A world cup or the world itself?

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


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5 Responses to A world cup or the world itself?

  1. Nazar Naqvi says:

    I am very pleased to read the article. We need to proudly acknowledge the services of our national heros.

  2. Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur says:

    Once an English commentator said he wondered how Khan and his ego fit in the same room.
    Razi Sahib, you have pinpointed the real problem with, “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.”

  3. Pradeep Kalra says:

    A very nicely written article and the author deserves a lot of praise for the research done in providing the statistics of the World Cup.Being a cricket fan myself I came to know a lot of new facts through this of which I was not aware of.Imran Khan is now ready to win the world cup of politics with his tehreke insaaf.Made interesting reading.Lage Raho Azmi ji

  4. Jehanzeb says:

    Imran cannot succeed in politics without a Miandad in his team. Although a successful cricket captain, Imran was more a dictator than a thinking mind or a tactician. Imran was lucky to have Miandad at his disposal, who read the dynamics of a match as well as anybody. Despite Imran refusing to play under Miandad (remember the famous rebellion of the seniors during the 1981-82 Sri Lanka series), the latter never showed any qualms in supporting Imran to the hilt in the field for the sake of the team’s success. Cricket-watchers will remember how Miandad sensed opportunities and opponent’s weaknesses in the field and ran to Imran to have a word with him or brought about field changes. No wonder Imran won few Test or ODI matches when Miandad was not available (which was very rare in itself). On the other hand, Miandad’s all victories as captain post-the rebellion came with a weakened team, in the absence of one of the greatest all-rounders of all times.

    Imran can attract people around him due to the charm of his personality, bring about a sort of stability and discipline due to his non-sense dictatorial approach, but he lack a creative mind to come up with ideas and solutions to make him stand out and achieve something on the ground. It might not have meant much in cricket terms to remove a performing Qasim Omar or promote an underperforming Mansoor Akhtar; a subjective dictatorial approach may spell disaster in politics. Importantly, he needs ideas to keep coming. Despite attracting quite a team around him, he would need a political tactician a la Miandad around him to succeed.

    Pakistani batsmen struggled badly against the four-pronged fast bowling attach when Clive Lloyd-led WI team toured Pakistan in 1980-81. Miandad was the exception as he showed the courage in facing Croft, Garner, Clarke, Marshall and company.
    Munir Hussain’s Akbar-e-Watan cricket magazine printed this joke to summarise the series.

    Pakistani batsmen terrorised by the West Indian fast bowlers kept running away from stumps and none of them showed any courage in occupying the crease. It was only Miandad who faced the barrage of bouncers from the West Indian attack with determination and courage. He faced 200 balls to score 50 in the first inning and despite injuries returned to bat again in the second innings.

    ….. deceased funeral will be held in North Nazimabad later today.

    Note: This writer is not an Urdu-speaker or from Karachi.

  5. Nadeem says:

    Typical Muslim attitude of taking full credit and not mentioning team effort in the victory speech. Bye the way 1992 World Cup was the first to feature coloured clothing, white cricket balls and black sightscreens with a number of matches being played under floodlights.

    The 1992 World Cup was also the first to be held in Southern hemisphere. It was also the first World Cup to include the South African cricket team, which had been allowed to re-join the International Cricket Council as a Test-playing nation after the end of apartheid.

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