Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Just not Cricket: This time it is personal

This time it is personal. Long before I realized I loved the game of cricket, I remember hiding a transistor radio under the desk mid-lesson just to hear the score of the test match. Long before IPL and Stanford and Bollywood stars and commercial contracts, I remember improvising our writing pads into bats and scotch tape around scrunched up paper for a ball. It was just what you did as a Pakistani kid. This time it is personal. When I was fifteen and learned how to drive a car, I remember racing around the same Liberty round-about the bus was attacked. When I was 26, I remember sitting in the same Gaddafi stadium watching the same Sri Lanka chase 241 runs to become world champions. Yes, this time it is personal.

It is not that blowing up school children in a bus or businessmen in a hotel was any less tragic or underlined the ruthlessness and pointlessness of these perpetrators of terror any less. But targeting guest cricketers from a friendly country just crosses the line at so many different levels in the context of Pakistani culture.

Cricket is the one thing our struggling country has been able to be good at on a global level and consequently the one thing Pakistanis have come to closely associate with their sense of self worth. Foreign commentators on the country's obsession with the sport always seem to miss this point. It is the one thing that has united a divided country, across age, across ethnicity, across political or ideological leanings. To attack cricket is to make a statement that these terrorists will pull out all the stops. They will attack children, they will attack teachers, they will attack women, they will attack indiscriminately, and yes, they will attack cricketers as well. Yes, this time it is personal.

I don't want us to just condemn anymore. I don't want us to use scape goats anymore, to point to "foreign hands", to make excuses for our own impotency and political bickering. I don't want us to justify why such a thing might have occurred or to be defensive about why it could be our own mistake and our own people who are involved in perpetrating it. I am, we all are, tired and frustrated and exhausted with this very real problem, our problem, created by us... only ever likely to be solved by us... but only if we acknowledge it and face it as our own... or we will be condemned to be what Frantz Fanon described in a different context as "the wretched of the earth". Yes, this time it is personal, very very personal.