Alert Sign Dear reader, online ads enable us to deliver the journalism you value. Please support us by taking a moment to turn off Adblock on

Alert Sign Dear reader, please upgrade to the latest version of IE to have a better reading experience


Pakistan cricket: A class, ethnic and sectarian history

Updated Sep 19, 2013 04:12pm


Your Name:

Recipient Email:

The negative evolution

Right from the moment of its sudden inception in August 1947, Pakistan began to experience a number of socio-political fissures.

The country constituted various distinct ethnicities, religions, Islamic sects and sub-sects.

Instead of harmonising the cultural, ethnic and sectarian differences through a democratic mechanism, the state tried to bulldoze them aside with the help of an ideology that was singularly constructed by the state (as opposed to being designed through a democratically achieved consensus).

Today, Pakistan’s wobbly status as a country with extensive religious, ethnic and sectarian/sub-sectarian tensions and violence is a continuation of a negative evolution triggered by the blunders in this respect that were committed by the state, the governments, religious leaders and ideologues.

These elements treated Pakistan as a lab where political and religious experiments could be conducted without concern. They were almost entirely unable (or unwilling) to predict the kind of long-term impact that their myopic tinkering and careless excursions into the territory of social engineering would eventually have on the fate of the country.

The negative evolution in this context has (so far) unfolded in three different phases. The initial tensions in the society were based on class differences till ethnicity eschewed the class factor and replaced ‘class war’ with ideological and political conflicts fought on the basis of ethnic identities.

Ethnic tensions (when they began to exhaust themselves from the late 1980s) were replaced with fissures in the polity on sectarian and sub-sectarian lines.

All three fissures – class, ethnicity and sectarian/sub-sectarian – are not entirely exclusive. Buried within each are echoes of the other.

One interesting way of understanding the trajectory of Pakistan’s negative evolution in this context is by studying the country’s cricket culture.

Cricket in South Asia is much more than just a game. In India and Pakistan (and to a certain extent in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh), cricket is like what football is in most Latin American countries.

Cricket in this region reflects the socio-political mindset of a country’s polity. This also includes the game (or the team) reflecting (or being directly affected by) social, political and economic fissures present in a country.

Every Test playing side in South Asia has exhibited this.

For example, the vicious civil war between the Sinhalese-dominated state of Sri Lanka and the country’s Tamil minority (1980-2011) impacted the Sri Lankan cricket for decades.

In his autobiography, former Pakistan cricket captain, Imran Khan, writes how during Pakistan’s 1987 tour of Sri Lanka, the Pakistan team had to continuously face hostile crowds and biased umpiring.

Khan suggests that the Lankan state’s war against the Tamil Tigers was going badly and society was faced with violence. There was tension around the playing venues and the state was desperate for a Test victory to soften the blow of the raging civil war.

A Sri Lankan Tamil invades the ground with a Tamil Tigers’ flag and runs towards a shocked Sri Lankan cricketer.
A Sri Lankan Tamil invades the ground with a Tamil Tigers’ flag and runs towards a shocked Sri Lankan cricketer.

In India, when a concentrated protest movement was developing against Indira Gandhi’s increasingly autocratic government in the 1970s, Indian politics went into a tailspin.

There was widespread rioting, growing incidents of corruption and crime and the Indian society stood precariously polarised.

The tension crept into the Indian cricket team as well that was touring England in 1974.

Reports began to come in about how the members of the team were bickering among themselves and were not entirely focused on cricket.

India lost the series 3-0 and then to cap it all, one of the team’s batsmen, Sudhir Naik, was arrested for stealing some shirts from a London store.

As Indira was busy contemplating to enforce tougher measures to curb the movement against her, the Indian cricket team saw itself being asked to leave a reception held by the Indian Ambassador to England.

The Ambassador was angry that the team turned up 40 minutes late and had asked it to go back. The team returned to its hotel, disgusted.

Then captain, Ajit Wadekar, began to accuse some senior players of the squad of being government stooges and ‘Patuadi’s men.’

In 1975, the year Indira imposed an emergency and assumed almost dictatorial powers, Wadekar was dropped and replaced by M A. Khan Pataudi as captain.

As trouble against the government brewed in India, the country’s cricket team lost the 1974 series to England 3-0. In the second innings of the Lord’s Test, the whole team was bundled out for just 42 runs.
As trouble against the government brewed in India, the country’s cricket team lost the 1974 series to England 3-0. In the second innings of the Lord’s Test, the whole team was bundled out for just 42 runs.

Examples of how a South Asian cricket team can so vividly reflect a country’s ups and downs, dynamics and divides are a plenty.

But we will be going into more detail in this context regarding Pakistan only. We will try to follow how Pakistan cricket shadowed the negative evolution of Pakistan’s class, ethnic and sectarian/sub-sectarian fissures.

A class apart

Pakistan inherited very little by way of industry and infrastructure when it separated from the rest India to become an independent country.

One of the first tasks of its founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was to encourage Muslim industrialists, professionals and bureaucrats to move (from India) to Pakistan and help the government to construct the new country’s economic infrastructure.

The state was willing to give extraordinary help and leeway to these men. But a majority of Pakistanis were poor and many did not appreciate the state’s overt reliance on rich men.

That’s why leftist organisations like the Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP) and its student-wing, the Democratic Students Federation (DSF), managed to make early in-roads on the side of the peasants and the working classes in (what the communists believed) was an emerging class war in Pakistan.

When Pakistan gained international Test cricket status in 1952, the country’s cricket board chose an Oxford-educated and well-to-do man to lead the country’s first Test side.

Abdul Hafeez Kardar was a haughty and authoritarian man. He was to lead a team, most of whose members were not only extremely inexperienced, but they also came from economic backgrounds that were way below that of Kardar’s.

Most of the players could not even afford to buy their own playing kit and had to borrow things like bats, gloves, pads and even shoes from friends and others.

Nevertheless, Kardar led the team well and under him Pakistan was able to win a string of Test matches.

Abdul Hafeez Kardar: Haughty but effective.
Abdul Hafeez Kardar: Haughty but effective.
Though the team remained largely stable during Kardar’s reign (1952-58), tensions between players on basis of class kept coming up.

In his autobiography, Pakistan’s classic opening batsman, Hanif Muhammad, laments the fact that in spite of Kardar being an inspirational captain, he could not shed his aristocratic baggage and demeanor.

Hanif explains how Kardar destroyed the career of one of his (Hanif’s) brothers, Raees Muhammad.

Hanif writes that Raees was as talented as he was. However, (according to Hanif) since his family did not come from a very educated and well-to-do background, Kardar continued to play Maqsood Ahmed in place of Raees.

Maqsood came from an established middle-class family and was Kardar’s ‘drinking buddy.’ Though Hanif and his brother too liked their drink, Kardar could not get himself to play Raees because that would have meant dropping Maqsood.

Thus Raees became the only one from the five Muhammad brothers who failed to play Test cricket for Pakistan.

Pakistan team in England in 1954. Though under Kardar it was hailed as the most promising new side in the world, the team also suffered from ‘growing class tensions’.
Pakistan team in England in 1954. Though under Kardar it was hailed as the most promising new side in the world, the team also suffered from ‘growing class tensions’.

The Pakistani state’s patronage of industrialists reached a peak during the Ayub Khan dictatorship (1958-69).

When he took over power (in a military coup) in 1958, he at once set Pakistan on the course of state-backed capitalism in an attempt to quicken the country’s economic progress.

A select group of families were given an open filed to set up factories and other businesses. Though Ayub did achieve the economic advancement that he was hoping for, the fruits of this procedure failed to trickle down and benefit the majority of the Pakistanis. Economic/class gaps between Pakistanis grew even more rapidly under Ayub.

In 1962, the Pakistan cricket board decided to create ‘another Kardar.’

Kardar had retired in 1958 and was first replaced by Fazal Mehmood and then by Imtiaz Ahmed.

In spite of the fact that Hanif had risen to become the team’s leading and most experienced batsman, he was ignored and the young, 24-year-old Javed Burki was made the captain for Pakistan’s 1962 tour of England.

Burki was an Oxford graduate, was the son of a military man and came from an upper-middle-class family in Lahore. What’s more, since Ayub was a military man himself, the board chose a senior army officer as the team’s manager who could hardly tell the difference between cricket and football!

In their respective autobiographies, Hanif Muhammad and Fazal Mehmood, both praise Burki for his batting talents but lambast him for being arrogant, snooty and insulting towards the players.

Javed Burki.
Javed Burki.
As Pakistan began to lose one Test match after another on the tour, Burki surrounded himself with a select group of players through whom he would communicate with the rest of the players.

