Tag Archives: india

India vs Pakistan fanspeak: Sarfraz Ahmed and Co’s outdated approach leaves little hope for Champions Trophy clash

One of the unfortunate realities of growing up is that at a certain stage in life, people start re-evaluating friendships and relationships they have nurtured over a lifetime. It takes perhaps a succession of endured disappointments or heartbreaks for the flame of unconditional loyalty to get extinguished. For a lot of Pakistani cricket fans, we are at the crossroads of our relationship with ODI cricket.

How did we get here then? How is it that a team, once the darlings of modern cricket now resemble the sad, ailing grandparents of a new generation? It would be pertinent perhaps to retrace our steps.

Drawing from a Back to the Future reference, somewhere in the space time continuum of cricket, the timeline skewed into a tangent, creating this alternate reality. Putting our Doc Brown glasses on, it is conceivable that year for Pakistan cricket was 1999. We were an ODI team at the peak of its powers, gifted with quality all-rounders, aggressive batsmen, wily spinners, spunky wicket-keepers and pace bowlers with both extreme pace and nous. And then something terrible happened. On a sleepy London afternoon, a Pakistani team abjectly relinquished its claim to the throne. A World Cup final was lost, but more importantly a swagger was surrendered.

File image of an India vs Pakistan match. Getty images

Since 1999, much like Doc Brown and Marty McFly, we have since witnessed the cricketing world alter radically around us, with the new world order now real to everyone else, but abnormal for us. The last 18 years of the ODI game have seen thicker bats, smaller boundaries, lesser reverse swing, bulkier batsmen, more power play restrictions, and often outrageous stroke-play. In a tragic sort of way, a lot of the modern rules have conspired against the style of cricket Pakistan was so adept at playing in the 1990s, leaving it a mere shadow of the fun-filled, aggressive team it once used to be.

To continue to explore Pakistan’s unfortunate version of Back to the Future, the role of the villain Biff Tannen would have to be played by the Indian cricket team. Sometime between 1999 and 2003, when Pakistan lost its ODI mojo, India discovered fire in cricketers like Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan and Virender Sehwag. Barring a blip in 2007 where our fates were shared, India has made a semi-final, a final and won a World Cup. They have shed the conservatism of the 1990s and embraced the modern game. They even hold the current Champions trophy title, a trophy won on the back of attacking bowling and solid batting.

This brings us to the upcoming Champions trophy encounter between Pakistan and India on 4 June, a mismatch now so depressingly stark, it almost feels like the 1990s but with the boot decisively on the other foot. Just the sheer disparity in rankings promises a damp squib; India are number 3 in the world, Pakistan a miserable number 8. Pakistan are stuck playing a brand of cricket that will get them 250 runs on a good day, India are currently making 290 runs on a bad day. Pakistan’s batting order is depressing enough to suck the life out of even the most optimistic cricket fan; Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez and Azhar Ali are the very anti-thesis to a modern batsman. It is almost as if Pakistan cricket is stubbornly fighting a lone cause for old-fashioned cricket. This is perhaps the only logical explanation for building a top-order around three batsmen, who carry strike rates of 72, 75 and 75 respectively.

Putting aside the wizened pessimist in me, my only glimmer of hope from our batting is provided by Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik and Sarfraz Ahmed, three cricketers who in the very least have a lower dot-ball percentage and a greater degree of consistency than their companions. It is inexplicable why Safraz Ahmed refuses to bat in the top order that cries out for his style of aggression. It was only two years ago during the 2015 World Cup, when many of us were baying for Waqar Younis’s blood after he so stubbornly refused to bat Safraz at the top of the order and continued experimenting with the disastrous Nasir Jamshed. When Sarfraz was finally inducted into the opening slot, he responded with match winning knocks of 49 and 101. Logic though does not seem to prevail in Pakistan cricket. Even as captain, Sarfraz continues to hide at number 6, where his lack of big hitting ability has been exposed. Most disappointingly perhaps, it has also revealed a lack of the courage and initiative that Pakistani cricket so desperately needed from Sarfraz.

