Monday, March 28, 2011

May the Best Team Win!

As Indians and Pakistanis all over the world gear up for the 'mother of all finals', shrieking intensity on both sides is at fever pitch. While the Indian media is generating hysteria in the way only it knows how, the Pakistani Twitter and Blogosphere haven't been far behind. Any of those daring to question the validity of fringe lunatic behaviour regarding the match are promptly shouted down, called names and ostracized in a way that only new media knows how to do, with its little 'elite' cliques and coteries all linking to each other and patting each other on the back. Dissent in such a case is not an easy task. Some brave souls have still been attempting it, though.

It is remarkable how people who otherwise present themselves as 'liberals' see no dichotomy in indulging in near war-like rhetoric on Twitter, spinning themselves into a frenzy over their bottles of vodka in the hope that Pakistan will win this match. Make no mistake, I too would love for Pakistan to win but my love for the team and the desire for its triumph is not mutually exclusive with my ability to think straight. Most of all, as a cricket fan, and as a fan of two sports (cricket and tennis) that are more than big hulks pushing each other to the ground, I will appreciate all that the game has to offer me as a game itself.

As for the Aman ki Asha people and supporters, all this posturing is anathema to their cause so they will obviously try and push their ideas more aggressively when they watch them dissipating in a wave of mass hysteria.  It is understandable that their concern is with the larger implications of this game--the possibility of people to people exchange it affords, the cricket diplomacy that could potentially prove to be a thaw in Indo-Pak relations at the highest level and an opportunity to further the idea of sport as glue rather than divider.

In that light it is strange that one of my favourite blogs Cafe Pyala pokes rather mean-ish fun at those with a less jingoistic bent to this game, claiming that those behaving like spoilsports and talking of South Asia being the winner don't know anything about the game itself or Naoozubillah may not be eternally, irrevocably and undyingly in love with the Pakistan team, you know the kind of love that urges you to show your understanding of the game by posting a thousand pictures of the 'hot' team captain on your blog. Or that makes you excuse cheating cricketers because they are cute or young or talented. In the words of one such blogger 'Our team is 'badass'. Learn to live with it.' It is this excusing of 'badassery' in the name of winning at all costs that is the underlying problem in all Win-or-Bust rhetoric.

There is another blog called Clear Cricket that has come up with a list of 'etiquettes' for the match. They state that this match will NOT defeat terrorism. Huh? Of course it will not, nobody was deranged enough to suggest so, but your absurd reactionism can and will give legitimacy to men who play a different kind of sport--the Kasabs of this world--whose consciousness will be informed by your divisive, 'honour'-based rhetoric while infiltrating cities of the big, bad, evil India that needs to be defeated at all cost. Your posturing, chest-beating, fervent prayers, sledging, suggestive talk of the rape of Sheila and Munni will all have an effect that goes beyond the immediate. The haq-o-baatil ki jang backdrop in which you insist such matches be played makes you no better than the GEO anchors you love to otherwise deride.

Excessive celebration or depression disproportionate to the event only shows your lack of a life. ENJOY the game, that is what it was meant for. If a loss will leave you comatose or abusive for the rest of the week, you have obviously lost the plot. If your life's happiness is dependent upon this game, get a life. Which reminds me of Haali who muses on the characteristics of men (people) of character.

Shaadmaani mayn guzartay apnay aapay se naheen
Gham mayn rehtay hayn shagufta shaadmaanon ki tarah

(Men of character do not cross bounds in either celebration or grief)

I am a cricket fan and what I look forward to is a close contest, not a dead one-sided game, either way. The thrill of cricket lies in the twists and turns, an even contest between the bat and the ball, in the spirit in which the game is played. It is not a place for your cheap war fantasies where Haq demolishes Baatil completely because God is so obviously on the side of Haq. Crowds that are respected all over the world are not partisan ones who don't have the sense or sporting spirit to applaud another team's good play, who throw stones at their team bus or burn down stadiums because their side is losing. If you are so drowning in your patriotic juices then prove yourself better by showing restraint and a grasp of cricket's grand traditions and subtlety. This is not football, full of hooliganism and violence. Understand the difference.

