Sunday, June 21, 2009

Politics and Cricket: Pakistan wins the Twenty20 World Cup

It is easy to dismiss as sports as just that....sports. Fun and games even when competed at the highest of competitive levels. But that attitude couldn't be farther from reality. Sports in the real world hold a far bigger significance.

Pakistan's convincing win in today's World Twenty20 final was the latest example of that. Their 3 biggest contributors to a win at this tournament (Shahid Afridi, the captain Younis Khan and Umer Gul) all hail from the war torn N.W.F.P region. Pakistan cricket is facing some major hurldes in the aftermath of the Lahore attack. They are facing the prospect of a long layoff from home games with war waging on the western front and the everliving possibility of one on the eastern one. While most of the cricket world looks at it as recent events Pakistan cricket has faced isolation for a long time before that. As Osman Samiuddin pointed out yesterday,
"consider how Pakistan came into this tournament. They had played a piffling 10 Tests and 50 ODIs since the beginning of 2007; no other side was that undercooked."

This problem dates back to the 90s as the hypocrisy of the western world continues to live on; even when it is in sports. While they refuse to tour Pakistan over "security threats" they continue to expect countries especially ones that generate a lot of revenue for them like Pakistan does to tour them. The 7/7 bombings in London were during a cricket tour that went uninterrupted. When the conflict with the IRA was ongoing once again cricket went uninterrupted in England.

This team has been through a great deal of turmoil in recent years. Few can forget the disastrous 2007 World Cup where they were eliminated in the first round after an embarrassing loss to the lowly Irish team. If that defeat wasn't enough their coach Bob Woolmer was found dead in his hotel room the very next morning.

All throughout this tournament Pakistan played in front of packed stadiums full of Pakistani supporters in England but the home crowd continues to face a long prospect of living without cricket. England which is sure to profit from it wants Pakistan to play "home games" all across the country. The irony in that invitation are many. Doesn't England consider itself a terror target? Hasn't it for years? For years we've listened to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown talk about the need for the "war on terror" because of those threats.

One can't downplay the significance of today's win. Pakistan once again shows the world that the sport needs it as much if not more then the country needs it. It holds arguably the most passionate fans of any sport in any country. The TV money Pakistan brings in is huge for a country of its size. Pakistan keeps producing charismatic stars that the sporting world very much needs. Shahid "Boom Boom" Afridi is as exciting an athlete to watch as any around the world.

Cricket will return to Pakistan and I am pretty sure it will be a lot sooner then people think. The economics of it will up pushing the issue soon enough. In the mean time though Pakistan cricket needs to keep going and having a lot more repeats of today. Winning cures all. The rest of it will sort itself out just like it always does in sports.

I was a 7 year old with a math final exam the next day when Imran's cornered tigers pulled out that win in 1992 after an improbable run yet those images are still fresh in my mind.

There have been plenty of disappointment over the many years since then but the victory from today will rank right up there.

Just some quick thoughts for now. I'll have another entry out tonight or tomorrow in regards to the future of Pakistani cricket.

Seed on Newsvine

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