After Sohail Khan’s five-for on day one of the third Edgbaston Test, a Pakistani reporter during the post-innings press conference asked the fast bowler why he doesn’t learn English to communicate with international media.
What if one is not comfortable enough to converse in a language that is not his or her cup of tea?
For Pakistanis, sometimes it becomes a question of prestige if an individual is not keen on speaking English since Urdu is our mother language.
Sohail Khan was undoubtedly Pakistan’s man of the moment on day one of the third Test at Edgbaston, having picked up five wickets on his return to Test cricket after a hiatus of almost five years.
The 32-year-old, born in Malakand but raised in Karachi, would have never expected that a Pakistani reporter to ask him when “he would find time to learn English”.
Throughout the nearly 14-minute briefing, Pakistan team’s bowling coach Mushtaq Ahmed acted as the English translator for Sohail who answered the queries posed to him by both British and Pakistani journalists in Urdu.
The point here is why a Pakistani reporter asked such a sensitive question in front of several English journalists?
What was he trying to achieve by demeaning Sohail in a way that is tantamount to insult for an individual whose primary job is to play cricket and not worry about speaking English?
To his great credit, Sohail didn’t answer that portion of a two-part query from his compatriot and just said that it was his first interaction with the international media and informed the offender that he could talk in English as well.
Cricket is perhaps just one sport in Pakistan which unites the country.
Someone like Sohail Khan is still not a household name and certainly far away from being a cult hero.
Among our superstars in the sporting field, just a handful spoke fluent English because they were fortunate to acquire world-class academic grooming besides excelling in cricket as well.
Pakistan’s first Test captain A.H. Kardar as well as Javed Burki and his cousins Imran Khan and Majid Khan all studied either at Cambridge or Oxford universities.
Wasim Akram was one prime example of a cricketer who didn’t speak a word of English at the start of his international career in the early 1980s. Today, he is a well-known authority on cricket as an English commentator for various channels.
But that certainly does not mean that each sportsman in this country who plays at the international level should be able to interact with the media in English.
There are many cases of sportsmen who rarely speak in English and mostly prefer to talk in their mother-tongue.
Football greats such as Pele, Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi, Zinedine Zidane, Cristiano Ronaldo, Thomas Muller, Gianluigi Buffon, Neymar and Antoine Griezmann are a few examples. They always interact at the media conferences in their native languages.
In every field worldwide there is a code of conduct in place for better working environment and to ensure that discipline is maintained at all times. Individuals found breaching it usually face punitive action.
Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has a certain responsibility in this case as well. PCB is the authority which not just controls cricket but also caters to the needs of other related areas.
Journalists travelling to cover the Pakistan matches have to get their accreditations authenticated by the PCB before they are granted official permission by the countries they visit.
Pakistan has had their fair share of cricketing controversies over the years.
The current series in England has so far been without any unwanted incident except for the deplorable behaviour of that journalist.
The onus is on the PCB to make sure such ridiculous questions are avoided at all costs and also set an example by taking strict action against that reporter for attempting to create an unnecessary controversy.
Khalid H. Khan is a senior sports correspondent at Dawn