Hanif writes that Burki looked down upon the lesser educated and poorer players, whereas Mehmood claims that Burki would only talk to him through the manager.

Nevertheless, Burki’s team lost the series 4-0 and he was finally replaced by Hanif.

When the Ayub dictatorship began being cornered by a violent leftist students and labour movement, socialist parties like the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), National Awami Party (NAP), and the Awami League, rose to become the country’s three main civilian forces.

The echoes of the commotion also began to be heard in the country’s cricket team.

For example, when young opener Aftab Gul made his Test debut in 1969, he was already known as a radical student leader at the Punjab University.

Students used Pakistan’s matches against England in 1968 to protest. Crowds often invaded the grounds in Karachi and Lahore, rioted and chanted slogans against Ayub.

Students invade Karachi’s National Stadium during a Test match against England in 1968.
Students invade Karachi’s National Stadium during a Test match against England in 1968.

Debate and politics based on concepts like class war and class conflict reached a peak in Pakistan during the anti-Ayub movement in the late 1960s.

The debate then turned politics in the country on its head when (during the 1970 election), leftist parties wiped out old establishmentarian parties and right-wing religious groups at the polls.

However, from within this debate of class conflict and the need to turn Pakistan into a revolutionary socialist state, also emerged groups asking for the democratic recognition of the country’s various ethnic communities and the autonomy of regions dominated by the Sindhis, Baloch, Pushtun and Bengalis.

Ethnic shots

Though the Bengali Muslims of India had enthusiastically accepted the creation of Pakistan, and East Bengal became the eastern wing of Pakistan (East Pakistan), the Bengalis were the first to accuse the country’s Punjabis of monopolising the military, the bureaucracy, sports and economics.

They also feared that the state of Pakistan was not introducing democracy because that would make the Bengalis the majority ruling group.

The Bengalis also complained that in spite of the fact that East Pakistan was contributing the most to the economy, it was the country’s poorest region.

They accused the Punjabi ruling elite of being racist towards them and hell-bent on keeping talented Bengali sportsmen from the country’s hockey and cricket teams.

In 1971, a vicious civil war erupted in East Pakistan between Bengali nationalists and the military.

As the civil war was raging, the Pakistan cricket team was touring England in June-July of 1971.

After the second Test match, a charity organisation in London planned to auction a cricket bat signed by English and Pakistani players to raise money for those affected by the civil war in East Pakistan.

It came as a shock to the charity organisation when a group of Pakistani players led by Aftab Gul refused to sign the bat.

Gul was a Maoist and unlike the pro-Soviet Marxists in Pakistan, the pro-China leftists in the country had been squarely against Bengali nationalists.

Fearing that the event would be turned into an embarrassing episode by the British media, the Pakistan captain, Intikhab Alam and the team management requested Gul and his posse to sign the bat.

But the men refused, saying that they were not willing to do anything that would benefit the ‘traitors’ (Bengalis). They only came around when the government of Pakistan ordered them to sign the bat. But Gul still refused and was almost sent back home.

Aftab Gul was already known as a radical leftist student leader when he made his Test debut in 1969.  He refused to sign a bat in 1971 that was to be auctioned to help those affected by the civil war in East Pakistan. He said he didn’t want to help ‘(Bengali) traitors.’
Aftab Gul was already known as a radical leftist student leader when he made his Test debut in 1969. He refused to sign a bat in 1971 that was to be auctioned to help those affected by the civil war in East Pakistan. He said he didn’t want to help ‘(Bengali) traitors.’
But class conflict in Pakistan cricket was already being replaced by a growing rivalry between player’s belonging from the country’s two major cricketing centres: Lahore (capital of Punjab) and Karachi (capital of Sindh).

Though Lahore had a Punjabi majority, Sindh’s capital Karachi had a majority of Mohajirs (or Muslim Urdu-speakers who had migrated from North Indian regions after the creation of Pakistan).

The majority of the players in the country’s cricket team had almost always been Punjabi and Mohajir. The quality of cricket in Karachi and Lahore was such that it became very tough for Bengali or Sindhi players to enter the squad.

The Pushtun and Baloch did not say much in this respect because in those days cricket was not very popular in the areas dominated by the two ethnic groups.

Already in 1969 when Saeed Ahmed (a Punjabi) was dropped as captain, Mushtaq Muhammad (from Karachi) was booed by the crowd at a Test match in Lahore.

The Lahore press had alluded that Saeed’s dismissal had been ‘engineered by the Karachi lobby.’

It wasn’t true. Ahmed, though a terrific batsman, was a mediocre captain.

The populist Sindhi, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, became Pakistan’s first elected head of state and then government in 1972. His party had won a sweeping majority in Punjab and Sindh (but not in Karachi).

The Mohajirs, who had been part of the ruling elite in the 1950s, had begun to see themselves gradually being ousted from the corridors of power by the Punjabis and then the Pushtuns (during the Ayub Khan regime).

Their paranoia of being sidelined was further aggravated when Bhutto decided to make Sindhi Sindh’s official language.

The Mohajirs protested and claimed that they were becoming the new Bengalis and that Pakistan’s politics was being stung by ‘provincialism.’

The Urdu print media in Karachi began to echo the Mohajirs’ concerns and this then spilled over into cricket as well.

Though the team had a number of players from Karachi, the media began to highlight the case of one, Aftab Baloch.

Aftab came from a mixed Baloch and Gujrati-speaking family in Karachi and was a prodigious batting all-rounder.

He made his Test debut in 1969 at the age of 16 but was not played again until the Karachi press picked up his case.

He continued to perform well in domestic cricket and the press claimed that the ‘Lahore lobby’ was keeping him out of the side.

The cricket board responded by selecting him for Pakistan’s 1974 tour of England but he wasn’t played in any of the three Tests.

However, Baloch was finally given another Test against the visiting West Indian side in 1975. He scored a 50 in Lahore but was inexplicably dropped for the next Test in Karachi.

The press again cried foul, but its campaign for Baloch gradually faded away along with the man.

Karachi’s Aftab Baloch: A victim of the ‘Lahore lobby?’
Karachi’s Aftab Baloch: A victim of the ‘Lahore lobby?’
In 1976, Karachi’s Mushtaq Muhammad replaced Intikhab Alam as captain, but during his very first Test as captain (against New Zealand in Lahore), he had to fight tooth and nail with the selectors to keep his Karachi compatriot, Asif Iqbal, on the side.

Like Mushtaq, Iqbal was a regular fixture in the team, but had lost form during the West Indies series. Mushtaq also pushed for the inclusion of another Karachi player, the then 18-year-old Javed Miandad.

The Lahore press accused Mushtaq of favoring Karachi players. But the accusation did not stick because both Iqbal and Miandad scored centuries and Pakistan won the Test.

Nevertheless, the ethnic issue hardly ever rose again in Pakistan cricket during Mushtaq’s captaincy (1976-79), and the team struck a fine balance between talented Lahore players and the equally talented ones from Karachi.

For example, when the team went for a 5-month tour of Australia and the West Indies in 1976-77, the following was the regional make-up of the squad:

The 1976-77 squad.
The 1976-77 squad.

The team under Mushtaq managed to keep a fine balance between Karachi and Lahore players. Sadiq Mohammad (Karachi) and Majid Khan (Lahore) symbolised this by forming one of the most successful opening pairs in Test cricket for Pakistan.
The team under Mushtaq managed to keep a fine balance between Karachi and Lahore players. Sadiq Mohammad (Karachi) and Majid Khan (Lahore) symbolised this by forming one of the most successful opening pairs in Test cricket for Pakistan.

But what were these Karachi and Lahore lobbies that the press often talked about?

Mostly what the press meant were the cricket associations in Karachi and Lahore who were empowered by the cricket board to run and develop cricket clubs and cricketers of the two main centres of cricket in the country and generate new talent for first-class sides and for Pakistan.

The associations also competed for funds and helped the national selection committee to spot emerging new talent.

However, as politics based on ethnicity proliferated the country from 1973 onwards, tussles, allegations and counter-allegations between Lahore and Karachi associations increased.

Members of both the associations regularly used the Urdu print media to propagate their point of view and accused each other of promoting Punjabi and/or non-Punjabi players.

But it wasn’t only about the Mohajirs of Karachi and the Punjabis of Lahore.

During the 1976 series against New Zealand, the second Test was to be played in Hyderabad (in Sindh). The Sindhi press lamented that though Pakistan’s Prime Minister was a Sindhi (Bhutto), there wasn’t a single Sindhi player in the cricket side. As a response, during a reception, the government gifted Sindhi dress, caps and ajrak to members of the Pakistan and New Zealand sides.

Some players (from both sides) even wore the clothes and posed for the cameras.

