The state ideology is not based on diversity but elitism. The state projects itself via one religion, one God, one nation and a single sport. Hence no other sport can flourish here
We Pakistanis are extremely fond of two things; Islam and cricket. Other than that we are interested in politics and sex. Our sex is perverted, politics ---dirty, religion--- fanatical and cricket—ultra nationalistic. Hence we hardly find anything healthful.
The cricket madness is visible since our childhood days. During that period we used to have test cricket which would run for five days and the entire nation would listen to radio commentary during that time span; from dawn till dusk. Nobody would show interest at work; scores were counted for five days and at the end of the fifth day one would find that the match ended in a draw. G.B Shaw once remarked: Cricket is a game played by eleven fools and witnessed by eleven thousand fools.
Cricket was invented by the English landlords. Slaves would field while the landlords would bat during the sunny days of winter. It is surprising that the people of the sub-continent adopted a sport introduced by the colonial rulers and turned it into mass madness.
While sports are a healthy human activity and are a reflection of the history, geography and socio-economic milieu of a nation, cricket does not suit our particular environment and circumstances. Cricket is a game for the rich requiring costly paraphernalia and infrastructure. Cricket is no more suitable particularly when it comes to the developing nations which cannot afford to waste time on the luxury. It is not an international sports, hence is not part of World Olympics.
Moreover, in the present age when people are already short of time cricket is being kept alive through “one day”, “50 over” and now “Twent” bouts.
Today, football is the most popular game of the world. Ironically we produce the largest number of footballs in the world; however the insatiate involvement in cricket has deprivileged football and many other traditional sports. These sports are economical and consume much less time and resources.
The particular mindset of Pakistan’s elite is in line with its involvement with cricket. The state ideology is not based on diversity but elitism. The state projects itself via one religion, one God, one nation and a single sport. Hence no other sport can flourish here. A very large part of the sports budget is allocated to the Pakistan Cricket Board whereas all other sports are dying as a result of lack of state patronage. Once hockey was a popular game which went into hibernation long ago, courtesy our involvement with cricket, deficit funding and complete absence of state patronage.
As Pakistani state is enacted on fake economic, political and ideological pillars, our political elite has always felt insecure. This insecurity is then translated into sloganeering, emotionalism, ultra-nationalism, and “fear” of the “enemy”; to ensure the security of the state. Such a hollow state is always in search of heroes, hence heroes are “searched” among cricketers who defeat the “others” and give a sense of fulfillment to the elite and the nation. However, sports are sports and require a high degree of science, technology, skill and expertise to win. Bare emotions and slogans are not enough.
The Pakistani nation today is suffering pathologically from narrow nationalism where even sports are seen as a war between Islam and kufr. When Islamism gripped the nation, cricketers were affected too. A time came when more than half of our team was doing tableegh attempting to convert non-Muslims. Our cricketers were often seen saying their prayers and reciting the scripture on the cricket ground. These practices not only led to the downfall of the sport it also generated corruption as other means were sought to achieve victory.
We could never defeat India on the battlefield and in economic progress, nor we enjoy greater prestige vis-à-vis India in the comity of nations, hence our public finds another outlet; defeating India on the playground. The Security establishment is responsible for creating these anti-India sentiments among the people. Sports which may act as a bridge to peace and cooperation are used in a subtle way to promote hatred and chauvinism. Pakistan’s rulers also use cricket to divert the attention of the general public away from pressing socio-economic and political issues.
The cricket craze and heroism must come to an end. To nurture a few cricket “heroes”, sports budget should be utilized on games which cost less and are indigenous. The citizens should have access to sports facilities, stadiums, gymnasiums and swimming pools. These actions would not only provide healthy activity to the general public, it would also lead to better performance by our players at the international sports.
|Arshad Mahmood is a columnist,freelance writer and a social activist.