Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Oh no, not cricket again

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This article appeared in The News on Sunday 1 November 1998 when a world cup was about to start – or was already being played. Reproduced here for the reading displeasure of all cricket lovers

The number of people I exasperate with my utter illiteracy in matters of cricket is endless. But, it must be conceded, that I simply do not see the point of the game. How can I when they say it’s a ‘silly point’? If you ask me, it’s not just a point that’s silly; the whole caboodle is exasperatingly absurd. What’s the sense in a game with a couple of geriatrics in white coats and bunch of good for nothing loafers who, if they had any sense at all, would get in out of the midday sun?

On second thought, it is perhaps because of having been out in the sun rather too long that these men are the way they are. I mean, whoever in their right minds would get into clean white clothes and stand in the blazing sun the whole day long throwing a red ball a couple of times this way and that, while two other nutters saunter about between two sets of upright sticks. Meanwhile, for excitement the TV cameras pan the empty stands and show the grass growing (which grows faster than the runs come) and the vultures overhead. The vultures obviously waiting for the geriatrics to drop dead. Worse, I fear the vultures fooled by the aggressive inactivity on the ground, take the players to be a bunch of cadavers.

Of course, it is not all that dull and occasionally the two men between the sticks do manage to raise some thrill by jogging a bit. In the normal course of the game (if game it can be called) the somnolent TV/radio commentators ooze words at the rate of 6-7 wpm. In this rare spasm of excitement, they gush out 40-50 wpm. But that is only so that you (the couch potato!) know it’s time to sit up and catch the action of two kooks jogging between the sticks. That is, if the camera at the moment of extreme excitement is not focussed on a pair of pigeons about to do something far more interesting right there on the green.

Then the men in white and the invisible commentators lapse into inactivity all over again. Several hours go by. Some of the white-clad chaps lounge on the grass; others chat with the TV cameramen or any one of the thousands of uniformed policemen. Yet others dodge the assorted missiles that come their way from the rare but terribly bored spectators. Unfortunately, this the most exciting part of the game, is seen only in Karachi or Peshawar. In between, they bring on tea, food, cold drinks. One time, I swear, (in the match between Elbonia and Flambooistan played at Chana Chaka in 1924) some cricketers had their charpais brought in for the afternoon siesta on the seventeenth day of the fifth innings.

There they napped, in full view of the thronging crowd of eleven people in the National Stadium. And in the blazing sun too. Of course the teeming crowd can happily watch a bunch of good for nothing white-clad chaps snoozing away for any number of hours: if they can watch them score nine and half runs in as many days – and then draw the match (with crayons on graph paper) – they can also watch them nap. And there are no statistics of the countless millions who watched this feat on TV from the comfort of their living rooms because television had not yet been invented, you dopes.

Yet every time a cricket test begins anywhere in the world, I am amazed by the number of dimwits that wander about the country with a glazed look in their eyes and a radio glued to their ears. I never see the point in this silly exercise. Why, if you miss four or five or ten hours – or even fifteen days of commentary – you can always tune in at the last minute to learn that the test match lasted seventy-three weeks wherein both teams scored five hundred runs each and drew the match. So what, pray tell, is the point of the radio to follow the balls (now don’t get obscene ideas)?

If you ask me, cricket matches are exactly the same as PTV soap operas: they are choc-a-bloc with ads, there’s no dearth of glamour, the one is as exciting as the other and they carry on for years on end. Then they just die on you without so much as a whimper and you ask in bewilderment, “Was that it? Is it over?’

Some chap called Lawrence that cricket commentators swear by (after whom Lahore’s Lawrence Road and Garden are name, they tell me) is always at hand to share singularly odd bits of information. Since he is always everywhere, I believe they have a couple of dozen clones of him. And he is a bit of a sneak too for he always speaks to listeners/viewers indirectly through the commentators and we don’t even know his face.

He will, for example, tell you that since the advent of cricket they have played a total of seventy-five thousand six hundred and nineteen and a half test series. This gives us a figure of two hundred and thirty-nine thousand one hundred and sixty-three and a quarter innings. In these they scored a total of eight hundred and seventeen and a half runs in one billion seventy-three million three hundred thousand five hundred and sixty-two minutes and twenty-three seconds while five hundred million and fifty-seven and a half balls were bowled. Wow! What a load of bull.

It was all very well before the advent of television in Pakistan for then cricket was something extraneous to my life. But ever since it became mandatory for all cricket to be telecast live on PTV, I receive calls at various times of the day (sometimes night as well) from relatives or friends. Always the caller wants to know what I am doing and without waiting for a reply launches hysterically, breathlessly into a description of the way Maved Jianmum or Mukaar Thoonas or Rasim Baja is flogging the living daylights out of Wortney Calsh or Jareja (mein toe say na hi boloon).

It takes me a few seconds to get into the subject, but when I ask where it is all happening, cuss words flow. As a patriot, I am supposed to be following the epic battle on TV. It does not matter to the caller that I don’t care if Aslim Tarif stays on the pitch for seventy-five hours and ninety-six seconds to score his three and a half runs in five hundred balls.

Then there is that inane utterance that never fails to be uttered at least five times every day during the match: ‘This is cricket and anything can happen in cricket.’ Oh, for Pete’s sake, anything can happen any bloody where! This was invented by some half-wit cricketing ‘expert’ and handed down as gospel to be part of cricketing jargon until even your neighbour’s cat can say it..