Miandad, a Gujrati-speaking Mohajir from Karachi, walked around in a Sindhi cap and told the press that since Karachi was in Sindh, he considered himself a Sindhi.

In July 1977 a reactionary military coup toppled the Bhutto regime and imposed a harsh military dictatorship.

But General Ziaul Haq’s dictatorship could not stem the politics of ethnicity. In fact, a sense of depravation (especially among Sindhis) grew two-fold because Zia was a Punjabi and had toppled a Sindhi Prime Minister.

Karachi’s Mohajirs, who had opposed Bhutto initially, welcomed Zia’s arrival but they were equally suspicious of the Punjabis as well.

In 1978 when the Indian cricket team visited Pakistan, a young cricketer from Karachi, Amin Lakhani, was given a side game against the Indians.

Incredibly, Lakhani, a left-arm leg-spin bowler, took a double hat-trick and was praised by veteran Indian spinner, Bishen Singh Bedi.

The Karachi press and the Karachi Cricket Association demanded that Lakhani be given a chance in the third Test of the series.

He was named in the 14-man squad but on the eve of the Test, injured his hand and could not make the final 11.

The press, however, suggested that Lakhani was fine and that the selectors had lied about the injury. The Karachi press then went ballistic when Lakhani wasn’t picked in the squad that was to tour New Zealand and Australia in 1979.

The selectors dismissed the accusation of the ‘Punjabi bias’ by the Karachi press suggesting that the team’s captain (Mushtaq) and vice-captain (Asif Iqbal) were both from Karachi.

Lakhani never played for Pakistan.

Amin Lakhani.
Amin Lakhani.

But this was nothing compared to perhaps the ugliest ethnic spat that took place in Pakistan cricket.

In 1980 when Asif Iqbal (who had replaced Mushtaq as captain) resigned from the game (after losing to India in 1979), the cricket board’s new chairman, Nur Khan, recalled Mushtaq and asked him to become captain again.

Mushtaq declined but suggested the name of the then 24-year-old Javed Miandad for the post.

This must have bothered senior players like Zaheer Abbas and Majid Khan, but since both had performed poorly against India, they were concentrating more on retaining their place in the side.

Miandad won his first series as captain (against Australia), but lost the next two. The board and the selectors retained him as captain for the 1982 series against the visiting Sri Lankan team.

Shortly before the series, Miandad was quoted by the press as saying that the senior players in the team were not co-operating with him.

Majid Khan took offense and invited nine players to his home in Lahore and told them that he was going to refuse playing under Miandad. He said that Zaheer had agreed to do the same.

Soon, all the players at the meeting gave Majid the green signal to add their names and signatures to the letter of protest that Majid was planning to hand over to the board.

Apart from Majid and Zaheer, the rebel brigade included Mudassar Nazar, Imran Khan, Sikandar Bakht, Mohsin Khan, Sarfraz Nawaz, Wasim Bari, Iqbal Qasim and Wasim Raja.

The board decided to side with Miandad and he led a brand new team against the Lankans in the first Test of the series at Karachi’s National Stadium.

The ethnic angle to the whole episode first emerged when groups of youth in the stadium’s general stands began to raise slogans against the rebels (calling them ‘anti-Karachi’ and ‘Punjabi thugs’) and burned posters of Majid, Zaheer and Imran.

The Karachi press then went into overdrive accusing Majid of playing into the hands of the ‘Lahore lobby’ who wanted to topple Miandad’s captaincy just because he was from Karachi and a non-Punjabi.

Even the fact that the rebel lot had included four players from Karachi (Mohsin, Qasim, Sikandar, Bari) and even Zaheer, though a Punjabi, was settled in the city, could not deter the press from seeing the episode as a case of ‘Punjabi chauvinism.’

Four of the 10 rebels: Mohsin, Sarfraz, Bari and Mudassar during the rebellion (1982).
Four of the 10 rebels: Mohsin, Sarfraz, Bari and Mudassar during the rebellion (1982).

Pressured by the Karachi press, two of the Karachi players, Mohsin Khan and Iqbal Qasim broke away from the rebels and rejoined the team. Wasim Raja, though a Lahorite, also decided to break away.

By the third Test of the series, Zaheer, Imran, Mudassar, Sarfraz and Bari also decided to rejoin the team, leaving only Majid and Karachi’s young pace bowler, Sikandar Bakht, standing (and stranded).

Now, it was the turn of the Lahore press to react. It accused the board and Miandad of coercing the rebelling players’ domestic teams to ban them. The players were employed on healthy salaries by the banks and airlines (PIA) that they played for in domestic tournaments.

The Lahore press also accused Imran Khan of betraying his cousin Majid by accepting a lucrative new playing fee from the board.

As the issue got uglier, Miandad resigned as captain after the third Test but on the condition that he was willing to play under any player, except Majid Khan.

The board decided to appoint Imran Khan as the new skipper.

Since the politics of ethnicity (as a protest tool) became stronger during the Zia dictatorship in the 1980s, it kept affecting the country’s cricket as well.

But each episode in this respect came with the kind of contradictions that one saw in the Miandad controversy.

For example, throughout Khan’s captaincy, the Karachi press accused Khan of undermining Karachi players like Iqbal Qasim and Qasim Omar, and forcing his Lahore contemporary, Abdul Qadir’s entry into the team.

Meanwhile, the Lahore press lambasted Khan for persisting with Karachi’s Mansoor Akhtar, despite the fact that the batsman was continuously failing to live up to his batting potential.

The Karachi press claimed that Khan was also undermining Miandad’s seniority, and yet, when Miandad became Khan’s Vice Captain in 1986, he became one of the most influential decision-makers on the side after Khan.

Former Australian captain, Ian Chappell, described the Khan-Miandad combination as one of the most powerful think-tanks in cricket.

But as the politics of ethnicity began to recede after the demise of the Ziaul Haq dictatorship in 1988, its last major jerk in cricket came during another rebellion against Miandad’s captaincy in 1993.

Miandad had replaced Khan in 1992 after the latter retired. But he faced a players’ rebellion in 1993 that was led by Lahore’s Wasim Akram and South Punjab’s Waqar Yunus.

Miandad accused Imran of pulling the strings of the rebels and the Karachi press lambasted Khan of the same.

In his autobiography, Miandad suggests that Khan was doing this to get back at him because he (Khan) believed that Miandad had tried to stir a mini-rebellion against Khan after Pakistan had won the 1992 Cricket World Cup.

Comrades in arms (and then some): Miandad and Imran at a press conference in 1988. Both were the leading mainstays of Pakistan cricket across the 1980s.
Comrades in arms (and then some): Miandad and Imran at a press conference in 1988. Both were the leading mainstays of Pakistan cricket across the 1980s.

Victories under Mushtaq’s and Khan’s captaincies added to the popularity of cricket in Pakistan beyond Karachi and Lahore.

For example, in the 1980s for the first time players from the Pushtun areas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (former NWFP) and from small towns and villages of the Punjab began to make a mark.

This, along with the changing nature of politics in post-Cold War Pakistan, would also witness some unprecedented changes in the country’s cricketing culture.

The faith bait

Till the arrival of Zia in July 1977, the nature and culture of Pakistan’s cricket teams were quite like that of the society. Faith hardly played a major role outside one’s home or mosque/shrine, and never in matters of business, arts and sports.

However, it is also true that even during the height of the Zia dictatorship in the 1980s – when draconian laws were being introduced in the name of Islam, and extremist and sectarian organisations were emerging with the help of the state – the impact of these laws and emergences would not be fully felt by the polity and society of Pakistan till after Zia’s demise in August 1988.

What the Zia regime initiated through certain constitutional amendments, laws and a project of social engineering that (for the first time) saw the state providing space and patronage to a number of evangelical and Islamist organisations, worked as the seed that bloomed into the proliferation of the radicalisation and conservatism witnessed in the Pakistani society from the mid-1990s.

This trend is also apparent in the culture of the country’s cricket team across the 1980s and early 1990s.

Though things like celebrating victories with champagne and beer in the dressing rooms of stadiums in Pakistan stopped after 1977, the practice largely continued whenever Pakistan won a game abroad.

The practice of attending parties and clubs (when on tour) also continued and the faith of a player remained to be a strictly personal matter.

Also, there remained great tolerance within the team on matters of religion and morality.

For example, in Mushtaq’s team of the 1970s, a majority of players liked to drink. But then there were those who didn’t, like Majid Khan, Imran Khan and Iqbal Qasim.

Similarly, whereas Imran Khan, Wasim Raja and Sarfraz Nawaz were notorious for being ‘womanisers’ and ‘party animals,’ there were also those who were very private about their lives, such as players like Majid and Asif Iqbal.

Differing moralistic dispositions hardly ever became a bone of contention between players.

