From lofty and very lonely heights, the foreign writer tries to decipher what went wrong with the game of cricket after the glorious days when the Imperial Sun used to shine all day from East to West. As the westerner purposefully sips on his mild cup of Twining's Earl Gray tea with spice and cinnamon extract at a small cafe overlooking the grandiose Lord's Cricket Ground, he racks his head as he struggles to understand the Pakistan Cricket board (PCB). How it is that the PCB could go ahead and ban all of their talented - albeit scoundrel - cricketers, then go ahead and completely reverse that decision, unbanning all previously banned cricketers along with their tainted reputations?

Of course, at some level he realises that the complexity of the issue is far beyond what his pasty-white civilised mind is capable of. And then all of a sudden - SNAP! He gets a great idea for a cricket satire piece (because everything we can't understand we tend to satirise), and he diligently begins typing his piece for CricInfo. Originally titled 'U-Turns Please, we're Pakistani,' the title was shortly thereafter changed to 'U-Turns Please, we're the PCB,' after a couple of upset Pakistani commentators expressed how hurt they were at being stereotyped and how that might borderline at racism.

The article was a grand old laugh and Alan Tyers, that old boy, had written a fabulous piece but it was even more of a grand old laugh, because it displayed the utter lack of understanding of the inner workings of the Pakistani-mentality by the innocent Englishman. To his credit though, I thought the title 'U-Turns Please, we're Pakistani' was completely apt, until CricInfo had to step in, much like the PCB, and reverse its original decision in favour of diluting the title in a disgusting cesspool of political correctness.

While he did get the inner complexity of the U-Turn phenomenon, what our British subject completely failed to grasp was that we're Pakistani! Not only are we fond of spontaneous U-Turns, but we're excessively drawn to double-U-Turns, W-Turns, viscous cuts, and killer swerves. We're one dastardly nation, that finds it extremely inconvenient to play by the rules. We didn't come up with traffic rules and certainly didn't draw out the 'Gentleman's Guide to Cricketing Etiquette' either. We conveniently inherited them from our gracious colonisers who came here all the way from the west, to try to teach us the fruits of civilisation.

However, if you just look at how we've adapted to the system of traffic as well as cricket, it is quite evident that we threw both the rule books in the bin and simply tried to figure things out as they made sense to us. So, just like ferocious overtaking from the left isn't considered one of the deadly sins, rather an incredible talent on Pakistani asphalt, the ingenuity of cricketing innovations like reverse-swing and the deadly doosra (the one that spins the other way) only bare further witness to how the Pakistani way of thinking is simply ulta (the other way around).

Now I don't blame Tyers, the poor chap, for he possesses what I would call a rather linear faculty of looking at things. Our non-linear, ulta way of thinking is something that's simply, well, beyond him. Forgive me for using a cricketing analogy for explaining this rather non-communicable idea, but just how cricket itself had its not-so-modest beginnings as a 'gentleman's sport' between the Lords and the commoners (whom do you think batted and who fielded?), cricket in the subcontinent had its beginnings in smelly narrow lanes and puddle-ridden inner-city gullies.

While in the gentleman's variation of the sport, one had to use the powers of the intellect to out-wit the batsman into throwing away his wicket, the objective in street cricket is to hit the batsman as hard as you can in the ribs or the unmentionable parts, so that he doesn't dare stand to face the next ripping delivery. Even in batting, where the gentleman would calmly wait and defend the ball with a straight bat, the unruly colonial subject would look to slog the well-flighted ball out of the ground with as cross a bat as possible.

This different approach to the sport is, no doubt, all due to our lateral-thinking abilities. And while test cricket may have been the original format of the game where a gentleman's straight bat gets the reward of a well-played innings, the tide has since changed towards the likes of the T-20, where a ruthless cross-bat shot is the only thing that could help you win when six runs are needed from one ball. The high and lofty sport of cricket has no doubt suffered from the infamous phenomenon known as 'reverse-colonisation,' yet another reversal. Cricket is no longer about being gentlemanly or being honorable or a good sport. Cricket is now about being cut-throat to the bone, taunting and swearing at the batsman, distracting him with all sorts of cross-chatter in strange tongues which he fails to understand.