Here’s the scenario: Mars having batted seven of the five allocated days, in their first innings have scored eleven hundred and seventeen runs – which would have been a world record if they had been Earth and not Mars – or if Lawrence hadn’t gone off to sleep. They have Pakistan reeling at all out for no loss (no loss to the Martians, silly).

At this point some ‘expert’ who speaks English in Punjabi (why the hell doesn’t he just speak Punjabi?) comes on to tell you so very sagaciously how ‘irresponsibly the Pakistanis threw away their wickets’ and how bad the situation is so far as Pakistan is concerned. If only Afreet Shaheedi hadn’t played that last shot, if he had only played it first or even twentieth he would still have been batting. If Mum hadn’t been Mum, but Dad so and so would have happened that could have led to a long innings (as if five days of boredom are short). Having said that, the ‘expert’ crowns his inane drivel with, ‘The match is wide open. This is cricket and anything can happen.’ Yaaaargh! I can pull out my hair at this imbecile remark.

To begin with, if the Pakistanis were going to throw away their wickets, they should have had sense enough to take a whole load of the things along so that they did not run out of them. Anyway, since they have now run out of wicket and no ordinary sticks will do, the ‘expert’ tell you how wise it will be for Pakistan to force Mars to a draw. Wow! What a freaking game where you can actually contrive a draw. They way they say it, it sounds as if the act is the easiest and most sportsmanlike of all. Ever try forcing a draw in hockey or soccer?

They say there is a bunch of sinister men in black in some super secret lab somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle working away on more and more foolproof methods of forcing draws. The people in the pay of CIA, Mossad and Raw will ensure that in future no test match is ever decided, that each and every test ever played ends in a draw. As things stand, the good news is that these men don’t have very hard to work. Having irrevocably secured the drawn test match, they will then develop the drawn one-day match. Even this will not be difficult because, remember, this is cricket and anything can happen – even a drawn one-day.

Meanwhile, it is also said that cricketing laws are being changed. In future test matches will have no time limit. You begin playing and play right on until the match is decided. But the way things are, the players will die of old age sooner than the match gets somewhere. In view of this, test match series will be phased out since a single match will have the potential of continuing for centuries, if not for eons. When players die of old age, or mostly of boredom, they will be replaced by younger players.

Imagine! An endless supply of glazed eyes, radios on ears, inane drivel, bizarre and esoteric cricketing statistics and English in Punjabi. That, folks, is what cricket is to me.

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 00:00,


At 16 September 2013 at 14:21, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That makes too of us.

But this reminds me of my childhood crush who said, "if you understand cricket and learn to enjoy it, you will be better able to move in society."

I never could.

At 16 September 2013 at 14:25, Anonymous Saima Ashraf said...

Bermuda Triangle....lolz
My father will get this post copied, stand in the entry of his area and distribute the paper......He hates cricket that much.
I watched 1999 world cup but there appeared the bats of suspicions in it that led me to leave on those who are willing ready to be fooled. Game should be game otherwise it drains energies, pockets, and of course precious time of a nation.

At 16 September 2013 at 14:50, Anonymous Kausar Bilal said...

An interesting post; you mean we should root out all kinds of sports? :)
I believe any kind of sport can be represented in the same way...hahahaha...

At 16 September 2013 at 16:28, Blogger Afat qiamat said...

.This actually is a " Silly point " , you " glance " over " long leg '" and say its a " Fine leg " , set up a " Cover " for a " hooker " shot ,.... oops....that may be the "Slip " of the tongue , so beware of the " bouncer "

At 16 September 2013 at 18:17, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Anonymous, move in the society of louts like Fat Arse Imtahan ul Buk, Tulla Sheed etc. The last gentlemen I know were the Raja brothers, The Khans of Lahore and maybe Wasim Akram.

At 16 September 2013 at 18:18, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Afat Qiamat, you carry this day!

At 17 September 2013 at 01:43, Anonymous Tariq Malik said...

A vast majority of cricket lovers, as I know them, seldom read. So your 'displeasure' theory already stands discounted, no? O' parhein tab naa! :)

P.S. I bet for many of them the mere mentioning of the word 'cricket' should be enough to bring redness to their cheeks. Why labor with the reading then? By golly, you've pleased them immensely!

At 8 November 2013 at 21:43, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good satire! I used to love playing cricket and giving a whack to the cherry. I also liked watching it till it became a mug's game when the bookies took over. Golf gives the same thrill when u c the ball rise high in the air and land on the green.
Some more 'stats' for your amusement. It is said Hitler allowed a match to b played in Germany. After the end of the day he asked about the result and was told it was still underway. For the rest of the four days, he was given the same answer but at the end of the fifth day when told that the match was a 'draw,' he had both the teams along with the beer-bellied umpires shot on the spot.
This one is authentic: In the apartheid days, it was England vs S Africa in Capetown in the early days of the last century. Since it was the last match, the series standing 0:0, it was decided that the Test would b played till finish, irrespective of any time limit. They had not catered for the uncertainties of the glorious game of cricket. On the 13th day,there was still no result and the steamship that was to take the pommies back to their island started hooting declaring the departure of the vessel. The MCC team had to run from the field to the harbour to catch it leaving even their belongings in their hotel rooms.

At 11 November 2013 at 11:16, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Advisory Tab, you ought to tell this one to our tweeple friend Haroun Rashid; especially the last part about it not ending even on the 13th day. If permitted they, or their grandsons and great-grandsons would still have been at it.


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