Mushtaq and Imran celebrating a victory in 1976.
Mushtaq and Imran celebrating a victory in 1976.

Sadiq enjoying a beer after Pakistan squared the series against Australia in 1976. In the background is Imran Khan, who took 12 wickets in the match.
Sadiq enjoying a beer after Pakistan squared the series against Australia in 1976. In the background is Imran Khan, who took 12 wickets in the match.

This tradition continued under Imran’s captaincy in the 1980s. A majority of the players loved to party (like their skipper), but then there were also those who partied as well as mixed their faith with sport.

For example, Miandad often performed the wazu (Muslim ambulation) before going in to bat and Abdul Qadir regularly prayed five times a day. Yet, both also had a keen sense of having fun (of all kinds).

Never were their spiritual practices exhibited by them in public as something that was morally superior compared to the other players.

Imran and Sarfraz at a nightclub in Melbourne, Australia (1981).
Imran and Sarfraz at a nightclub in Melbourne, Australia (1981).

But by the late 1980s Zia’s ‘Islamisation’ project – which, in a way, was using faith to actually institutionalise the act of exhibiting moral self-righteousness – had begun to kick in.

Its first echo in the cricket team rang in the shape of Qasim Umar.

Qasim Umar was a dashing young batsman from Karachi. He had cemented his place in the side in the early 1980s with a string of good scores.

Though not particularly religious at the time, Umar struggled to fit into a squad whose members were outgoing, had raging hormones and (as Umar would later claim), ‘drank too much.’

Umar was unable to bond with the players. But the straw that finally broke the camel’s back in this regard was when during Pakistan’s tour of Australia in 1986, captain Imran Khan admonished Umar for playing rashly in a crucial ODI game.

According to Umar, Khan insulted him in front of other players in the dressing room even though he (Umar) had scored a 50.

After returning to Pakistan from the tour, Umar at once contacted a few journalists to tell them that he would not be playing under Khan’s captaincy.

He told the press how Khan had insulted him, but then went on to suggest that his main issue with Khan’s team was a moralistic one.

He said that the captain and his team were a bunch of womanisers who often brought women into their hotel rooms. But what shocked the press was not this, but what Umar went on the claim.

He accused the team of being habitual users of hashish/marijuana and that the players often took the drug along with them hidden in batting gloves.

It was Khan and his team’s good luck that they had been performing well and the press and the board dismissed Umar’s accusations as hogwash.

In fact, it was the same team that Zia would use to smoothen Pakistan’s ties with India (‘cricket diplomacy’). Ironically, though Zia’s regime was imposing one myopic law after the other in the country, he gave his approval to the board to hush Umar up in spite of the fact that he was behaving exactly the way Zia was.

Even if what Umar claimed was entirely true, why did he have to critique Khan’s captaincy on moralistic grounds? The team was playing good cricket and its extracurricular activities did not include any more serious mishaps, such as match-fixing.

But it seems Umar was fooled into believing that if he used the Islamic card against Khan in Zia’s Pakistan, the press and the regime would be more sympathetic towards his grudge against Khan. It wasn’t and Umar was banned for life.

He joined the conservative Islamic evangelical outfit the Tableeghi Jammat in the 1990s.

Qasim Umar
Qasim Umar
In the late 1980s newspapers were rife with reports about how members of the public had begun to use Zia’s draconian laws and policies to settle their scores with those that they resented. Islam became a weapon in the hands of the bitter and the exploitative.

A number of Islamist outfits had already made in-roads in the politics and sociology of Pakistan by riding on the 1980’s Islamisation process.

But as most of them were highly militant, it was the evangelical movements that managed to reap the most success within the country’s mutating social and cultural milieu.

The evangelical groups also benefited from another unprecedented trend that began emerging within the urban middle-class youth of Pakistan: Never before did young Pakistanis exhibit so much interest in religion and religiosity as did the generations that grew up in much of the 1990s and almost all of the 2000s.

The evangelists that had started to attract the middle and lower middle classes began constructing feel-good narratives and apologias for the educated urbanites so that these urbanites could feel at home with religious ritualism, myth, attire and rhetoric, while at the same time continue enjoying the fruits of amoral modern economic materialism and frequent interactions with (Western and Indian) cultures that were otherwise described as being ‘anti-Islam.’

The largest evangelical group in this respect was also the oldest. The ranks of the Tableeghi Jamat (TJ), a highly ritualistic Sunni-Deobandi Islamic evangelical movement, swelled.

But since the TJ was more a collection of working-class and petty-bourgeoisie cohorts and fellow travelers, in the 1990s it also began to attract the growing ‘born again’ trend being witnessed in the county’s middle and upper-middle classes.

A book that was published by the Tableeghi Jamat in the 1990s to be specifically distributed among urban middle-class Pakistanis, sportsmen and showbiz personalities.
A book that was published by the Tableeghi Jamat in the 1990s to be specifically distributed among urban middle-class Pakistanis, sportsmen and showbiz personalities.

Cover of the May 1996 issue of the Herald. The main story was about Imran’s emergence as a ‘reborn Muslim’ and the formation of his political party.
Cover of the May 1996 issue of the Herald. The main story was about Imran’s emergence as a ‘reborn Muslim’ and the formation of his political party.

The Pakistan cricket team first began to mirror the above trend in the late 1990s. The TJ approached the team in 1998 through former cricketer Saeed Ahmed who had joined the outfit in the mid-1990s.

He managed to ‘gift’ the players with audio recordings of lectures given by the outfit’s leading members.

Stylish left-handed opening batsman, Saeed Anwar, became TJ’s first recruit. He had lost his baby daughter (at birth) and had understandably fallen into deep depression. Like TJ members, he also grew a lengthy beard.

According to a former Pakistani player who was in the managerial crew of the Pakistan squad that travelled to South Africa for the 2003 World Cup, Anwar became a completely changed man.

He told me: ‘Saeed Anwar was a mild-mannered, gentle and quiet man. But on that tour (South Africa, 2003) he developed a habit of popping strange questions based on faith and morality. Once he barged into the dressing room and loudly asked the players, ‘is a woman who has committed adultery liable to be put to death?’ As usual, most players just kept quiet or inaudibly slipped out. But I finally confronted him and asked him what this question had to do with cricket? He was livid! That was the first time I had seen such rage in him. He accused me of being a bad Muslim and was literally foaming at the mouth. However, our manager, Shahryar Khan, had a quiet word with him, and the next day he came to my hotel room and apologised.’

In his most recent book, The Cricket Caldron, Shahryar Khan explains how on the same tour, Anwar told the players that angels would descend and help Pakistan win the Cup.

After Pakistan was knocked out in the very first round of the tournament, Khan jokingly asked Anwar whatever happened to the angels that he claimed would help the team to win. Anwar replied: ‘They didn’t come because we (the team) are bad Muslims.’

Saeed Anwar during the 2002 World Cup in South Africa.
Saeed Anwar during the 2002 World Cup in South Africa.

By 2003, Mushtaq Ahmed and Salqlain Mushtaq too had become TJ members, and so did Waqar Yunus but he soon bolted out.

But it was the dashing batsman, Inzimamul Haq, who became TJ’s biggest catch – especially when he was appointed as captain in 2003.

Much has been written about how under Inzimam, more than half of the Pakistan team became ardent followers of the TJ and how he allegedly began favoring players who adhered to his beliefs and rituals.

Much has also been said about how tensions developed between Inzimam and tear-away fast bowler, Shoaib Akhtar, whose demeanor and disposition as a player and personality echoed the flamboyant antics of the Pakistani players of yore.

Shoaib Akhtar and Inzimamul Haq: Tensions ran high between the two.
Shoaib Akhtar and Inzimamul Haq: Tensions ran high between the two.

What is only coming out now, however, is how the environment in the team was also experiencing the effects of the sectarian and sub-sectarian tensions that had become a disturbing norm in Pakistani society and polity in the 2000s.

Violence against Shia Muslim community and non-Muslim population had been (and still is) on the rise ever since the late 1990s. And so is violence between Pakistan’s Sunni Barelvi and the more puritanical Sunni Deobandi sub-sects.

It is the latter aspect of the sectarian conflict in Pakistan that seemed to have made its way into the team.

The TJ members adhere to a particularly strict and highly ritualistic strain of the Deobandi school of thought.

But more interestingly, one of the first conflicts in the team in this context seemed to have taken place between Inzimam and Younis Khan, both of whom followed the Deobandi strain.

In his book, Shahryar Khan, mentions how Inzimam was never comfortable with Younis. Though according to Shahryar, Inzimam was always weary of Younis replacing him as captain, there was something else as well between them that didn’t bode well with Inzi.

