What Cricket Really Needs Today

Source: Chris Hyde/Getty Images/stuff.co.nz

Source: Chris Hyde/Getty Images/stuff.co.nz

The cricket world cup is underway and the sport is back in news, trending worldwide on twitter every now and then.

The first 20 games of the tournament have been pretty dull to say the least, thanks to the terrible flat drop-in pitches, with the clear exception of the game between Australia and New Zealand that went down to the wire. Apart from that match, the only games that were the closest and the most exciting were between the supposed minnows.

There has been far too many brilliant performances by teams of associate countries, God knows what this term means, to be a fluke. And it is not fair at all that only after four years do their fans get a chance to cheer for them on a considerable international platform. Not because the world cup is held after every four years, but because that is when these teams get a chance to play the test playing nations.

ICC, the governing body of cricket, has always let politics and money get into the way they have been making various decisions pertaining to the sport. Not only is it hard to understand what standards the body follows in granting test status to associate members, but even how it tackles regulation aspects of the sport, such as the legality of bowling actions, in a consistently obnoxious manner.

Nobody knows why the ICC had granted Bangladesh test status after it won a single game against Pakistan in 1999, while Kenya is still waiting for it despite qualifying for the Semi Finals in the 2003 World Cup. Furthermore, Ireland has been performing consistently well since the 2007 world cup, winning several games, and beating giants such as West Indies, Pakistan and England, but still has not been able to impress the ICC.

ICC probably was so eager to grant test playing status to Bangladesh because of the commercial market that the country offered for the sport, and which could be lacking in Ireland, Holland and Kenya. While this is an important factor, it should not be dictating the sporting opportunity.

Irish captain William Porterfield was absolutely right when he said that their victory against the West Indies was no upset. The team has been performing easily at par with, if not better than, any world class test playing cricket team. He also expressed his disgust at the term “associate member” and the way ICC has been treating these teams, including his.

Teams such as Ireland, UAE, Holland, Kenya, Nepal, and especially Afghanistan deserve the test playing status, or at least proper, respectable international cricket slot, which goes for Zimbabwe and Bangladesh too. Not only will it work wonders for the development of cricket in these nations, which is something the ICC is supposed to do, but will also help the sport itself.

However, the ICC is hellbent to keep the sport of cricket in a closed circuit of countries that are already dominating it, and is even marginalizing the “lesser” cricket nations with its hideous transfer of power to the “Big Three” boards, namely, India, Australia and England. Big, in terms of commercialism.

What is even worse, the number of countries participating in the world cups will be reduced to 10 from 14 in the 2019 edition to be held in England and Wales. So will be the case in the next world cup to be held in India in 2023.

Cricket boards with an unnecessarily disproportionate focus on commercialism such as the Indian BCCI, are effectively destroying the sport with their influence on the international governing body.

The other way around, which surely no board will follow, is to completely ignore the ICC and carry out bilateral tours. such as a Pakistan and Ireland test series, or a Kenya, Zimbabwe and Namibia triangular tournament. Let the burden of marketing and broadcasting rest on the boards involved, and stop caring whether the matches are considered to be “counted” or legitimate. A much better option than succumbing to the status quo or voting to “boycott” the sport.

Will it affect the quality of cricket? Yes, but it would be affected anyway.

What cricket really needs is to get rid of the insulting “associate member” term and offer equal opportunity of playing, not financially growing, to every cricket playing nation. Only then will the sport truly reach its potential of popularity around the world.

Otherwise, it would not be surprising to see cricket played in three countries only.

Not that they would mind.

Advertisements

The Monster of Free Speech

Is your defense of free speech often met by sarcasm? If yes, you are not the only one.

But it is not always the mullah, the fundamentalist religious fanatic or the nationalist social conservative raising eyebrows when such an idea is brought up. Even apologetic liberals and educated religious moderates are at the forefront of attacking freedom of speech.

You know you have a tough battle at your hands when the lawmakers in your country protest against the right of a publication to publish something, instead of an attack on it. Or when the President of the United States sounds apologetic about the First Amendment, probably explaining his sheer helplessness to the world about this miserable part of the constitution.

It is about time that we stop acting surprised each time we see someone irked at the mention of free speech and getting bombarded with caveats in return. Actually, many of them are pretty sick of the very mention of the expression. Because this idea threatens their worldview dictated by selective morality, which they want followed by everyone.

Still, those of us who consider themselves to be proponents of this idea must not jump to judgments, and should try to understand and appreciate their predicament instead.

They are the ones carrying the heavy burden of defending precarious political positions, so it is not an easy fight. They are the ones brave enough to undertake the Herculean task of either protecting theological stances or justifying ridiculously inconsistent liberal laws that are as dangerous as the evil they are supposed to avert.

Therefore, instead of ridicule and admonishment, these brave individuals and groups deserve our applause and appreciation. Their resolve for building bridges and avoiding conflict is truly inspirational and praiseworthy.

It would not only be unfair, but criminal, if their intentions are deemed as malicious. If someone is so keen to speak ill of somebody, they should focus on their actions instead. But then again, attacking their actions in this case is necessary indeed.

