Now you don’t need a PhD in demography to realise a few thousand out of a city’s population exceeding 11 million is the equivalent to a few hundred people gathering outside Sydney Town Hall. You also don’t need a Nobel prize in anthropology (if such an award exists) to know that the religion most Pakistanis are really fanatical about is what my mum calls “kirkit”.
Confused? Here’s a clue. At the height of the Danish cartoon frenzy, I wrote:
“In my birthplace of Karachi, frenzied Pakistanis hit the streets with protests
that did more damage to the Pakistani economy than to anyone in Denmark … Then
again, some of these men … will protest each time they think a Pakistani batsman
is given out “lbw” unfairly.”
Once again, “some of these men” find themselves violently protesting over allegedly poor umpiring. Yesterday’s The Oz website showed a photo of Pakistani cricket fans burning effigies of an Aussie umpire with greater vigour than they might otherwise burn Danish flags.
These same allegedly staunch Muslims certainly weren’t burning Dean Jones effigies after he was caught out describing a South African Muslim cricketer as a “terrorist”. You’d think labelling your fellow believer as a terrorist would be more offensive than labelling your cricket team as a bunch of ball-tampering cheats.
But this is Pakistan, a land where cricket is religion. And Pakistan’s national team are idolised as much as Brazilian soccer stars are idolised in downtown Sao Paolo or Rio.
And if Pakistan’s cricketing fundamentalism had a Grand Mufti or Ayatollah, it would have to be former fast bowling legend (and playboy) turned conservative politician Imran Khan. Describing Aussie Umpire Darrell Hair as a “mini-Hitler”, Imran is now calling upon Pakistani players to sue the umpire for defamation. And if they pay me well enough, I’d be happy to act.
Still, I guess it’s better than Imran calling for the Australian High Commission in Islamabad to be burnt down. His litigious suggestion might have had legs but for a joint statement endorsed by the Pakistan Cricket Board which reads: “In accordance with the laws of cricket it was noted that the umpires had correctly deemed that Pakistan had forfeited the match and awarded the Test to England.”
I used to be a huge cricket fan. I played the game until Year 9, when our dimwit sports master decided to scrap team sports in favour of a “Summer Skills Program” where you could sooner go abseiling or ring the bells of St Andrews Cathedral than rub your gonads with red leather and six stitches.
Now cricket bores the hell out of me. As does cricket conversation and argumentation, a staple for an Indo-Pakistani-Bangladeshi-Sri Lankan dinner party (at least when they get sick of arguing over religion and politics!).
It’s hard for cricketing agnostics like myself to take all this Hair-raising cricket protest seriously. I just hope Billy Birmingham finds enough material in this saga for another classic piece of spoof commentary.
(A shorter version of this appeared in Crikey on 23 Augist 2006.)
© Irfan Yusuf 2006