The irony is that Younis was perhaps the most religious member of the team, ever since he made his debut in 2000. He prayed regularly and fasted even during matches in the month of Ramazan.

But unlike the players who eventually followed Inzimam into the TJ, Younis was extroverted, very social but preferred to keep his faith to himself.

In a 2007 interview, he complained that he could not understand why this batch of players were so anti-social and refused to interact with people and players from other countries.

He was never comfortable with Inzimam’s insistence on holding public prayers on foreign grounds or rhetorically uttering certain religious tit-bits during post-match presentation ceremonies.

Apart from Shoaib Akhtar, Younis didn’t do that and neither does another player who (unlike Younis) completely fell-out with Inzimam: Misbahul Haq.

Till the mid-1980s, a majority of players in the team came from urban backgrounds (Karachi and Lahore).

But as mentioned earlier, after Pakistan began to win more Tests and ODIs than ever under Mushtaq Muhammad and Imran Khan, cricket’s popularity grew beyond the major cities and reached small towns and villages of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa (KP) and the Punjab.

Most players emerging from these areas were not as urbane or educated as the ones from Lahore or Karachi.

Shahryar Khan writes that from the late 1990s, the bulk of the Pakistan cricket team began being dominated by men from small towns.

They formed a clique and were highly suspicious of players who came from bigger cities and (especially) were more educated.

Khan suggests that Inzimam was an extremely insecure captain. Apart from always suspecting Younis Khan of trying to dethrone him as captain, he was also unwilling to make those players who were more educated, a part of his team. He thought that their ‘modern outlook’ and educated backgrounds would be detrimental to the team’s environment.

Salman Butt was the most educated player in Inzimam’s side and the most urbane. But Inzimam never felt threatened by him because (at the time) Butt was too young and, more so, had fallen completely in line with Inzimam’s Tableeghi dictates.

Misbahul Haq made his Test debut in 2001 at the age of 26. But he lost form and was dropped in 2002. But in spite of performing consistently in domestic tournaments and being on the radar of the selectors, he was never selected.

Khan writes that it was Inzimam who made sure Misbah remained out. Why?

Misbah comes from an urbane middle-class family in Mianwali (Punjab). He is an MBA and like Younis keeps his religious beliefs to himself.

But that’s not all why Inzi and his Tableeghi mentors preferred to keep Misbah out.

A news report in a national Urdu daily last year suggested that Misbah, who belongs to the Barelvi Sunni sub-sect, refused to have anything to do with the TJ and that’s why Inzimam and company made sure he never got back on to the side. It is also believed that Saeed Ajmal (also a Barelvi) was also kept out.

Not Inzi’s men: Misbah, Ajmal, Shoaib Akhtar and Younis.
Not Inzi’s men: Misbah, Ajmal, Shoaib Akhtar and Younis.

For over 200 years, the Barelvi and Deobandi Sunni Muslims have been at loggerheads in the region. But the Barelivis (who are in majority in Pakistan) are a lot less strict than the Deobandis.

But in addition of being a Barelvi, Misbah prefers to keep his faith a private matter and is not demonstrative at all about his beliefs, unlike the TJ members who consciously make it a point to flaunt and exhibit their beliefs.

However, in 2007, when Inzimam retired, Misbah was at once recalled to the side and ever since has not only graduated to become Pakistan’s captain, but perhaps also it’s most successful batsman in the last five years.


Your Name:

Recipient Email:

Author Image

Nadeem F. Paracha is a cultural critic and senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper and He is also the author of two books on the social history of Pakistan, End of the Past and The Pakistan Anti-Hero.

He tweets @NadeemfParacha

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (100) Closed

Nony Sep 19, 2013 11:32am

like the way how NFP tries to teach history in a lighter style. The historical references relating to cricket could also be related to all aspects of life in Pakistan. Hope his efforts to make urban Pakistanis aware of what Pakistan has been through historically would make some difference.

sultan Sep 19, 2013 11:32am

Fantastic! Yet another epic by NFP. Bravo.

Rehan Sep 19, 2013 11:33am

There was a guy by the name of Mohammad Yousuf, whose presence in the middle order just may have had a tiny bit of effect for Misbah being left out...

kashif Sep 19, 2013 11:45am

Brilliant research work NFP. Thanks for the objective history lesson. I just lived the cricket history of Pakistan. So many career's were ruined by personal politics its a shame. Biggest names that comes me is Amin Lakhani and Qasim Omar. In my opinion Shoaib Akhtar could comes under the the same category in my opinion. He could have easily achieved a lot more under normal conditions.

Ismail Effendi Sep 19, 2013 11:47am

Good and informative article by NFP. The bigotry introduced in our cricket team has set us back many years. Nadeem forgets to mention the discrimination faced by Shia cricketers. Players like Najaf Shah, a promising left arm pace bowler, were kept out inspite of regular performances for PIA in domestic cricket. His career coincided with that of Umar Gul who was also part of the same pace bowling unit of PIA. Who can forget how Zulqarnain Haider, the wicket-keeper batsman was hounded out. The Pakistani press suppressed the informal reports that emerged from well wishers of Pakistan cricket that Zulqarnain was threatened on the basis of his Shia identity when he decided to go public against the other match fixers. He not only lost his place in the team but also had to stay silent to protect his family.

There are other names of promising cricketers whose careers were never allowed to take off because they were shia. A name that crops up is Athar Shahzad, a promising top order batsman during the mid-2000s.

I wish Nadeem had not excluded this perspective from his otherwise excellent article.

I wonder how many Ahmadi, Shia, Hindu and Christain cricketers have suffered due to their faith. The whole world now knows how the cricketer now known as Mohammad Yousuf changed his religion to get ahead in the team and become part of the lucrative Tableeghi-Match fixing-Business lobby in Pakistan cricket.

Milind Sep 19, 2013 11:57am

too good... This is a throwback to the religious/sect tensions in the Australian side, when Sir Don Bradman was around. The team was divided amongst various Christian sects/denominations and witnessed the same shenanigans then... However they have moved, whereas Pakistanis don't seem to have...

M Khaleeq Sep 19, 2013 12:00pm

Another excellent analytical article on cricket but it also reflect the state of the country and its history.

Rajdeep Sep 19, 2013 12:03pm

I congratulate NFP for such a brave, cruelly truthful and magnetically engaging article. Loved every bit of that. I wish someone as brave could do a piece on Indian Cricket . I am not sure you could live peacefully in Pakistan, after saying all those things against TJ. In India certainly you can not utter a single word publically against TJ, Deobandis or the likes. Certain aspects like Non-Muslim cricketers and role of our beloved Lala Afridi were found missing. You can't imagine Pakistani cricket of 2000s without Afridi and the character he brings to the entire game, sometimes it feels like Afridi is affecting the behaviour of the other team as well. Must be interesting to know how he interacted with likes of Akram, Akhtar and Inzi.

Zandamme Sep 19, 2013 12:15pm

What about the minorities and non muslims in the team? Salim Jaffer, Anil Dalput etc And Yohanna converting?

Zulfi Sep 19, 2013 12:17pm

Wonderful analysis NFP. I guess you missed the emergence of most ostensible mention of 'first of all thanks to God in the post match-win comments by Pakistani Captains in the last 12-15 years. As if He was cueing them during the match. This is was nowhere to be seen until mid 90's.

Sana Rahim Sep 19, 2013 12:15pm

This guy (NFP) is quite a charactar. Week after week he produces gems that objectively penaterate and retell the political, social, cultural and sporting history of Pakistan. Also love the way how he presents them to be all connected, which they are. Hudos.

Hasan Raza Zaidi Sep 19, 2013 12:17pm

Excellent Article!!! The true depiction that how the cultural and societal factors influences everything including sports.. Currently the sports in Pakistan truly depicts the turmoil in our society

Sana Rahim Sep 19, 2013 12:21pm

@Zandamme: Saleem Jaffar? He was Agha Khani and they are considered to be Muslims, bhai. Imran was his biggerst supporter.

Usman Sep 19, 2013 12:22pm

you missed out rana naved ul hasan, who is a shi'ite.....dont agree with everything you said....especially the miandad revolt....i mean it can't be labelled a karachi vs lahore issue when 4 out of 9 players revolting were from khi...can it? I believe the issue is not about flaunting your religion or beliefs but about being judgemental towards those who do not? And we (those who do not have beards, watch movies, like music) should not be judgemental on anyone who does support a beard or is evidently 'the religious type'

Ali Sep 19, 2013 12:33pm

A Brilliant stuff NFP..

Tahir Sep 19, 2013 12:37pm

@Usman: NFP quite clearly mention's the contradiction in the anti-Miandad revolt and does point out that 5 players out of the 10 were from Karachi. he also correctly points out that the issue was turned into an ethnic (Karachi vs. Lahore) conflict by the Lahore and especially Karachi press.

