Cricket as a metaphor

This Article was published in
Business Recorder (September 18, 2010)
Pakistan Observer (September 19, 2010)

By Sahibzada Hussain Mohi-ud-Din Qadri

The recent developments in respect of Pakistan cricket are not bolt from the blue. They are something known to both the people of Pakistan and the cricketing community for quite sometime. Pakistani cricket team has been lurching from one crisis to the other much to the dismay and disappointment of its countrymen who adore both cricket and the cricketers.

Despite the passage of strict laws by the International Cricket Council, the players have not been deterred from crossing the red line and getting involved in the objectionable activities. While the final outcome of the investigations into the alleged instances of 'spot fixing' by the top Pakistani players is yet awaited, it does prove the fact in no uncertain terms that something is fundamentally wrong with structure of the sport in the country, which is mainly responsible for the mess Pakistan's cricket finds itself in.

On the serious side, Pakistan's present cricketing predicament presents interesting parallels and is a reflection of the larger malaise, which afflicts the country. If one is interested in knowing as to what ails Pakistan, one can form a clear idea of that by surveying the scene of national cricket and the deep abyss to which the sport has fallen. Following points are instructive in this regard:

As is the case with the cricket and those involved in the game from top to bottom, Pakistani politics also lacks rules of the game. The political players are least bothered about conducting the affairs of the state amicably through consensus and reconciliation. They are closely tied to their petty, parochial interests and are driven more by personal whims and caprices instead of a value system.

The cricketers' indulgence in suspect activities owes itself to lack of any accountability. In the same way, those wielding political power in the country think that they cannot be held accountable for their misuse of power and mega corruption. There is no independent and credible accountability mechanism in the country and whatever accountability arrangements were put in place by successive political administrations, they were meant to victimise the opposition marked by vendetta and political point-scoring instead of bringing the guilty to justice.

The absence of fear of law has emboldened the so-called political elite to indulge in shady undertakings. The system lacks in-built self-reform procedure with the result that we go back to square one after every 10 years with military stepping in the political arena 'to put things back on track'. It is a different matter that the military rulers end up adding to the country's woes by causing damage to the infant national institutions. Laws are twisted to suit the ends of the high and the mighty.

The cricketers' putting of a tag on their souls and national honour is driven by their unbridled urge to amass more and more sums of money. Likewise, politics has also come to be known as a means to get rich overnight. It has taken the shape of a rewarding business where investment fetches good amount of dividend besides ensuring political clout for the concerned parties. Public service, which is otherwise an integral part and outcome of politics, has become a thing of the past. Politicians misuse public offices to derive all kinds of advantages. The 'money factor' is a motivational force behind all the doings and undoings of our political brigade.

Much of our cricketing woes emanate from the mismanagement and incompetence of those tasked to manage the affairs of the game. Both the PCB's management and the erring cricketers have established a nexus to cause the demise of the game from Pakistan. Hence there is no accountability of those cricketers who have brought a bad name to both their country as well as game through their objectionable on-the-field and off-the-field activities. 'The players' power' has made the Pakistan Cricket Board helpless before the 'super stars'. In the same way, the erring politicians find themselves on the right side of the 'real power wielders'.

There are all kinds of nexus between political elite and those who matter in the state structure. They protect and advance the interests of one another through such collusion and as a result keep on enjoying the uninterrupted fruits of power. Such a nexus amongst the stakeholders has been a defining feature of the Pakistani politics, which has turned the entire system into one based on patronage and extension of 'mutual' favours.

There is also an interesting parallel between cricket and politics. The 'players of both games' have frustrated the wishes of the teeming millions to whom they owe their present status and stardom. The people of Pakistan have periodically been dismayed and disappointed by the 'performance and conduct' of their 'heroes' who have allowed their narrow interests to dictate their agenda. After getting elected to high offices, politicians give a damn to the wishes and desires of their electorate. They know that going back to masses for votes is merely a ritual shorn of its essence and it is the money and right connections, which matter in the end. This is how narrow self interest has overtaken the public interest, thereby causing loss of faith and confidence in the outcome of both 'sports'.

The above mentioned analysis suffices to make one conclude that we as a nation are bereft of the higher ideals. We are a people without any direction. All departments of our national life are on the downward slippery slope. Our collective ship is caught in the unchartered waters due to blunders of those whose duty it is to navigate us out of these troubled waters. The cycle of our decadence and degeneration is complete. In 1947, there was a nation, which struggled to create a state for itself. Today after passage of 63 years, we have a state which is in search of a nation. This is not the fate we deserve.

(The writer is Australia-based PhD candidate)