As one self-proclaimed die-hard Pakistani cricket fan observed in a highly offended comment to Tyers' quippy article:

Posted by Mahdi_E_Dra (June 07 2010, 22:09 PM GMT)

As a die hard fan of Pakistani cricket I don't find this article hilarious. Yes our great cricketing nation does have lows, yes the team is full of shady characters and yes the team as a whole lacks culture and yes the team also has people who haven't been potty trained properly [sic]. Having said all that, the Pakistani team always performs, remember we are the 20-20 champions if you discount one fluke innings by Michael Hussey. I challenge the readers and the writer of this article to name one cricketing side that has so many fixers, ball biters, charlatans and petty criminals and still manages to win international tournaments!

For one, the enthused fan who still happens to be in shock/denial over the thrashing we got from the Aussies in the T-20, is probably right (because we think laterally, Hussey does not exist, and he never hit that last boundary, which makes Pakistan the T-20 champions). There is no other cricketing side that still manages to win despite having so many match-fixers, ball-biters, charlatans, and petty-crooks, because probably, no other side has that wide a variety of deviant and delinquent characters in the first place. But just for the record, Shahid Afridi wasn't biting the ball as a means of tampering, he was simply trying to impress the Close-Up toothpaste marketing team to get another sponsorship.

The attitude of the passionate fan above, however, quite characteristically displays the Pakistani stereotype as much as the pasty-white foreigners may have failed to capture it. The attitude is: 'look we're so messed up, and we're so bad-ass, some of us are even hooked on opium, yet we're still the best (well, almost).' And the consolation prize to that kind of thinking is, 'well maybe we suck, but at least we're better than India.' We're excellent at pretending to be on terms with our skewed morality and even better at pretending we're God's gift to humanity as well as cricket despite all our ills.

But what someone like Tyers would simply be unable to realise is that, our ulta thinking goes far and wide beyond the realms of cricket and traffic. And most certainly, our history of banning, and unbanning, reversing decisions, overturning orders, etc. goes way, way beyond the PCB, and its all because we're Pakistani.

Let's start from the champion of banning, unbanning, and ultra-sharp U, almost V-Turns - none other than former President Pervez Musharraf. I mean, the guy's innings was a miraculous nine-year cameo. He came on with the premise of cleaning up Pakistani politics once and for all, took the crease, banned all political parties, beat up old politicians only to turn around full circle, systematically unbanning all previously banned politicians, bringing back cricketing all-stars like Nawaz Sharif back into the foray of politics after a couple of reversed airplanes which were sent back from the airport. He passed the ultimate reversal decision, none other than the NRO, which overturned all the corruption cases in recent judicial history and even paved the way for one of the most ulta of people to come to the helm of the country to lead it for the next decade before we reverse that decision as well.

That's not all. Like cricket and traffic, the rules of democracy and liberalism were also inherited from our white, colonial fathers. But look at our wavering record! We've gone through three dictatorships, followed by democratic regimes and each time the masses have reversed their decision on democracy, following a complete U-Turn into military rule. Forget the likes of Shoaib Akthar chucking his way back into international cricket after being banned, after 9/11 we 'banned' all terrorist outfits operating out of the country, and since that ban, terror outfits have only grown prodigiously in these fair lands.

The list goes on - the Punjab government banned late night cellphone packages so that the youth doesn't get too corrupted talking to their boy/girlfriends all night, only to make the whole enterprise even more thrilling. We banned Facebook due to its blaspheming activities, but only for two weeks, after which the Lahore High Court reversed its decision and now Facebook is back with an even bigger bang. If we analyse these patterns closely, anything that's gotten banned has come back stronger and more powerful than ever.

I think our ulta mentalities and terra ways of thinking have it so, that forbidden pleasures are the ones we enjoy the most, like running a red light or playing a reverse sweep. We love breaking the rules, banning the rules, ignoring the bana and subsequently, reversing our original ban. This kind of behaviour pattern goes far beyond the realm of understanding of our simple-minded colonising friends, who were sadly unable to understand it during periods of colonisaion, de-colonisation and now reverse-colonisation. Talk about U-Turns.

Lahore-based Asif Akhtar is interested in critical social discourse as well as the expressive facets of reactive art and is one of the schizophrenic narrators of a graphic novel. He blogs at, can be found on Facebook and tweets at

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily represent the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.



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