Winning some trophies while squandering others
A glorious Monday morning ended in a gloomy night. The euphoria of Pakistan’s daughter, Sharmeen Obaid, winning an Oscar in extreme competition brought with it sunshine, hope and effervescence. But the dismal surrender of Pakistan’s cricket team in Abu Dhabi struck exactly the opposite tone.
The Oscar award is a lifetime achievement. An event that is viewed by billions. The Academy is renowned for acknowledging exceptional artists and performances that both thrill and enlighten audiences in virtually every corner of the world. It’s the highest point of the year in the field of motion pictures. That a Pakistani has won this for the first time is indeed magnificent. That a Pakistani woman has won it is even more than words can describe.
This is confirmation that there is a huge light at the end of Pakistan’s tunnel. Talent abounds, resources are unlimited and opportunities exist beyond imagination. We need to stop the doom and gloom that we wallow in and think beyond, far beyond where we are at. I just watched the 7am news headlines on the allegedly prime channel. Nine items, only one positive! And that was the announcement that Bangladesh’s IPL final will be played in Dhaka today. I can’t stop shaking my head.
I am ecstatic regardless. All credit to Sharmeen. A girl raised in the lap of luxury, with an immaculate education, married into a renowned family, who could have chosen the way of most debutantes and become a celebrated socialite in Karachi’s vast circle. But no, she was different. She opted for the difficult journey to highlight the deplorable injustices that permeate our society and most Pakistanis very quickly sweep under the carpet in the garb of benign neglect. Add to this sensitivity, creative genius and flair and there you have it.
Sharmeen’s is an achievement par excellence. In a world where Pakistan is bandied as a bad word and played up as a hotbed of terrorism, it is of essence to recognise the talent within and let everyone know the mettle we are made of. Sharmeen has done exactly this at a very crucial juncture. Pakistan can stand proud for once. I am sure she won’t mind if I take the liberty of extending her dedication from ‘women’ to ALL Pakistanis working for change. For we need to stand united in our focus. Change Pakistan. Well done, congratulations, onward to greater glory, Sharmeen.
At the other end of the scale, and I’m laughing now, a sport that has occupied my fancy since I was smaller than a cricket bat. I’ve played it at a high level, closely watched it from the drawing rooms of many homes I’ve lived in and played on grounds the world over. And I’ve commented on it both positively and negatively. I’m amazed that talent remains restricted to about 24 players, recycled in perpetuity. In a country of 180 million people! Cricket administrators remain unable to break through the huge wall of sycophancy and jealousy that shuts out talent.
What I find even more ridiculous is that today, when videos provide instant replays on virtually every player in the world, our coaches and selectors are unable to read the weaknesses of our batsmen. They get out in ‘instant replays’ of every inning played when they are under pressure. And if you look carefully, it’s not bad luck: they even look at the sky where the ball has spiralled after playing the shot. Which means they are watching and know where the ball’s gone!
The inability to get their foot to the ball and play a front-foot shot is of equal astonishment. They are stuck in no man’s land trying to play balls that hurry on to them because the length rules the shot. At best, you’ll get a streaky single. KP’s innings in this last game showed how to play the slower ball on a dicey wicket. His pulls and lofted drives on both sides were played to perfection and precision. His foot was at the length of the ball, knee bent to give balance and body weight behind the shot. How many times does one see Afridi do this? The opposition knows he can’t and bowl accordingly. This standing around the crease waving the bat is reminiscent of playing cricket when we were young.
The ‘player power’ that scares the daylights out of our administrators is pure perception management enhanced by the immobility of our selectors and the convoluted domestic cricket programme. There isn’t a single player who will give up the perks, privileges and money. Change the mindset and make them earn their keep. A code of conduct is required for everything not just the press. Pakistan has been plagued by lack of commitment and enforcement. This chairman should quickly consider radical change with a modern structure else he will be riding the roller coaster pretty quickly.
Life provides infinite flexibility. Those that grasp it taste success, glory and fulfilment. Pakistan has the resources in every sphere. We just need to bring this to more. We have the proof. Let’s have more of the sublime and less of the ridiculous please!!
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