India scrapped hard and scraped through for an impressive victory in last nights’ final of the Twenty20 World Cup — the ICC is calling it the World Championship to differentiate it from the ODI World Cup. This was a final played out by two very commited teams that are on the mend and on the up after what has been an embarassing year for both of them up until now.
I plan to write about the game in greater detail a bit later in the day, but want to pick up on what Shoaib Malik said in his post-match speech on the presentation-dias. To set the record straight, I have been watching Shaoib Malik grow with every game and in him and M. S. Dhoni, I believe Pakistan and India, respectively, have to strong, capable, inventive, innovative and fearless leaders who will do well for their respective countries. I do have a lot of time for both of them. However, I do believe, on the evidence of this one comment — which, I accept, may be harsh judgement — Shoaib Malik perhaps needs to be more aware of the World game that he plays.
When asked about the game I thought he said thank you to every Muslim in the world! I thought I had heard wrong and searched online for confirmation of what I had heard. I confirmed that that is exactly what I had heard. I immediately wanted to ask Shoaib Malik if he also wanted to thank Irfan Pathan, a muslim in the Indian team who bowled him out in the match — and indeed won the “Man of the Match”!
I then found this write-up on the same topic in a blog by Mukul Kesavan (Men in White). So rather than pen my views on this comment from Shoaib Malik, I am merely reproducing Mukul Kedavan’s words.
Then the 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.
Is this the forum to talk about this? Shouldn’t Cricinfo and cricket’s online community stick to cricket and leave issues like this alone? No we shouldn’t, because 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.