I am all geared up for the match and can't wait for the 30th to arrive. Watching the game with my cricket-loving 9 year old and my 70 year-old cricket fanatic father is a treat in its own right. But if we lose, I know what I will tell my son, 'Cheer up, it's just a game!'


  1. sabahat

    the clear cricket blog was mean as a pre-emptive jest, anticipating the fact that hordes of people with otherwise no interest in cricket will take on the hype to promote their own agendas. the point about terrorism was precisely meant to poke at people who start looking to cricket as a means for diplomacy or peace. its one of my pet peeves when we consider that our politicians, media and general populace always speak of war, while the sportsmen - whose job description calls for either victory or defeat - are burdened with these expectations of peace, or stalemate. its contradictory, and exposes how people use sport to piggyback their own viewpoints.

    that said, there were some points that i personally didn't like, but it was a collaboration and frankly i didn't expect the post to get this much attention. nevertheless, i just wanted to make a point about enjoy cricket for cricket and a sporting rivalry, not as a trojan horse for our own ideologies.

    in my defense, please do check out the dawn blog either today or tomorrow, where i have a far more eloquent piece on the match. let me know what you think :)

  2. i was just about to echo Ahmer-I don't think that ClearCricket post was meant to be taken seriously! That said, I fully agree with you - this match is a little overhyped. Last year no one gave a damn when Pakistan played India, and now it has seemingly superseded common sense.

  3. very well written!

    - Pawan -

  4. A well written and articulated article based on the naive expectations of:

    a) South-Asians being rational and emotional at the same time.
    Once you've gotten whipped up in frenzy, the loudest voice always wins!

    b)The twitter-'liberalati' being any different than the rest of our populous who we claim to detest. - Just like them we have the correct 'solution' on any and every subject! Besides, being "Paralikha jahil's" is underrated!


    Its just a game. Just like it would have been if SL was playing NZ. -Really? There is such a game? And a WC Final to go!? o_O. -
    But when everything around us is going to hell and Ind v Pak is the only chance of some good news and a way to feel part of something, its quite easy to jump on the bandwagon.

    One hopes there isnt a major khadda on the way and people complete their journeys in one "peace"....One can hope :).

  5. Thanks for this sane and sensible post!

  6. Excellent post!

  7. While I respect your point of view, The only one I see reading too much into the euphoria is you. As you said yourself, enjoy the game and stop stressing about what others are saying or doing...

  8. well written, logical, but also emotionless to the point of being compared to Singaporean hospital food. To say its just a game is cricketing atheism.

    Different people react different ways. But there is no harm for the otherwise calm, composed, and dignified to throw occasional caution to the wind, let the hair loose, and cheer with jingoist ferver that they seldom feel in their placid lives.

    Not suggesting that we burn the house down, but ok to flock the roads, honk, celebrate, shout. This contest has a different meaning... to deny that is just as naive as it is crazy for those who have given it a war like status.


  9. You should read these two essays on spectator sports by Umberto Eco. They are in his collection of essays published with the title "Faith in Fakes: Travels in Hyperreality"

    I had tried to use the ideas there to write something during the last world cup (2007).

  10. Glad that someone thinks it's useful to treat cricket for what it is- a game and a wonderful one.


  11. Brilliant. Thank you for saying this!

  12. Well i agree to you also but dont you think that without emotions there is no taste in sports? Specially Cricket. These emotions and rivalry between Pakistan and India gather a lot of audiences attracted towards the game whether it a Cricket Match or a Kabaddi, Hockey or a Football Match...! As you must be aware of the European Countries Football Scenerio.. People literally kill each other on a single game.. even they are just the different clubs of a same country playing each other.. so if we compare that with Pakistan vs India Cricket Match Hype..then this is nothing against those Football matches..