two teams face each other.

One has also not heard of any concrete or special measures to facilitate visas so the ‘people-to-people’ element is not taken care of either. Yes, the Pakistani players are starved for cricket, but that does not mean that the PCB should jump at such half chances as are being offered by the Indian board unless and until there is a clear advantage to our board and the players. We also have to keep in mind the statements emanating from the Indian government officials that this invitation has been on a board-to-board level. The government had nothing to do with it. However, it does not mean that the government will have nothing to do with it, as the final go-ahead for the tour will come from the government.

Make no mistake about it! So while the cricket nut in me is excited at the prospect of seeing the boys pitting their skills against the traditional rivals, in front of a capacity crowd in a charged atmosphere, a nagging voice inside the head tells me that I should go easy on the plans to stock junk food and shield myself from any pressing assignments during the match days.There’s many a slip between the cup and the lip; while there can be no better spectacle than an India-Pakistan cricket match, in view of the above reservations, we really have to ask for this particular series, ‘what’s so great about it anyway?’

This article was originally published on PIQUE.

Written by afiasalam

September 11, 2012 at 6:21 am

Posted in Cricket

Tagged with , , , ,

Cricket Corruption: Butt, Asif Found Guilty

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Topic: Cricket Corruption – Butt, Asif Found Guilty

Description: Cricketers, Salman Butt and Mohammad Aisf, have been found guilty of taking bribes to fix part of a Test match against England. The English jury may sentence seven years of imprisonment to both the players.

Do Asif and Butt deserve this punishment? Will Pakistani players ever learn from their mistakes? Is there a positive aspect to this case? Can anything good be derived from it?

Afia Salam discusses the case with Mr. Anwer Ali Khan who is a cricket blogger.

Written by afiasalam

August 27, 2012 at 5:32 am

Amir, Asif & Butt Jailed

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Topic: Amir, Asif & Butt Jailed

Description: The UK High Court judge delivered on indictment on the conduct of the Pakistani cricketers, Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir who were accused of spot fixing matches while playing in England last year. They, along with the agent Mazhar Majeed have been sentenced to jail terms.

Was the jail term too much or too little?

Is it the end of their cricketing life? Or will at least Mohammad Amir be able to make a come back?
Should he be allowed to?

Written by afiasalam

August 27, 2012 at 5:29 am

Fix the Fixing!

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Topic: Fix the Fixing!

Description: The genie of match fixing and betting is out of the bottle and refuses to go back in with new revelations everyday.
Can this evil be wiped out? Will the prison sentence of the Pakistani trio prove to be a deterrent?

Written by afiasalam

August 27, 2012 at 5:13 am

Pak v Eng series: Aik Haath do, Aik Haath lo?

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Topic: Pak v Eng series: Aik Haath do, Aik Haath lo?

Description: After a resounding win over England in the Test series, Pakistan totally crumbled in the ODI series, conceding a comprehensive victory to the English team. What just happened here? Complacency? Bad captaincy? Player shuffle? Or all of the above?

How can a team that performed so brilliantly just a few days ago display such miserable performance against the same opponent?

What is going to happen in the T20 series that is about to start?

Language: Urdu

Written by afiasalam

August 10, 2012 at 1:17 pm

T-20 Series Loss

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Topic: T-20 Series Loss

Description: After a nail biting finish in the third and final T-20 match between Pakistan and England, the loss of the series fell in Pakistan’s lot. After the high of the Test series whitewash, the ODI and now the T-20 series loss are quite a step down.

Where does Pakistan cricket go from here?

Do we need radical changes or a mere rearrangement?

Language: Urdu

Written by afiasalam

July 30, 2012 at 11:51 am