Two awfully interesting events happened over the course of few days. On the one hand, the whole cricketing world has been shaken with the blatant act of ball tampering by the Australian cricket team, and on the other we awarded someone with a similar record the third-highest civilian honour. This whole piece found its birth in a seemingly innocuous statement I posted on the social media and the reactions my post received over the next few hours. I was hyperlinked to different glories that player achieved over the career of nearly two decades, piling one over the other until it is hard to see the ball biting fiasco. All said and done, but there is something really wrong with us and the way we engage with our national heroes, especially cricketers.
Let us go back to the anathematic Justice Qayyum’s report that put into question the integrity of our most beloved cricketers. In a nutshell, the lesser charismatic got the axe and the more loved were ipso facto released with a paternal pat on the head. Even the juror conceded that he simply is unable to punish those of whom he is a big fan. Not only that, his reluctance was deeply rooted in the potential public outrage and the effect the decision would have had on his ending career. Kudos to him for saving the most iconic cricketers of the ’90s. Proud moment. Clap. Clap.
Our relational dynamics with star cricketers are pretty simple, ie, we are in love. Bumper stickers quote that when you are in love with someone, you tend to ignore the flaws in them and focus only on the positives. We tend to falter in exactly that. We are too short-sighted in our fascination to understand that our personal heroes are national ones. Therefore, their actions have consequences at not only the national but also at the international level. They play more for national pride than for us, which is why they absolutely cannot afford to falter.
Do all of their achievements lose value if they happen to stumble once? Unfortunately, the answer is in the affirmative, because even one black blotch in clear water makes it muddy, and no matter how much more water we pour in, it will still have that one drop of contamination. These are the people who are given responsibility to represent Pakistan. Therefore, they simply cannot afford even an iota of corruption. They are the pick of the lot, best of the country and when they falter, it reflects poorly on the country. We might end up forgiving them, but their names will always resound with the country ‘Pakistan’ internationally which further makes their misdemeanours unforgiveable.
I am all for giving someone a second chance but things get dire and stakes a lot higher when it is the matter of the green flag and its prestige. I do not vouch for the absolute refusal in welcoming the rehabilitants but we should at least practise reasonable reluctance that our flag deserves. And it is a hard ask, especially when a ball biter is awarded the third-highest civilian honour. What is even more unfortunate is that the charismatic ball biter now stands with the likes of highest Test runs scorer and the most successful Test captain of Pakistan. It is so unfair to the cricketers like the latter.
I know, I will be slammed left, right and centre for this article. Statistics will be quoted, achievements will be trumpeted, and being a Pakistani and a cricket fan, I will be able to understand the outrage. But I will always choose not winning a World Cup or even tens of matches over my flag being humiliated internationally.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 28th, 2018.