The tendency to glorify the World Cup win and Imran Khan’s role out of all proportion shows a terrible lack of national self-esteem among Pakistanis.
(Published in Daily Times, 5 September 2012)
Listening to Imran Khan and his legions of fans, admirers, supporters and followers, one would think that the cricket world cup Pakistan won under his captaincy in 1992 is a world first (and last) or perhaps the world itself. The Great Khan’s name cannot be mentioned without, in the same breath, mentioning “his victory” in the world cup.
It will be sobering to see, in perspective, the cricket world cup, Pakistan’s win and Imran Khan’s role in it. The 1992 world cup which Pakistan won was contested by a total of 9 countries. For comparison, the soccer world cup is contested by 32 countries. These 32 “finalists” are drawn from qualifying rounds that take place around the world over a couple of years preceding the world cup itself.
Ten cricket world cup competitions have been held since 1975. Of these, Australia has won four, India and West Indies two each, followed by Sri Lanka and Pakistan, with one each. Of the winning teams, Clive Lloyd captained West Indies both times, Ricky Ponting was captain of Australia twice, while Kapil Dev, M S Dhoni, Allan Border, Steve Waugh, Arjuna Ranatunga, along with Imran Khan, each led their country once to a world cup victory.
Of the eight winning captains (two of whom have two wins to their credit), only Imran Khan swaggers like a conquering hero. The others continue to live like normal people; highly respected and admired former cricketers certainly, but nothing approaching a living Alexander the Great or Napoleon Bonaparte.
Among all cricket World Cup national team captains who led their teams in ten or more matches, Imran Khan’s success rate is 63.63% (in 22 matches), behind Wasim Akram at 66.66% (15 matches), not to mention Ponting (92.85%, 29 matches), Clive Lloyd (88.23/17), Saurav Ganguly (81.81/11), Kapil Dev (73.33/15), Allan Border (68.75/16), Jayawardane and Ranatunga (both 72.72/11) and Steve Waugh (75/10).
Be it noted that Pakistan barely scraped through to the final of that 1992 world cup, thanks to a couple of factors totally unrelated to Pakistan’s performance or Imran Khan’s captaincy, such as a washout due to rain and the fortuitous result of a match between two other teams. And what about Imran Khan’s victory speech? Well, it sounded like the speech of a “tennis singles winner”, according to one commentator. There was no mention of the team or teamwork or anything indicating that the victory was not his alone.
No doubt, Imran Khan’s record as an all-rounder, and particularly as a fast bowler, is among the very best in the world. On that account alone, he is a national hero and a cricketing legend deserving of our respect and admiration.
But the tendency to glorify the World Cup win (and Imran’s role) out of all proportion shows a terrible lack of national self-esteem among Pakistanis and, more generally, among Muslims. I recall that many Pakistanis argued that 9/11 could not have been carried out by Muslims because of the “sophisticated” nature of the plot when the only sophistication needed to pull off 9/11 was the ability to steer hijacked aircraft (in this case four at about the same time) to ram headlong into buildings!
And speaking of achievements which make a nation proud, there is no greater individual achievement today than a Nobel Prize in science. Professor Abdus Salam, a Pakistani citizen with great love for his country, won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979. About a month ago, the world’s press and TV remembered Abdus Salam (who died in 1996) in relation to the successful Higgs Boson (or God Particle) experiment, in which his significant contribution was recapitulated. Everywhere except in his homeland. I wonder if Imran Khan would ever publicly mention the name of Professor Abdus Salam.
He won’t. And it is because of the company he keeps, hobnobbing with those who have turned Pakistan into a country where hatred and intolerance rule, fanatical murderers roam free and the State cowers. Professor Abdus Salam, a truly great son of Pakistan deserving of the highest place of honour, has been reduced to a non-entity in his own country because of his faith. Imran Khan’s political and ideological comrades-in-arms, literally speaking, patrol the length and breadth of the country to ensure that any voice other than theirs is stifled and any Pakistani whose sectarian or religious belief does not conform to their own is liquidated.
As for that 1992 world cup, the way we are constantly reminded of how “Imran Khan won” it for the country, the day may come when his admirers and supporters will want to add his name to our national pantheon as the third pillar of a troika or triumvirate or, if you prefer, a holy trinity: “Iqbal the Dreamer, Jinnah the Achiever, Imran the Winner”.
Postscript: On a lighter note, and while we are on cricket, I would like to share with readers some gems from a Pakistani cricket commentator:
A really good hit: “Tear the ball apart over cover”, “Hard hit – like a cracking nut”, “He (bowler) was not treated well by (batsman)”;
An upcoming batsman: “Took the world by surprise”;
A good batting partnership: “(Bowling side) is desperately looking to uncouple the two”;
Better bowl well “… otherwise he (batsman) will penalize you”;
Good bowlers should “keep it nice and tight”;
On the pitch: “The surface may not look that demanding a task”;
Morale booster: “Go and hit (opposing team) hard in the series”;
So far so good: “(Team) has been good so far in the first part of the show”
Three runs scored: “The pair exchange the strike, or change the strike, 3 runs”;
Umpiring in an age of technology: “Umpires have to concentrate as hard as the players”;
Fielder gives a chase but fails prevent a boundary: “He is such a good athlete but could not control that shot”.
This writer on that commentator: “He has such good English, but he can’t control his words.”
By Razi Azmi