[Blogger's Note: This is the first in a series of 3 articles]
I seem to be going on a blogging spree whenever India wins in cricket. Beating Pakistan is no mean feat and winning the tournament in a format where we've just played one international T-20 match prior to this World Cup surely needed tons of self belief. To do that without the trinity of Indian cricket is like America winning the war on Terror in land-locked Afghanistan with just the Navy. The Indian media have covered this so much that the only risk I’d carry if I continued talking about the Men in Blue is that I’d sound like a broken gramophone record.
What I would like to dwell on is an interesting comment that Shoaib Malik made in the Post Match Award Ceremony. His exact words were “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."(Many thanks to Cricinfo’s Mukul Kesavan’s blog at: http://blogs.cricinfo.com/meninwhite/archives/2007/09/scenes_from_a_final.php for the comment). If I were to take Shoaib’s comments at face value, what he meant was one or more of the following:
1. Shoaib’s team was not only playing cricket for Pakistan but also for the entire Muslim world.
2. The Indian Muslims do not count as Muslims in his eyes or they were rooting for Pakistan en-bloc and were sorry that India won. I think the latter is extremely improbable as we had Irfan Pathan picking up 3 wickets for a measly 16 in 4 overs (which included the prize scalp of the other Pathan, albeit the Stupid one – Shahid Afridi)
3. Muslims in Chechnya and Bosnia, the Abu Sayyaff in Philippines and the Palestinian brethren, who probably don’t follow the game anyway, want Muslims to win across those dirty non-believers. As if they haven’t had other things to worry about.
For a moment let us assume that Shoaib as a non-native speaker got done in by the occasion (Young captain, losing a nail-biting final to arch-rivals India, not sure of the reception back at home). In such a scenario we could construe what he meant as one or more of the following:
1. Shoaib meant “Pakistanis back home and Pakistanis all over the world” which would make it a pretty innocuous comment. I still do not agree with his apologetic tone though, he made it sound like it was a disgrace losing to India when to the contrary Pakistan should have been proud of their fight back. Shoaib should have acknowledged the fact, that at the end of the day, the game of cricket won (pardon me for that famous cliché being re-used)
2. Pakistanis and Muslims are interchangeable. In such a case, (as Mukul points out in his blog) spare a thought for poor Danish Kaneria. The Hindu in the Muslim team, who was just made Muslim.
Either way, there is no point castigating (or castrating ... sorry couldn’t help that one either) Shoaib Malik. In a free world he has the freedom to speak what he wishes to (ofcourse with a certain amount of discretion) and I don’t think Shoaib crossed the line irrespective of what he meant. At worst, he sounded foolish, stupid and parochial. At best he sounded like somebody out of sorts with a foreign language and maybe he should start using more Urdu in his post match speeches.