- The politics of the game
England managed to win the World Cup, marking the third time that a host has won, and the fourth time that it had hosted the tournament, by the narrowest of margins. This was the first time that the super over had to be invoked, after the final itself ended in a tie, and even that was tied, and England won because they had hit more boundaries in the super over. It was going to be the first win for whichever side that won.
The sides they had beaten in their respective semi-finals, Australia for England and India for New Zealand, had experience of winning. Australia were the holders of the Cup, which they had won back at home in 2015. India had won in 2011, when they had hosted the Cup along with Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. In nine prior tournaments, no home team had ever won, though one had reached a final, England itself, in 1979.
However, it is unlikely that the winning captain, Eoin Morgan of England, will ever become Prime Minister of the UK. To an extent, Imran Khan has spoiled it for World Cup skippers, especially from Pakistan, by becoming Prime Minister of Pakistan. It does not seem to be enough to win the World Cup; one has to go the extra step. The biggest objection against Morgan is that he started his career by playing for Ireland, and is Dublin-born. To complicate matters he plays for that quintessentially Home County, Middlesex, which meant that his victory was at his home ground. He played for England because his mother is English, and Ireland was not yet a full ICC member when he debuted, having only played its first Test last year.
It was not the first time England was captained by a non-Englishman, with Tony Grieg (who had been born in South Africa) leading the country in 14 Tests. And would it be too far-fetched to remember that the Duke of Wellington, England’s general who beat Napoleon, was born in Dublin, like Morgan? The Battle of Waterloo was won ‘on the playing fields of Eton’, he said. Was he talking about football or cricket? He also said that Waterloo was a ‘damn close-run thing.’ Would be too much to assume that the famous ‘luck o’ the Irish’ played a role? He did belong to the Anglo-Irish aristocracy, being descended from those Englishmen who had settled in Ireland during the era of Cromwell and William of Orange.
Afghanistan’s presence showed that the aim of growing cricket internationally had not succeeded. The Test countries are still mostly ex-colonies, and cricket is still quintessentially the English gentleman’s game. Even though that gentleman may now be a myth
And Wellington was twice Prime Minister of the UK, so Morgan has another precedent, apart from Imran, to mention. It’s perhaps just a coincidence, but Imran has a link to a general, a Pakistani one, Lt Gen AAK Niazi, though he was not a very worthy example compared to Wellington. Again probably just a coincidence, but General Niazi was nicknamed ‘Tiger’ for his daring as a young officer in World War II in Burma, while Wellington, then just Colonel Wellesley, commanded the troops who defeated Tipu Sultan– nicknamed the ‘Tiger of Mysore’– back in 1799.
Morgan may have taken himself out of the running because not only did he not dedicate the victory to anything (as Imran did to a cancer hospital in 1992), no one even knows what his favourite charity is. He will be deprived of any chance of Ashes glory this summer, as the England Test captain is Joe Root. Morgan is thus diametrically opposed to Imran, who would have strongly opposed any division of the captaincy.
One result of not dividing it up is that Sarfaraz Ahmed is captain of all three forms. Instead of judging him for the quality of his leadership, or his batting and his keeping, he was being unfairly judged on what sort of political leader he might make.
He is not as imposing a physical presence as Imran. His main task is to keep wickets, which is not just a pivotal role in the field, but crucial to the success of any team. However, it does not capture the imagination. Sarfaraz suffers no obvious physical defect, but he has none of the more obvious qualities which are thought of as handsome. There may be place for a takeover of the right, but if Imran is anything to go by, it would be a long process, and there is no knowing if he has the guts to go through with it. Also, he lost the Cup, so his chances are thereby reduced.
If the home-win paradigm prevails, the next win for Pakistan might come due with the next Cup, which may well be hosted in the Subcontinent. One problem is that the Subcontinent is crowded with contenders to win. Apart from India and Pakistan, Sri Lanka is also a full ICC member, as are Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Interestingly, these are the only ICC members where cricketers have entered politics. CPS Chauhan became a BJP MP, but moved down and is now a UP minister. Another Imran contemporary, Navjot Singh Sindhu, is also a provincial minister, in Indian Punjab. The only member of the 1983 World Cup winners in politics, Kirti Azad, is now in the Congress after having been a BJP MP from Bihar, where his father had been a Congress chief minister, well after Kirti’s playing days were over. Muhammad Azharuddin has been an MP, and like Imran Khan, was involved in a spectacular divorce. Another cricketer who also messed up his marriage was the Sri Lankan Sanath Jayasuriya, who has been a junior minister, as has Arjuna Ranatunga. Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza of Bangladesh is actually the first cricketer to have been elected a legislator before retiring. It may mean that any selection committee that drops him risks having a privilege motion moved against it. Imran has not brought any cricketing buddies along with him, not even in the PCB, not even Sarfaraz Nawaz, the only other cricketer of that generation to make it into an assembly, the Punjab Assembly, in 1985. Before that, Pakistan’s first Test captain, AH Kardar had been elected to the Punjab Assembly in 1970, and had served as a minister.
Afghanistan only recently entered the ranks of Test-playing nations, and has a relatively brief experience of democracy, thus unsurprisingly no Afghan ex-cricketers have been making it in elections. Afghanistan was also on display at this Cup, though it failed to win any matches. It was the second time that a member which had not been a British colony was playing, and a Test-playing country to boot. Afghanistan’s presence showed that the aim of growing cricket internationally had not succeeded. The Test countries are still mostly ex-colonies, and cricket is still quintessentially the English gentleman’s game. Even though that gentleman may now be a myth.