Also, he mentions that the sectarian conflicts in the team were more sub-sectarian (Deobandi vs. Barelvi). Kindly read the feature again.

Capt C M Khan Sep 19, 2013 12:44pm

NFP the .Big cities cannot produce talented cricketers anymore because of the A class average players blocking the talented small town cricketers. The various cricket academies run by ex test players are just BABY SITTERS for this A class. "An army of sheep led by a lion can defeat an army of lions led by a sheep".Hafeez Kardar proved this in 1952. Pakistan needs not one but TWO LEADERS one for the Country the other for Cricket until then people like Moin Khan and Najam Sethi will continue misleading by saying "ALL IS WELL"

Abbas Sep 19, 2013 12:47pm

NFP probably unwittingly omitted the episode involving a bunch of influential players taking oath on Holy Quran not to play well under Younis Khan's captaincy. Intikhab Alam, team manager, reported the incident to Pakistani press.

Pushkar Sep 19, 2013 01:02pm

Welllll said NFP, no more your are only a Pakistani colunmiist but an international figure. Having large numbers of reader FANS in many countries.

Pakistani cricketers were always talented, what was lagging, was commitment towards sport, so they could easily fall in the traps & got engaged with groupism. Favourism attitude blocked entry to many talented youngsters, who would have done better; even than the best team has ever produced.

I agree social and economic situations do affect performance however this is not only the reason. The culprit most is groupism.

Usman Sep 19, 2013 01:07pm

@Tahir : If it is not an issue and it only was created by the press...why bring it up? The piece is about how our society's history is mirrored in our cricket teams, so if this is not an example of "our ethnic divide" then it is irrelevant in this piece....just like malik, rana and akmal revolt against yousuf And i did not say anything about sub-sectarian conflict....just wondered if there were any shia-sunni conflict we are not aware our modern society nowadays the absence of this issue is news!

Tahir Sep 19, 2013 01:13pm

@Usman: The media is very much part of the society, Usman.

True Commenter Sep 19, 2013 01:14pm

NO PLACE for a Sindhi and Baloch in the Pakistani cricket team.... Biased

ramesh Sep 19, 2013 01:28pm

Do angles realy help to win matches. If yes then no need to practice day and night.

Syed Nayyar Uddin Ahmad Sep 19, 2013 01:29pm

Way forward for the Pakistani cricket

Considering that now all the Test matches to be played till 31st December, 16 will be ranking Test matches, for selecting best 4 Test teams. These 4 Test teams will only qualify for playing the 1st ever Test Matches Championship to be held in June - July 2017. As such, Pakistani cricket can't afford business as usual (specially keeping in mind that by the year 2017, Misbah ul Haq will definitely be not there, to play the Test championship).

  1. Must find a new captain for the coming ODI and Test matches series against Sri Lanka and South Africa, so that the new captain is well experienced by the time ODI world cup is played in 2015 and Test championship in 2017.

  2. No harm in allowing Misbah ul Haq and Younis Khan to continue playing till they are fit to play.

  3. Keeping in view of the age (35 years), current fitness, batting form and dearth of any potential player to be considered as a leader, may consider Younis Khan as a captain for the Test and ODI formats to lead the Pakistani teams till 2015 ODI World Cup and 2017 Test championship.

  4. However, if senior players are to be altogether discarded for the consideration of captaincy then may be Saeed Ajmal can be considered, as captain to lead the team in the ODI and Test matches, as a prospect for the long term investment.

  5. Must infuse more talented fresh blood like, Ahmad Shahzad, Awais Zia, Umer Amin, Harris Sohail and other such like youngsters in ODI and Test matches. No harm if we lose with these players when we are not winning with the current lot of seniors and semi seniors like M Hafeez etc.

  6. Mohsin Hassan Khan must be brought back as a head coach, because Pakistan has yet to win a Test match series, under the tenure of Dav Whatmore.

  7. Entire PCB, repeat entire PCB needs immediate revamping, without which to expect any improvement in the performance of our players, will be a far fetched dream.

Ahmed Zawar Sep 19, 2013 01:46pm

One correction: The world cup in South Africa was in 2003 and not 2002 as written in this article.

Abid Sep 19, 2013 01:59pm

You have covered the history quite well but you have completely ignored the religion biased actions such as Danish Kaneria and Yousuf Youhana.

Salman Sep 19, 2013 03:21pm

Hats off to such a detailed analysis !!

vijaychennai Sep 19, 2013 03:29pm

once upon a time, Indian test team had half of the players from either karnataka or maharashtra. It does not mean that the selection team is biased. Same thing with Pak selection team. They are forced to make do with the available talent.

Asim Sep 19, 2013 03:35pm

NFP at his best!

Sonal Sep 19, 2013 04:08pm

Extremely interesting thesis. Now I

MAB Sep 19, 2013 04:33pm

It is a biased article by a very biased writer

Haider Sep 19, 2013 05:07pm

Love you NFP. :)

Anees Sep 19, 2013 05:13pm

No doubt Salman Butt was the most "educated". We saw a proof to that in England in 2010.

Syed Zeeshan Sep 19, 2013 05:16pm

Danish Kaneria a Christian was a regular member of Inzi's team but he kept Misbah and Ajmal out because they were barelvi's, it look's his religious bias is somewhat misplaced!!!!!

Salman Sep 19, 2013 05:13pm

Brilliant piece as always

fareedm Sep 19, 2013 05:19pm

Amazing recollection !!! its so true it realy took me in the past.well done.

Syed Zeeshan Sep 19, 2013 05:26pm

Sorry for mentioning Kaneria a Hindu by faith as Christian. Another thing worth mentioning is Yousuf Youhana a Christian, who use to demonstrate is Christian believes was not mentioned in the article, his conversion to Islam and equally demonstrative demeanor afterward was also neglected. Perhaps Angels did help him when he scored most runs in a Calender years, yet another miss!!!

Mudassar Siddiq Sep 19, 2013 05:23pm

Once again a SUPERB article from NFP. It would be great if you can suggest something for the die-hard cricket fans to do in order to improve the state of the affairs. I am sure there must be something that we all individuals can do.

Ali Vazir Sep 19, 2013 05:52pm

A very nice article. I earnestly wish that articles, thoughts, energies and resources are also diverted to some healthy sports too like hockey, football, boxing, cycling, yachting, wrestling, gymnastic etc. The whole nation would benefit in general and a lot more sportsmen in particular within the budget spent for mere 11 cricket playing individuals. Jazak Allah

subhash Sep 19, 2013 06:00pm

Saeed Anwar - the player Indians loved to hate for he always feasted on our bowling. What a batsman! But sad to see irrelevant religious issues creeping into his psyche which probably made him withdraw from the game. By the same token, one feels great for Misbah. He really had to bide his time and was duly rewarded. A real hero who does his job and doesn't feed the media with anything controversial. Strength to him.

Magister Sep 19, 2013 06:32pm

There was a time when players could not afford to buy bats, gloves or any equipment. Now cricket players have enough money to buy small Islands. Sorry to see that the money aspect of the game was completely ignored.

Goga Nalaik Sep 19, 2013 06:56pm


Excellent article. I've learnt a lot today.

insomniac Sep 19, 2013 07:22pm

@Syed Zeeshan: Danish Kaneria a christian ???? you kidding mate right.. he is a HINDU and only the second one to play for Pakistan... check your facts.

Ali Sep 19, 2013 07:51pm

Great Piece NFP... GEOO

Karachi Wala Sep 19, 2013 07:57pm

@Ali Vazi

" A very nice article. I earnestly wish that articles, thoughts, energies and resources are also diverted to some healthy sports too like hockey, football, boxing, cycling, yachting, wrestling, gymnastic etc. The whole nation would benefit in general and a lot more sportsmen in particular within the budget spent for mere 11 cricket playing individuals. Jazak All"

Good suggestion but pease try to understand NFP's point and what is relevent in the happenings in Pakistan. From 1947 to date.

Anees Sep 19, 2013 09:02pm

@ Syed Nayyar Uddin Ahmad... " ... However, if senior players are to be altogether discarded for the consideration of captaincy then may be Saeed Ajmal can be considered, as captain to lead the team in the ODI and Test matches, as a prospect for the long term investment."... Do you know how old Saeed Ajmal is?

Salman Sep 19, 2013 09:15pm

Unarguably it is a nice informative article. Although merits could be challenged on few points but on the whole, NF Paracha nailed the coffin. A Very good writeup. God Bless him and Dawn. One quick request would be, if NFP or Dawn could provide the list of the biographies he referred in this column, it would be great and people would go and read them.

fzafar Sep 19, 2013 09:31pm

So Youhana and Kaneria have been conveniently ignored because they don't fit NFP's "theory"?

