Shahid Afridi: Diverse narratives
There’s been a lot of hue and cry over it with some people suggesting that Afridi had been ‘caught out’.
Shahid Afridi, our cricket hero these days, is best known for his sixes.
Irrespective of the circumstances, and engaging all kinds of risks, he hits the ball with all the force at his command. From then on, it is entirely up to the ball. It may cross the boundary or end up just inside and be caught. On his return from Mohali he issued a statement that must rank alongside his historic sixes. Hit hard and high, the ball appeared to have landed far from the cricket field and into the political arena.
There’s been a lot of hue and cry over it with some people suggesting that Afridi had been ‘caught out’. The primary objection is that the statement violates the norms of dignified behaviour for cricketers, which include keeping the sport and politics apart. Those who had been pleased that the ice had finally started melting between Pakistan and India as evidenced by the Indian prime minister’s invitation to Pakistan’s president and prime minister and its acceptance by his Pakistani counterpart, too, are very unhappy. Our cricket hero, they apprehend, has sabotaged the goodwill initiative. Whether or not the goodwill stands sabotaged, possibly not, there is no denying that the outburst caused a lot of people to doubt it. Many on both sides are known to be bent upon exploiting whatever petty stuff they can seize to obstruct dialogue between the neighbours.
But then I thought Shahid Afridi, the captain of Pakistan’s cricket team, cannot have spoken irresponsibly. If he is as angry as to have concluded that there can be no understanding between Pakistan and India because while there is openheartedness on our side there is pettiness and narrow-minded behaviour on the other, it must have been on account of extraordinary prejudice encountered in Mohali. Just as I was about to dismiss all the columns written against him I saw one written by Shahid Mahmood Nadeem.
Shahid says he was part of the spectators’ group wearing green shirts, carrying the national flag and cheering the team on. He particularly mentions a Sardar Ji the crowd started calling Taya Cricket, to match our own Chacha Cricket, and who joined the latter in leading the cheers and amusing the crowd. Citing several examples like these he claims that the environment was quite friendly. One of the banners said the 2011 World Cup belongs to us (India) and the 2015 one to you (Pakistan).
So who does one believe? There is a cricket hero on one side and while people do not attain that status in our society on account of their services in arts and literature, we still have a prominent person on the other side. Such people may lack a cricket hero’s celebrity but they do have a certain credibility so that their account cannot be easily disregarded either.
That apart, as Ghalib has famously pointed out, people are at their glorious best in their own realms. A cricketer can best distinguish himself on the cricket field. Politics is another game, with a totally different kind of highs and lows, tactics and strategies. A cricketer, even if he becomes a hero, will therefore do well to avoid politics. Cricketing skills are quite irrelevant to whether or not relations between Pakistan and India can improve. Leave it to politicians. Cricket should suffice the cricketers.
*Translated from Urdu
Published in The Express Tribune.