We Pakistanis are already a fragmented society, divided on the basis of religion, ethnicity, provinces, socio-economical backgrounds and urban class/ rural class. Moreover the country is going through tough times. Inflation, terrorism, corruption, increasing crime rates, and political instability have brought about despair and hopelessness. But the one thing that binds us together, despite all our differences and dissimilarities is cricket!
I've inherited my interest in cricket from my dad, who being a fifty-something busy doctor, still follows the the game unfailingly and his passion for cricket is beyond measure.. I remember my childhood memories of the entire extended family sitting together in my uncles Tv lounge and watching the world cup , cheering and clapping at every ‘chakka’ (six runs) and exclaiming ‘out hai out hai!’ whenever a player would get out, scrutinizing and analyzing the batsman's every slightest move. Although I was just a little kid at that time, I still remember the energy and thrill that surrounded the room and it felt wonderful to see the entire family so deeply involved in the sport, from my grandmother to my youngest cousins.
Perhaps that’s why I like cricket so much, because it seems to be the only secular thing about the country that everyone is passionate about. It feels great to be able to sit in one room or one stadium (as it used to be before the Srilankan Team was attacked in 2009) without discriminating against caste, ethnicity or religion and just lose ourselves into the game, cheering for a common cause. Soumya Bhattacharya in his book ‘You must like Cricket’ has quite accurately called cricket the ‘Anti-Religion’ for the subcontinent, and in fact that is the only thing that glues us together and enables us to unite.
The true beauty of cricket can be experienced whenever there’s a cricket tournament going on. It feels good to see the whole country taking an active part in the festivities and giant screens being set up where friends and families can go to not only watch the sport but also socialize. The sense of patriotism and oneness, the thrill and energy, the lively and enthusiastic audience – where else does one see such fervor in Pakistan?
Even on an international level, it is cricket which bonds us together with the other desis living abroad. All desis , Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis all are equally passionate about the sport which automatically ties them together irrespective of their nationalities. As a staunch critic of the partition of the subcontinent in 1947, this brotherhood is like a dream come true! However it is quite shameful to see the hype that the local news channels create whenever there’s a Pakistan – India match. They forget the true essence of the game, and make it a matter of ego and prestige which spoils all the fun. Of course us people of the subcontinent are known to be a very emotional lot, but I think it’s very wrong of the media to turn the one thing that brings joy and happiness to the country into another tension filled drama! (As if we already don’t have so many things to be tensed about!)
So I’m glad that this Eid there are two remarkably exciting series to keep us all entertained. There’s Pakistan vs South Africa (ahem the chokers ! ) and India Vs Australia, and I’m glad that I can spend my holidays watching the matches with my dad and sort of reinvent my childhood memories . Sadly it’s just going to be the two of us this time as most of my family has shifted abroad. But that doesn’t matter because cricket is cricket. Full Stop. …….. Jeetay ga bhaiii jeetay gaa !!