Thursday, January 5, 2012

My Love-Hate Relationship with Lala Pakistani

Contributed By Azfar Adil (guest blogger)

I am not a Shahid Afridi fan. Quite the opposite. He is everything that I believe is wrong in Pakistani cricket and, by extension, Pakistan at large. He is the personification of our modern style-over-substance culture: a culture that values a 10 ball 24 over a well constructed 100, Afridi over Misbah. Hum ghaas khayein ge magar bum banayein ge.

What's particularly galling is the undeniable talent on display every time he laces up a pair of cricket boots. He tantalizes us with sparse occurrences of sanity in his batting. Even his detractors had to marvel at the way he shepherded a hounded Pakistani team through the T-20 and ODI World Cups. He has developed into Pakistan's best and most consistent ODI bowler (only made better with the addition of Saeed Ajmal).

With all this however, there are the regular brain farts: godawful swings across the line, lame charges down the pitch, on pitch sambas, cricket ball samosas and various repeated retirements. I have often wondered what Afridi's talent would produce if coupled with even half of Miandad's brain. I wonder this still.

I am a child of the eighties, spoiled by Pakistani cricket. This team has given me many gifts; a six in Sharjah, the twilight of a Lion's career, the left arm of God, banana inswinging yorkers, the straightest of straight bats from the roundest of round sportsmen, two converted mullahs each with a cover drive they could only have attained through a life of prayer and piety, a doosra a teesra and maybe even a chautha. It is through this legacy of champions that I evaluate Shahid Afridi and all objective evaluation finds him lacking.

So why bother? I don't know. Or at least I didn't know why I bothered until very recently. I was following the ODI series against Sri Lanka online, splitting my concentration between risking a derivative, following the score and receiving SMS from my father. Somewhere between Lala making 75 out of a Pakistani score of 200 and throwing out the Starman on his way to a 5 wicket haul (basically single handedly winning the third ODI), I realized the power of the man and his method. Shahid Afridi makes me feel like I belong, like I felt when I was a child, like a Pakistani.

I am that most confused of individuals, the Pakistani transplant. Na idhar ka na udhar ka. I left the land of the pure at what I thought was the ripe old age of 18, ready to conquer the world, a giant in my own mind. I landed in the US and promptly had to grow up to the immensity of the world and my small place within it. While I was absorbing the world around me and changing, my homeland was changing as well. Nawaz gave way to Musharraf gave way to Zardari, all the while accompanied by a liberalizing media and a de-liberalizing populace. I now go home to a shade of the place I knew, wondering whether my Pakistan ever really existed or whether I was just too young to understand what my country was when I lived within its borders. There seems to be nowhere to go and nothing to believe in except Allah, ghairat and of course Imran Khan.

I don't mean that last part flippantly at all. Imran Khan has many exceptional achievements, on and off the cricket field. But the only reason he is a credible politician is because Wasim Akram had the game of a lifetime in the World Cup final. I don't know my country anymore, but I do know that I can stop anyone on the streets of Karachi and have a long passionate argument about the relative merits of Taufeeq Umar and Imran Nazir, gesticulating wildly and then going our separate ways without rancor or hurt feelings. We are bonded with each other through cricket and little else. The only time we consider ourselves Pakistani as opposed to Sunni, Shia, Sindhi, Punjabi or Mohajir is when Shahid Afridi bats for all of us.What Lala gives me is more subtle than anything that can be objectively evaluated. Continued mismanagement and corruption in the institutions of power in Pakistan have left the country bankrupt; financially, culturally, intellectually and morally. If only while he bats, Afridi convinces me that he can succeed despite his obvious shortcomings. That his resilience is born of our resilience as a nation. That while he bats for us, all Pakistanis can succeed despite our obvious shortcomings. That we can be the best in the world, known as champions and not terrorrists and malcontents. Lala gives me hope; and isn't that what being Pakistani is all about?

About the author: Azfar's relationship with Pakistan cricket is similar to the relationship a meth head has with his crystal; he can't stand what it does to him and his family/friends, but can't tear himself away from its unique high. He lives in New York with his beautiful wife Marium, her beautiful cat Munni and his beautiful PS3.

Make your pitch on this post...

1 Pitched:

  1. Shavi said...

    Putting down Imran's populairity to just his cricketing career ignores his efforts to build Shaukat Khanum, Namal University and 15 years in the political wilderness.
    The author truly doesn't understand Pakistan anymore.

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