Farooq A M Sep 19, 2013 10:54pm

Very interesting reading and writer has put a lot of effort in collecting data and possesses a good knowledge of Pak cricket history. I played crickt in 80s and ealy 90s at club and university level and number of (seven ) FC matches but not from Lahore of Karachi. In my opinion, Lahore-Karachi rivalry did exist but the author has over-exaggerated it. But I'm glad he highlighted the problem Inzimam created by bringing his brand of religion as the influencial factor in team Pakistan. Razzaq's prefernce over more talented Azhar Mahmood had the same reason. I knew some other cricketrs very closely, who were effected from that.

Farooq A M Sep 19, 2013 11:00pm

@Anees: Salman Butt was not "well educated" he never attended college but could speak English well, hence considered "educated".

Farooq A M Sep 19, 2013 11:07pm


Angels are alos not with Pakistan team now, for security reasons.

Farooq A M Sep 19, 2013 11:14pm

@Sana Rahim: Imran was also blamed for his proloned support for Mansoor Akhtar, who was from Karachi. Saleem Yousuf, though not a gifted keeper was Imran;s favorite due to his fighting spirits and was from Karachi. Imran never had bias against Karachi players.

vijay Sep 19, 2013 11:49pm

@subhash: For saeed anwar, he lost his young daughter in 2001.. by turning to religion side, he felt the peace.. so religion gave him strength

Aqilmund Sep 20, 2013 02:09am

Following this thesis the real issue with team selection is the way it has reflected our body politic; soooo now that we finally had a government complete an elected term and replaced with another elected government we should expect the selection process to perhaps become more transparent and merit based? The trick though as always is balancing the performance of a player against the 'perceived' talent of the same player. Do you keep him (her) around because you think they will turn it around or do you play musical chairs. For all the naysayers and before you blast me out of the water the silver lining to Mr. Salman Butt's ascendancy to the captain's post is that we did not have the creaking captains of yore who had waited their turn. Pick them early, mentor them and let them make a mistake or two... If this were easy it would be less fun I do not envy the selector's their task. After the fact analysis and throwing stones is easy.

Atif Sep 20, 2013 02:16am

@Farooq A M: Azhar mehmood fell away because of his failures. A razzaq delivered more often and was much more reliable, versatile (able to bat up and down the order) and destructive.

The writer is speculating a lot while quoting a few facts when he talks of inzi.

Saima Khan Sep 20, 2013 02:29am

For Farooq A M

Mansoor Akthar was a PUNJABI speaker from Karachi like Ahsan Iqbal of PML (N). How much he dislike people of Karachi. Now he is leaving in Lahore. Saleem Yousuf was always on the merit.

We remember when Imran Khan declare the inning when Miandad was 280 not out. We remember IK did not want to take Miandad for 92 WC. he announced about Miadnad that he is not fit for WC. IK never appraised JM for wining world cup, Pakistan only five matches in 92 WC and in all 5 matches JK score more than 50 runs in each inning. We remember IK sent classical opener Sohaib Muhammad at number 9 and expected to score . We remember when IK kick one fan in Karachi stadium like a crazy donkey and after two weeks he was hugging the girl inside the stadium during the match in London. he also shake hand his fans inside the ground in Lahore, many times.

Vakil Sep 20, 2013 03:47am

"After Pakistan was knocked out in the very first round of the tournament, Khan jokingly asked Anwar whatever happened to the angels that he claimed would help the team to win. Anwar replied:

Farhan Sep 20, 2013 04:06am

Epic article, NFP!

I always found myself chuckling away during post-match presentation ceremonies whenever inzimim was there. His machine-like delivery of religious rhetoric was comical at best.

God creates humans. TJ then churns them into mindless zombies.

truth hurts Sep 20, 2013 05:16am

Mansoor akhtar was punjabi from karachi I can look into saleem yousuf. haroon rasheed and all of his brothers zero talents are karchi based punjabi all of the brothers all pcb current employees. Almost all pcb employees from lower to upper level are punjabi intikhab allam to ground workers almost all pcb bosses in the past were punjabi.

kirther Sep 20, 2013 05:30am

No wonder Pakistan is being systematically destroyed through negative approach adopted by political and religious leaders. Pakistan was created to achieve freedom from political exploitation of colonial power and Hindu mind-set but now it is being held hostage by extremist and right wing elements, thereby, continues on the way to destruction through the courtesy of incompetent and perverted political/religious leadership. How unfortunate that after sixty years not a single national leader could emerge to keep the nation on right track. After the fall of Decca things became quiet evident but unfortunately no lessons learned by political leadership and today there is no one to remedy the situation by keeping the remaining part of the country united through commitment, effective policy and planning. APC, like the one held recently is just to cover-up the weaknesses and incompetence of the present government and there is no solution in sight to the number of existing problem.

khan Sep 20, 2013 06:19am

Most of the national teams are selected in Lahore.That discouraged other areas.That include other parts of Punjab also.If you are a good player ,you have to come to Lahore to come into eyes of selectors.Otherwise you will never never never make to NATIONAL TEAM.Now you can see the results.Hockey team which used to have all the titles at one time,and even the B team of Pakistan hockey was unbeatable.Every player in the team was the best in the world in his position.It was joy to watch them play,and beat every team in the world easily.We can get it back,if we give importance to small cities also.

Advocate Bajwa Sep 20, 2013 06:42am

NFP has given solid arguments to prove the history of biased decisions which, according to him, were made by the men standing in the corridors of power. But unfortunately his sheer efforts to plead his case against the prejudiced attitudes and discriminatory approaches were also based on biased and bigoted theme. What can be more partial and prujudiced than the fact that NFP has always involved 'RELIGION' in each and every piece of his writing. Give NFP a topic on inflation, hocky match, video games, or iron industry, and he would not disappoint you by not dragging faith, religion, islam, and ZIA's rule in his article. I have great respect for him and his writings but i expect an unbiased and impartial approach from a person with a stature of Nadeem F.Paracha.

Sridhar Sep 20, 2013 06:44am

I enjoyed reading the article but somewhat disappointed at the lack of depth in understanding in changes in Indian cricket. In the pre-independent India, cricket was a brown sahib sport patronized by the nawabs and the kings. Ranjitsingh, Duleep Singh, Nawab of Pataudi, Maharajkumar Vizzy, Raj Singh come to mind. Cricket was limited in many ways to Mumbai where the Parsis, and Hindus from upper classes had the pentangular tournament. At the end of 1950s the Indian test side was essentially a monopoly of Bombay cricketers. In 1960s, cricketers from other states started arriving, and asserting. For the next two decades, cricketers from Karnataka and Hyderabad became dominant with critical mass gradually moving out of Bombay. I would like to call it democratization as more players from middle class, originating from different provinces had brought cricket to masses.

The process of democratization (meaning more wide spread representation and participation in the game and to some extent administration in the role of selectors, coaches etc) was further catalyzed by the Packer phenomenon that monetized the sport. The administrators who were predominantly businessmen were motivated by the profits and gate receipts. They were more willing to draw talent from the remote parts of India, including far flung villages. In that, Indian cricket is similar to professional sports elsewhere. Players from Bihar, Kerala, Kashmir or Saurashtra would have had no place on the team were now playng for the country. It is their innate, raw talent that brought in winning results and crowds. Profit motive and market orientation had arrived.

By no means, Indian cricket is free of nepotism and regional politics. But, the almighty money might have done something good in that participation levels have increased.

Notwithstanding the opening up the opportunities, just count how many of the players in the India side are from urban, educated and from higher castes. Mostl player are Brahmins and Kshatriyas). I am not imputing casteism but suggesting that cricket is still removed from the masses. Citing from a Dalit site Brahmins constitute less than 4% of India and yet often form majority in Indian cricket teams!

Ahmer Sep 20, 2013 07:13am

Cricket in south Asia is a reflection of the society. Pakistan has to mend its wounds first before it can mend its cricket.

