Guest Post by Jehanzeb Mirza.
Yeah, yeah, my Indian friends must be wondering that I’ve copied the sentence, “Cricket next to religion” from them; yes, this term was introduced by Indians and surely cricket is a custom there.
I must say that in Pakistan too, it is the thing which people follow, after their religion – and why not?
Sometimes I wonder why hockey is our national game. When you see the current situation and the current passion for cricket, it must be “THE” game.
From the time of the British, cricket was very popular in our region, and after the Partition it became a kind of tradition.
I am not denying that hockey was never popular, it was perhaps the game which most people used to play and watch till the 1980’s, when Pakistan had a “dream team” of hockey; when we were the undisputed champions on the field, when winning Gold in the Olympics in Men’s hockey wasn’t really a big deal, nor was winning the World Cup.
But things change. In the 1992 cricket World Cup which we won, every other game was put in shadow. When Waseem, Waqar and the most charismatic personality of them all, Imran Khan came on the scene, cricket became an obsession; a tradition; a custom; a fashion. We are the pioneers of swing bowling, and quality effective spin bowling too. Westerners may not know what I’m talking about, but if you visit Pakistan, you will surely love the passion for cricket.
Do you know we have the fastest bowler in the world – “The Rawalpindi Express” – Shoaib Akhtar? Believe me, the list of our legends in this sport is not possible to count.
It is a pity to tell you all that the cricket grounds of this great cricket loving nation depict a picture of desertedness because no international cricket has been played here since the attack on the Sri Lankan national team in 2009. It has all fallen apart since then. Yet, one can see passionate young children playing street cricket late at night, who have only one desire – that one day they will represent their country and make it proud of their talent. Their utmost wish is that cricket comes back to the nation again, like the old golden days.
Apart from the economic loss, no cricket being played here has taken with it a big joy of the people.
Cricket is also a “binding force” between the people of the nation and no doubt, I have seen a large crowd of people dancing in the aisles and watching important cricket matches on huge LCD’s fixed on the roadside. That is really a scene to watch.
My Indian friends – in fact all the cricket loving people reading this – will be totally convinced by me that India vs. Pakistan is really a rivalry to watch in cricket, but currently the people cannot even witness that because cricketing ties are broken, most probably due to the tension between the countries. I just hope that cricket is restored in the country, A country which is in love with the game.
Cricket is everything for the people of the country…It is our identity.