9/26/07

Twenty20 Final - Paksitan Captain Shoaib Malik Comment

. 9/26/07

After the end of Twenty20 sensational final Pakistan captain said something that was so irrelevant that I couldn't believe my ears. So I looked at the highlights over and over again to make sure that I'd actually heard him say it. This is what he said to master of ceremonies, Ravi Shastri, who asked him a sympathetic question about the game after Shoaib had collected his loser's medal: "First of all I want to say something over here. I want to thank you back home Pakistan and where the Muslim lives all over the world."

This is what he said word for word because it's important to quote him correctly. The problem here isn't the syntax, it is the sentiment. I don't expect Shoaib Malik to be a politically correct intellectual, but it is reasonable to expect him to know the world of cricket that he inhabits.

It is a world where Muslims, Hindus and a Sikh currently play for England, where Buddhists, Muslims, Christians and a Hindu play for Sri Lanka, where Hashim Amla turns out for South Africa, where a Patel plays for New Zealand, where Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and Hindus play (and have always played) for India. Why would Shoaib think, then, that the Muslims of the world were collectively rooting for the Pakistan team or that they felt let down by its defeat? Did he stop to think of how Danish Kaneria, his Hindu team-mate, might feel hearing his Test skipper all but declare that the Pakistan team is a Muslim team that plays for the Muslims of the world? It is one thing to be publicly religious—Shahid Afridi thanked Allah and Matt Hayden and Shaun Pollock are proud, believing Christians—quite another to declare that your country's cricket eleven bats for international Islam.

I am also a Muslim, why I am reacting so much? Should I leave issues like this alone? No, Shoaib Malik chose to make it our business by saying it in team colours at the end of the ICC World Twenty20 final. He said something that goes to the heart of cricket's loyalties, its culture, its plurality of race and faith and language. If Shoaib took in nothing else about the final, he must have noticed that the bowler who took his wicket was called Irfan Khan Pathan, that the Indian team's most visible cheerleader, the guy who was hugging Indian players in turn at the end of the game, was one Shah Rukh Khan. I feel a residual distaste in even mentioning their names because both Shah Rukh and Irfan are admired in India for what they've achieved, not who they are. But sometimes it is important to spell things out and Shoaib could do with the instruction.





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