WHENEVER one comes across a proverbial ‘big frog in a small pond’, it makes you wonder, what if the pond were bigger? Would it have survived tadpole-hood? Or would dear Darwin’s theory have acted as a ‘safety net’ for society?
The refrain one hears ad nauseam is “there is no dearth of talent in Pakistan”. How methodically we stifle this imaginary gift is another story. Let us stick to the size of the pool and the relative size of the frogs in it for the time being.
Since sports in Pakistan means cricket, let us consider how difficult — nay, nigh impossible — we are made to believe it is to select 16 players out of a pool of 200 million-plus talented individuals. Even if you just consider the youth who vie for a spot among the green shirts, the pool is still a little more than 100m people. What a tough job the poor PCB selection committee has on its hands.
Forget all the influence peddling, the regional and ethnic considerations, the nepotism and favouritism once the larger pool of 16 is identified; the 12 chosen ones to represent the country in various forms of cricket are considered to be the crème de la crème of the athletic variety that this particular sport can conjure up anywhere.
What if a cabinet had to be picked from among almost 2bn people?
They can hold their own against any team in the world, and on a good day, albeit rarely, they can outdo themselves.
These lads are the ones kissed by the Lady Luck herself. They are princes the day they don the national cap. Big frogs in a seemingly large pond.
Now imagine what the team would like if the pond was actually big. If the team had to be selected from a sea of almost two billion people? If a team selected from 200 million people can at times seem matchless, what sort of a magic dozen would take to the field if the fishing rights included the good part of the Indo-Arabian ocean?
Let us run a hypothetical exercise; in the last 40 years or so, if we had to select a regional team consisting of Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh, who would make the cut?
Many among you would blurt out ‘Miandad, Gavaskar, Mushfiqur, Zaheer, and Tendulkar’, without batting an eye. Some others would rattle off ‘Wasim, Zaheer, Mashrafe, Qadir, and Bedi’ among the bowlers.
For the all-rounders, the competition may not be too tough as ‘Kapil, Shakib, and Imran’ are no-brainers, the latter on more counts than one. But herein lies the rub; what about Ramiz Raja, Haroon Rasheed and Surinder Amarnath among the batters?
What about Hafeez, Binny, Sharma and Rubel among the bowlers? Let this author hazard a guess, not many among them would even make it to the first-class team, leave alone the national side B.
Let us unabashedly belabour the issue. Let us expand the example to something serious: the universe neither began with ‘let there be cricket’ nor is it likely to end at a cricketing scoreboard. What if a central cabinet had to be picked from among almost 2bn people?
Jinnah, Nehru, Azad, Mujib, Bacha, Suhrawardy, Bizenjo, Bhashani, Benazir, Jaswant et al will make it to any cabinet consisting of their peers.
However, which among you thinks that the incumbents responsible for the portfolios of health, and social safety nets in today’s Pakistan, and the head honchos of the interior, communication and railways in the preceding regime, would even make it to the union council had the selection pool been greater?
We run the country the same way we play cricket. We pick a team from a small pond — oops! pool — and as it starts to falter in a tournament, our bets go something like this; ‘if A beats C, and if B draws with D, and if it rains during the semifinal, and if the final is not curtailed to Duckworth-Lewis rules, we will win’. As you can see, none of the variables mentioned have anything to do with our efforts or talent; it is all happenstance. And to explain it all, we have people in the dressing room who can elaborate in a post-defeat press conference as to what is ‘qudrat ka nizam’ (law of nature).
One-half of the aforementioned human resource pool has foreign exchange reserves of over $500bn; the other makes do with $30bn to $40bn. We, in the Pakistan of ‘no dearth of talent’ pool fame, have all of $6.5bn. There too $3bn are a deposit by a ‘friendly country’.
The last doyen of finance to have been shown the door by his party has started talking and writing a lot of sense lately. Hope he won’t ride on coattails.
Meanwhile, with the present size of the pond, no frogs are likely to metamorphose into princes, the smothering by the establishment notwithstanding.
The writer is a poet. His latest publication is a collection of satire essays titled Rindana.
Published in Dawn, December 17th, 2022