Wednesday 4 June 2014 

Comment - Why Pakistan Loves Cricket So Much

Despite so many setbacks, Pakistan fans retain a passion for the game and support their team around the world
Despite so many setbacks, Pakistan fans retain a passion for the game and support their team around the world
© REUTERS / Action Images
 

In his latest article for Cricket World, first-class cricketer Jibran Khan Niazi explores the deep love Pakistan has for the game of cricket, despite a number of setbacks.

People in Pakistan love to watch cricket and despite the terrorist attack on the visiting Sri Lankan team in 2009 preventing us from hosting international cricket since, the team has managed to maintain its position in the international arena.

The Pakistan cricket team face hardships from the inside and the outside, however.

The survival of Pakistan in the present situation is nothing short of a miracle because the so-called champions and bigwigs are, in my view, interested in money and not enhanving the structure of cricket.

People in Pakistan are well aware of this situation and always seeme critical yet their love for cricket is at its highest ebb, while the youth has a tremendous craze for cricket.

Off-spinner Jibran Khan Niazi has played first-class and one-day cricket for Sargodha, also playing for Pakistan University Grants Commission and Faisalabad.

 

Whenever I recollect the memories of Misbah-ul-Haq, my team-mate, who is now leading Pakistan, and ex-T20 captain Mohammad Hafeez, I always say "cricket is not a bed of roses."

Yet, I remember the day when I was sitting with Misbah in the pavilion, and he was filling a form for a job in some bank and upon my query he replied, "I have done my MBA from LUMS, the most  prestigious educational institution of Pakistan to secure my future."

He was frustrated and was of the view that as he failed to get into the Test side against New Zealand he would instead join any bank. 

I must say I have not seen many bolder cricketers than Misbah who continuously struggled hard to achieve his cherished goal in cricket despite discouraging remarks of legendary Pakistan cricketers and those abroad, including Geoffrey Boycott, who I remember saying words to the effect that Misbah has no potential to become an international cricketer.

He proved his worth by his constant struggle and love for cricket and proved his critics wrong.

Hafeez, meanwhile, hailed from a poor family and his love for cricket forced him to press on despite financial constraints.

He used to travel in a middle-class passenger bus putting his kit bag on his lap. He started his career as a tennis tape-ball player and achieved recognition as a hard hitter but he strived day and night and tilted towards hard-ball cricket.

I still remember the days when I started my first-class career with Misbah and Hafeez offering me guidance; all three of us aiming to play for our country.

What perhaps best illustrates my own passion for cricket and my country is the fact that I turned down lucrative offers to play in New Zealand and English county cricket.

Nevertheless, I was frustrated with the local politics in the game and moved to England to receive education in law following the suggestion of Misbah but continued playing cricket to satisfy my inner self.

Unfortunately bad luck followed me and my father suffered a heart problem and his love forced me to rush back to Pakistan as he had always supported me and my passion for cricket.

Saeed Ajmal, now a star twinkling over the sky of international cricket, and I started our career in the same year. He made his debut for Faisalabad and I made mine for Sargodha.

He is a very nice person as well, and while praising my style asked me to help him bowl in a the same style as me, which according to him was 'God-gifted'.

He was also frustrated with off-field issues and continued playing for Islamabad instead of Faisalabad and planned to join an insurance company to secure his livelihood.

Misbah helped him to make it to the Pakistan squad but his passion and the sacrifices he made for cricket cannot be ignored as he and he has done a tremendous job for the youth of Faisalabad by starting an academy catering to modern techniques of cricket.

Hafeez has also arranged special camps and spent a considerable amount to find talented youths in Sargodha and if this sort of initiative was adopted by other cricketers and training sessions arranged in their respective areas, that will guarantee a bright future for the game in our country.

Without doubt, media coverage of one-day and Twenty20 cricket at national and international level ignited the craze of cricket and the extraordinary rewards available at national and international level have helped promote the game.

Twenty20 attracts huge crowds and traffic jams - ample proof of people’s love of cricket particularly in light of current circumstances, where terrorism cannot be ignored.

I still remember the days when my friend and team-mate Umair Hasan continued playing Under-19 cricket despite the death of his father, capturing 60 wickets in eight matches. Shortly after the funeral of of his father he came back to the camp and performed excellently.

A cricket coach I know was crazy abuot playing cricket and used to stay all day in the playground. His family faced humiliation when a well-to-do family close to them planned to visit his house for his engagement with their daughter but when they learnt about his passion for cricket, they changed their mind and declined to give the hand of their daughter to a boy who was doing nothing except playing cricket!

Another coach, a son of a police inspector, faced hardships when upon the retirement of his father he was refused a job due to his passion for cricket. So, to earn his keep, he used  to drive rickshaws at night: despite being a graduate and having job opportunities he preferred driving rickshaws in the night so he could continue playing cricket.

© Cricket World 2014