It is in bowling as usual that Pakistan will place most of its hopes. The fast improving Hasan Ali has emerged as a real wicket-taker in the bowling lineup. Mohammad Amir has been solid, albeit unspectacular, since his return to ODI cricket. Imad Wasim’s accuracy will be challenged by an Indian batting lineup that can feast on his style of non-spinning darts. If selected, the irresistible Shadab Khan will be the real wild card in this bowling lineup. His performances in the ODIs and Test matches in the Caribbean showed that he still has some learning to do in the longer formats of the game. His undeniable talent though, provides a rare reason to continue sitting through the mundane extremes of our ODI cricket.

Pakistan’s real challenge in ODI bowling has been that in the absence of reverse swing, its fast bowlers are rendered completely ineffective, especially during the death overs. As was seen during the Australia tour, even if Junaid Khan and Amir picked up early wickets, Australia’s long batting lineups were still able to effectively counter-attack during the later stages of the innings. It does not help that the Pakistani attack is returning to the country of its biggest-ever meltdown — conceding 444 in an ODI innings to England.

So on 4 June, we approach the game with a sense of foreboding and depressing inevitability. The optimism and swagger of the 1990s has faded. It seems into a different lifetime. There are few logical reasons for us to expect anything other than a resounding thrashing and a continued walk along this path of indifference. It is time perhaps for the space time continuum to explode one more time, taking us away from this alternate reality and back to the comforts of a glorious past.

Karan Johar is a soft target: India is actually a sad tale of an unequal democracy

Filmmaker Karan Johar must be a very confused man these days.

In a country where he enjoys the same rights as others, how can outfits, political and otherwise, of small consequence hold his business interests to ransom with such ease? How on earth would he know that India’s relations with Pakistan would nosedive a year later and make decisions accordingly now?

He can make movies, provide employment to a lot of people, entertain a huge audience, make money and make richer everyone down the value chain, but how is he supposed to handle it when theatre owners decide not to screen his movie on a whim or under pressure?

He is a soft target. Like so many others of his ilk and the creative community. He is an influential, even powerful, person in the film industry. But it is soft power he wields, not the real power – of muscle and ability to carry out threats – that counts, and is grudgingly respected in the country.

He cannot vandalise theatres, unleash a few hundred men to tear down posters or stage rallies and issue warning to artistes. He can direct a movie sending a subtle message to a world getting paranoid over terror and Islamophobic, but he cannot terrorise people. He would like to mind his work.

Fawad_social

While minding his work, he would expect a few constants. Respite from hassles not connected to his work is one of them. He would like his business interests protected too. If he is threatened in any way, he would expect the police to be of help. If there’s a dispute of some other kind he would like to knock the doors of the judiciary. These are the avenues open to him, like to any other Indian. If there’s no help from these two, he is helpless. He can only be at the mercy of extra-constitutional powers.

That’s what separates people like Karan Johar and say, someone like Raj Thackeray, chief of Maharashtra Navirman Sena, and makes him so unequal in the democracy ours. Leaders of outfits with local or limited interest command people who can carry out dire threats, make trade unions stop work and owners of theatres drop the idea of screening a movie.

They only need an issue with emotional content. It could be anything – patriotism, nationalism and any matter relating to religion, region and culture.

Thus we have organisations attacking pubs, killing rationalists, raiding libraries, threatening writers, harassing women in short skirts, destroying art work in exhibitions, branding people anti-national, snooping on food in hotels and what not. The list of targets can be unending.

Since intimidation is the accepted language of conversation among these people, polite dialogue or conversation is out of question. Backed as they are by political powers, the law looks the other way when they are in action. They virtually go scot-free every time, encouraged thus to carry out their next offensive without much worry.

Where does that leave Karan Johar or by extension us? Johar’s problem is he could be targeted at multiple points, right from the stage of shooting to where his movie would be screened. People at different points can be ‘managed’in different ways and he can hardly do anything about it.

Others are more fortunate that way. Still that does not take away the helplessness we are exposed to. What is more worrisome is earlier these attacks or threats used to be irregular; the frequency of the activities of such groups over the last couple of years has made it a trend. There’s more violence and tendency to coerce in the air.

Can we be assured of protection from these people? When the ruling establishment go indifferent and other political parties play the game of opportunism it is virtually impossible. It is one of the existential crises we face now. Wielders of rough, crude power are overwhelming those commanding soft power. It’s a mockery of the idea of all Indians being equal.