Mazahir Sep 20, 2013 07:55am

well don't forget shahid afridi is also TJ fan club.. . well when decisions will not be made on merit this will be the end result what Pakistan cricket and Pakistan as a nation is facing..... i thing worse is yet to come because we Pakistani sow a lot of hated in past and its time for it to reap.. i fear the worst yet hope for the best......

subhash Sep 20, 2013 08:50am

@vijay: thanks for the information, wasn't aware of it. Appreciated.

mohammad Sep 20, 2013 09:30am

@MAB: dear MAB you r right.

truth hurts Sep 20, 2013 09:26am

@Saima Khan: I was a young man growing up in Pakistan the bias of ik how can one forget of his treatment towards miandad not even once he ever fully acknowledge his achievements from sharja cup to world cup. He and other bias controlled pcb was recently out loud ed by afridi how they disliked karachi based urdu speaking cricketers. They have no shame no ethics forget about the religion. Not to mention all those sold our country was from punjabi background.

truth hurts Sep 20, 2013 09:31am

@Ismail Effendi: I agreed how about hasan raza

truth hurts Sep 20, 2013 09:35am

@Usman: Rana wasn't check your records

truth hurts Sep 20, 2013 09:47am

@Abbas: Because yonus khan wasn't punjabi they revolt in Australia and srilanka that's why he don't want to be a captain.

Awais Sep 20, 2013 09:50am

Good highlights and all are true, but very dramatic in order to sell the BOOK WELL. Yes, rifts were there,inzy did had a culture , I do remember his brawls but the way author has made connections make me laugh. Shahryar's main tussle is not about TJ, but when inzy left the OVAL GROUND, that bites Mr. Khan.

Khan Wali Sep 20, 2013 10:30am

@kirther: Please don't give us a political lecture, for all of that India is responsible, behind the stage!

Khan Wali Sep 20, 2013 10:34am

@Goga Nalaik: So you are 'LAIK' not 'NALAIK'

Saba Sheikh Sep 20, 2013 10:56am

Not a word written above surprises me. Some people are accusing Paracha of presenting a biased point of view, but I have no qualms in believing it all after seeing how Pakistan cricket got ruined in the hsnds of Inzi. Younis' rebellion was there for everyone to see and that he didnt get along with inzi was no secret as well. However, it defintely explains why an extremely good player and decent man like Misbah took so long to show his worth and talent. Just take a look at Misbah now,well spoken, well behaved and focused only on the wonder he didnt fit in.

Farhan Sep 20, 2013 11:00am

@Advocate Bajwa: NGP has not just pointed out religion, he has also talked about class difference and ethnicity.

Ann Kay Sep 20, 2013 11:28am

@Advocate Bajwa:

I think you missed the first seven pages of the article, where the writer has discussed ethnic and political differences in the society that affected the cricket team. Had NFP not discussed religion, it would have made the article biased.

Zafar Baloch Sep 20, 2013 11:47am

We should have QUOTA system in cricket. This will provide assurance to NON PUNJABI PLAYERS (Specially from Karachi). PCB office must move to Karachi. In Karachi you find every race. Karachi is called mini Pakistan but all HQ's are in Lahore.

sarfaraz Sep 20, 2013 12:08pm

65 are enough : aur mere comments to waise bhi delete ho jate hain - courtesy- moderators !

subhash Sep 20, 2013 01:29pm

@vijay: thanks Vijay, wasn't aware of this. Appreciated.

yousuf imam Sep 20, 2013 01:36pm

A good analysis and factually correct except that,as far as my memory goes it was Wadekar who took over captaincy from Pataudi and not the vice versa. I would look forward to readiing the next article of Mr Paracha on the affairs of cricket in Pakistan

Irfan Sep 20, 2013 02:31pm

NFP its a good angle but this does not explain why Pakistan cricket is where they are at the moment?

sarim Sep 20, 2013 03:49pm

Excellent insight

sohaib alvi Sep 20, 2013 06:54pm

@yousuf imam: Wadekar was sacked after the 1974 England tour and in that winter West Indies came to tour India (and later Pakistan). In that series MAK Patudi was recalled as player and captain after India lost the first Test or two and Indian won the next Test if I remember clearly under Pataudi. He was brought in because of his neutrality in the Delhi v Bombay camps that was troubling the team. It was a small comeback stint and Patuadi played no cricket after the series.

niazi Sep 20, 2013 07:53pm

The ethnic angle to the whole episode first emerged when groups of youth in the stadium

Sanjeev Yadav Sep 20, 2013 08:33pm

A very good article to look inside, but fails to look into a very big problem that minority guys are completely out of squad unlike India and SL

Ali Sep 20, 2013 10:42pm

Younis chracter make him far superior then others , he prayers 5 times and fast in Ramadan. All the other guys a part from Misbah are from villages around th country and there attitude is like of red necks.

Ali Sep 21, 2013 12:54am

@Sanjeev Yadav: Do not compare 20% vs 80% to 3% and 97%. And there was fair share but Kaneria is ousted by international cricket board. We would love to have him in the team. Also don't just make bias comments, show us in domestic cricket who do you think is worth selecting. Overall, there is huge politics in cricketing which far surpass the religion boundary.

Tajamal Nazir Sep 21, 2013 07:03am

Pakistan is failing at most major sports with a truly abysmal Olympic record. Although this article is about cricket along with corruption it goes a long way to explain why we've ended up in this situation. With the lack of funding or disappearance of such we've turned our sportsmen and women into beggars.

Tajamal Nazir Sep 21, 2013 07:14am

@Vakil: Actually all joking asides Saeed may not be dim as you believe. Many great sportsmen attributed their success to divine help. Muhammad Ali prayed in the corner before his fights. So let's try and stop taking digs at someone's belief.

Rooh ul Amin Sep 21, 2013 09:34am

I still remember, once Imran Khan (along with other seniour Punjabi players) refused to play under Javed Miandad captancy for a Test series against Seri Lanka. Javed Miandad was left alone. He played that serious without Imran Khan & Co. and won that series with new-comers and young players.

Khademul Islam Sep 21, 2013 09:42am

Good article.

But not one word about East Pakistani Bengali cricketers not being able to get into the national side. In fact, not one word about the neglect of cricket in then East Pakistan, about the lack of funding, and the overwhelmingly patronizing attitude of the West Pakistanis. Granted, Bengalis of East Pakistan came late to cricket, but the whole history of Pakistan national cricket is really the history of 'West Pakistan' cricket. It is no wonder that Bengalis felt alienated from the concept and practice of 'Pakistan' at so many levels.

Masrur Sep 21, 2013 10:32am

@Farooq A M: It was during Imran's era that the number of Karachi players started diminishing. The trend has continued, so much so, that now we often have teams playing without a single player from Karachi. Never mind that Karachi outperforms Lahore in most domestic tournaments. A "small" example, Karachi teams have won 19 Quaid-e-Azam Trophies, while Lahore has four.

Masrur Sep 21, 2013 10:37am

@Tahir : It wasn't just the Karachi press. I remember, to this day, Majid Khan's comment in a Jang Panel Interview. He said players from Karachi should not be selected because they play on cement wickets. I am not making this up, anyone is welcome to dig up Jang's archives, and read it.

irshad Sep 21, 2013 11:35am

The article suggests that cricket Captains like other Pakistan politicians use ethnicity religion to gain personal benefits and profits, when they fail to achieve on merit.

Karachi Wala Sep 21, 2013 02:59pm


"NFP its a good angle but this does not explain why Pakistan cricket is where they are at the moment?"

Dear Irfan, I hope you read the whole article. If you have, and still do not understand why Pakistan cricket is where it is, then it will be mighty difficult for you to understand.

Karachi Wala Sep 21, 2013 03:31pm

A very in depth, insightful and mostly accurate narrative of Pakistan history and history of Cricket in Pakistan. In doing so, NFP has used cricket as a kaleidoscope, a barometer or as pulse of the nation quite skillfully. He definitely needs to be applauded for his effort. Among friends I have long been arguing more or less on the same lines but have to admit I am no NFP. No doubt, ethnic and linguistic divide and class system has not only harmed Pakistan cricket but also Pakistan. To me the single most destructive element that has ruined Pakistan cricket and Pakistan both is mixing of religion with politics and Religious exhibitionism.

Swaraj Sep 21, 2013 04:51pm

NFP has done thorough research before penning the article. Pakistani team is loaded with talented but highly hypocrite players. Fanatical idiots like Inzi, Anwar have ruined the game. Shoaib Akhtar's midnight calls to remind Inzi of prayers was timely mockery of these hypocrites.

Hats off to NFP!!!

Ahmed Sep 21, 2013 06:35pm

45 % of total population of Pakistan is Punjabi therefore its natural that they will have more representation in every department. Moreover, I think we should not make every thing controversial and spread ideas which further divide our nation. After reading this article i came to a conclusion that even Personal grudges between players were portrayed as a result of ethnic divide.

Nasiroski Sep 21, 2013 06:46pm

Great piece NFP,it is the insecurity and and intolerance of Inzi, which is typical of our clergy (nature of clergy in general) which basically destroyed the team and is detryoing the society today. Interesting to see both Zaheer Abbas and Wasim Bari are shown to be from Karachi but ethinicaly belong to Punjab which shows the true colour of Karachi.