I’ve never been a very good cricketer myself, but I’ve certainly been one of those who’ve never shied away from commenting expertly on the game (at least within my circle of influence.) There’s no harm trying to become a student of something theoretically, especially when you’re not that good at it practically.
Enough talk about ‘me’ and cricket. Let’s talk about cricket only now.
Pakistan’s tours to England have never been short of action. Be it Pakistan’s famous test victory at the Oval in 1954, or the ball-tempering issue in 2005, the crowd never got a chance to feel bored. This year as well, we’ve got action on and off the field in England which is making the news. This time it’s the match/ spot-fixing scandal.
Captains are expected to lead from the front, but Salman Butt (our test captain) wouldn’t have actually foreseen what he’d be alleged for leading at the start of this tour. Still images of Butt are circulating all over the internet in which he is seen with his agent (Mazhar Majeed) who’s become the centre of attention of media all over the world as a bookmaker.
Somehow people don’t seem surprised about Muhammad Asif (28) being accused of intentionally balling no-balls (maybe because of his past record which is full of controversies.) What’s surprising for many is the fact that Muhammad Aamir (19) is also being accused of the same.
Regardless of the outcome of the Scotland Yard’s investigations and whatever the PCB and ICC decide about the future of these three individuals, what we need to ponder upon right now is root cause of all that is happening in the world of cricket because of this type of corruption.
Pakistan is a country known to produce talent that is unmatched by any other cricket playing nation. In countries like Australia, England & South Africa, they have a system through which a cricketer needs to go through in order to make it to the big stage. Cricketers play in U15, U19, U21, County/ league/ domestic teams and the A-teams step-by-step before they are considered good enough to represent the country. Some lose their exuberance to method and some lose their passion to maturity.
In Pakistan, that is not the case. If a youngster here shows class even in an Under-19 competition, he is considered good enough to explode into the scene and rock the world. Players like Javed Miandad (debut at 19), Wasim Akram (debut at 19), Hassan Raza (debut at 14) and Umar Akmal (debut at 19) are all good examples of players who were introduced to the international arena before they even got done with their teenage.
So what’s the big deal? It’s only good for the country if it can produce such extraordinary talent at such a tender age.
The problem lies not with the talent of these sportsmen; it’s with their personal, professional, educational and moral development which remains incomplete and inadequate at the time of their debut in international cricket.
It is a fact that overexposure to anything before its proper time is not a good sign. Some of these kids come from pretty mediocre backgrounds with minimal education (thanks to our monetary and education system about which I will talk about in a future post InshaALLAH) and when they find themselves amidst fame, fortune and glamour, one can’t blame them totally for going astray.
It’s a complicated world out there, where exploiters are a little more in proportion than well-wishers. Especially in the world of cricket, where events like the IPL and Champions League etc. offer a mouthwatering proposal to cricketers where they sometimes are even ready to compromise national interest just for a few bucks. I say ‘national interest’ because players are ambassadors of a country and whatever ambassadors do is directly linked to the national interest of their country of origin.
I’m not proposing that players should not be allowed to play international cricket before a certain age. The solution is to ensure that a system is designed where proper grooming of players in terms of their educational, moral and personal development is also made possible side-by-side their cricket.
We have talent, we have aggression and we have passion. All we need to do is to channelize all these three in a positive direction for the benefit of not only our cricket, but for the whole world.
Hammad A. Mateen