Afia Salam's Blog

Life is a journey

Posts Tagged ‘Sports

Memons on my mind!

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Now we all know the nexus between Memons and money.. well if one community knows how to put the money where the mouth is, it is them. From building hospitals to schools and orphanages and mosques, to technical training institutes to so many other philanthropic ventures, they have done it all Yes yes there are palatial houses and flashy cars and glitz and glamour too, but besides all that, this is a community of doers that shares and cares.

So while all of Pakistani cricket lovers crib about being starved of their beloved game, they pulled open the pursestrings and launched the Memon Super League in style! And because nothing succeeds like success, are now into its second season for which the players draft has been held and 7 teams chosen who will be facing off against one another in three of Karachi’s best flood lit stadia.

I can perceive some raised eyebrows from people who have known me while reading this. Not because I am waxing lyrical about a community, but because I am talking about a ‘super league’ .. an oldie like me, who is way out of her league at there ‘player drafts’ and auctions, which somehow I always viewed with a bit of distaste and suspicion.

Why? Well it is all part of my growing up process into the game of cricket. In the age of the dinosaurs (Your’s Truly) Test cricket was not just the ‘real’ thing but it was the only thing! Even the Sunday League in England, that birthed the concept of One Day Cricket, started later (yes I know I am giving away my age by saying that).

However, rooted as i was in the cerebral contest that Test cricket was, I was still young enough to welcome and enjoy the advent of limited overs’ cricket in the form of ODIs. This is why when my cricket writing idol, Omer Kureishi, whose writing and commentary had a deep imprint on my cricket learning, said that ‘it was not cricket,’ i put it down to him being a purist and a traditionalist.

What I didn’t realize at that time was that this shortened version would be further truncated to the Americanish, slam bang T20 format! Now here I was echoing Omer Saheb, we we all called him… by lamenting, albeit weakly, that ‘this is not cricket.’

But then came the IPS, BPS, PSL et all.. and i thought we had all lost our way, as sure THIS couldn’t be cricket! OMG..they buy and sell players? and what’s with these skimpily dressed women cavorting along the boundary line. And what in tarnations is this Power Play etc. I was keeping pace till electronic umpire was introduced but then i let go of the game that was the air i breathed and food i ate. Until these Memons drew me in, to my own surprise:

 

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Shoaib Mohammad

It took Pakistan star opener Shoaib Mohammad, scion of the legendary Mohammad family, who had graciously accepted the invitation to come and show support, to take me through the paces and explain to me how the entire system worked. He was familiar with many of the persons present, and felt confident that they would be able to make it a very successful tournament, given their past experience in the promotion of the game.

And when Emmad Hameed started the auction (shudder shudder) of the players, my young friend Faisal Kapadia probably saw my expression and came to explain that it isn’t always about Memons and money… as the points being used by the team owners are of non-monetary value (phew).

As as i said before.. I was drawn in. Boy oh boy i thought it was just the game on the field that could get competitive but i was wrong. The auction was as competitive as it gets! Guess cricket excites emotions on and off the field. The Memons sure knew their boys, but they also roped in non-Memon players to allow the boys from their community to get the flavour of competitive cricket, and get a crack at the bigger league of the game.

That basically is the aspiration. The destination. To play in the big league with the big boys. The journey to that destination is the Memon Super League, now in its second season, and garnering support from some big sponsors who have invested to give the boys a chance to play at three of the best flood lit grounds of Karachi, the Rashid Latif Academy, The Asghar Ali Shah Stadium, and the tucked away in a corner but a very well maintained IBA stadium at the Karachi University.

With specially prepared colourful kits for the teams (Memons.. textile business.. you know.. wink wink) and attractive prizes, the boys are all set to set the grounds alight with the willow and leather. So come independence day on August 14, 2017, and we shall see a lot of engaging, entertaining cricketing activity in different parts of the city. What better way to gain independence from boredom and cricket starvation.

Yes Yes.. I admit to accepting T20 as cricket as it lights up the faces of the legion of fans this game has. Let is have cricket. More of it the better.. Theek chey?

Press release MSL – Auction (updated ) (1)

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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

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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

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

Paralympic Athletes: Symbols of Strength

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Guest: Dr. Farooq Baig

Topic: Paralympic Athletes – Symbols of Strength

Description: Special people have special qualities. They are gifted with a certain strength and determination to show the world how they can also earn laurels for their country.

Do you know any talented sports persons who need to come into the limelight? Do you know about Pakistan’s performance in the paralympic games?

Written by afiasalam

August 25, 2012 at 11:41 am

Asia Cup: Bangladesh Cry Babies?

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Topic: Asia Cup: Bangladesh Cry Babies?

Description: Sports these days is an aggressive business. A lot hinges on the result of a tournament; money, prestige and professional growth. This is why sportsmen play hard. The laws that govern the sports get tougher for this very reason. But what happened after the Asia Cup that just finished in Bangladesh? Pakistan won, Bangladesh players cried because they missed by a whisker, but then they decided to cry foul! In the final analysis, not only did they lose the Asia Cup, they lost a lot of sympathy and goodwill that the people and players of Pakistan had for them. See cricket analyst Sohaib Alvi discuss this aspect.

Do you think the Bangladesh players didn’t know the law? Or were they ill advised to file a complaint?

Language: Urdu

Written by afiasalam

March 28, 2012 at 6:50 am

Controlling the Controllers

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Topic: Controlling the Controllers

Description: Every department of an institution has cash cows who are the central tradesmen. The institution is on track and running because of them. Isn’t it their right to get paid and to demand for a payment if they don’t?

Back in the 70s, Pakistani cricketers were not known as professional players because they did not get paid a lot. Some of our cricketers who played county in England were once called for national duty. When they asked about their fees, they were labelled as traitors.

Isn’t it a sportsman’s right to get paid? Aren’t they the ones pulling in the money for the country?

Written by afiasalam

March 11, 2012 at 11:53 am