Not only is it a necessity to oppose their actions, but it is a duty. Or their well-meaning zeal to establish everlasting harmony in the world might destroy its calm for good. For their phobia of the expression free speech could destroy the very cornerstone of freedom and democracy.

There is no real necessity to tolerate the preachers of protecting the liberties of intolerant theocratic and undemocratic positions. But what really is needed is to call out their cherry picking of what can and cannot be allowed, and what is and is not moral. What is really needed is to remind them that not all criticism is tantamount to bigotry and violating religious freedom. And that not all religious freedom is for the good of humanity.

So next time, don’t be surprised at all if you see someone getting offended at the idea of free speech. Just realize where they are coming from.

They just deserve your sympathy. Help them out.

To them, free speech is nothing more than a monster hiding under their bed.

They think it doesn’t really exist. But they sure are afraid of it.

 

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

 

The Politics of Personality Worship Cults

Source: Pakistan Today/geo.tv

Source: Pakistan Today/geo.tv

An overwhelming number of Pakistanis draw many of their life lessons from religion. It is an important part of their personal beliefs that extends to personal relationships, lifestyle, social habits, world view and politics, of course.

While religion has its due benefits, it could not have possibly affected an area of life more adversely than politics. Not only does it twist the concept of the government and its role, but terribly destroys the approach of the masses toward politics due to Messianic influences in its teachings.

While this sweeping commentary may seem far-fetched to some, it is not hard to observe clear displays in Pakistani politics supporting this notion. None is more obvious than the way we rally around our leaders and how far we are willing to go in our submission.

Religious indoctrination has conditioned people in Pakistan to turn political parties into personality worship cults.

A good number of political parties devote solemn attention and unconditional submission to their holy leaders. Not very different to the way the local religious people devote worshipful attention to their holy spiritual leaders.

Combine that with the Messianic effect and it drives home a very unhealthy approach toward politics, and life itself. It helps followers escape personal responsibility and build unrealistic expectations as far as addressing issues is concerned.

And if by accident, or by deliberated effort, a leader is killed, then they are raised to the status of martyred saints.

This approach to politics is probably a reason behind the support of dictatorships and monarchies among people in the Middle Eastern and Asian countries. Why bother about democracy when you are willing to give up your rights for a beloved leader?

Another problem with personality worship cults is that it deprives a political group of logic and reason, discourages progressive debate and gives way to unreasonable political tactics. But above all, it maintains the golden rule of religions.

The authority must not be questioned.

And where there are personality worship cults, there are blasphemy laws.

Even secular political parties can act like cults, forcing shutting down cities in protest of their leader being insulted. Likewise, you would often see these cult-like parties waste weeks, if not months, over needless juvenile squabbles and obscene name-calling. It always involves one cult party insulting the holy figure of the other, causing wide outrage.

As soon as the blasphemy is committed against the party leader, logic and reason are locked out of the debate. And well, then there is no debate.

The sooner we move to issues in our political debates, the sooner we would be able to help restore people’s faith in democracy. But while doing so, we need to learn an even more important lesson.

Let’s stop blaming others for our problems. Let’s use democracy as a tool for the same. Don’t render it useless by turning it into a war of cults.

No, democracy is not perfect. It does not promise you prosperity, or paradise.

But that’s no reason to wait for a Messiah, or blindly rallying behind one.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

The Mystery of Openly Operating Banned Religious (Terrorist) Organizations in Pakistan

Source: The Nation

Source: The Nation

What does the banning of a religious organization really mean?

What is the point of announcing their addition to the list of condemned organizations when there are hardly any curbs on their activities?

It is easy to criticize the Government of Pakistan in this regard, but hardly anyone accounts for the complex problems they have to deal with.

Even if we say that these problems are of their own making, it does not eliminate the need to consider the difficulty of the task at the hands of the government.

They simply just cannot take these banned organizations away from the public.

Or maybe they can.

But this goes to show the sheer force of the religious political groups prevalent, and growing, in Pakistan. A force that is so enormous that even the government of Pakistan and the military are afraid of it. Nobody wants a religious uprising to deal with.

This is what happens when you declare a war against an ideological enemy without convincing the people of your country against it.

It would be understandable to see the anger of the members of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa if their political activities were to become illegal.

Furthermore, the likes of ASWJ would also be seen protesting on the roads if such a decree pertaining to their organization would come into effect.

Of course, we cannot even imagine the day when political parties such as the JI, JUI, ST and MWM are prevented from running in the elections.

But apart from that, it is hard to oppose organizations that you consider heroic.

This is why when it comes to narrative about the local Jihadist organizations, charity must begin at home.

But has there been any active effort to confront such narrative, which is only affirmed on occasions such as the Kashmir Solidarity Day? An otherwise seemingly harmless holiday observed to show moral support for the oppressed Kashmiri people, mixed with vows to liberate them from their oppressors.

Again, from a nationalistic viewpoint, attacking India for any such purposes sounds pretty fair. However, the sad part is that this narrative provides a lot of fodder for these banned militant outfits to feed on.

So probably the state should think twice before giving the narrative around this holiday its blessing. Surely, the holiday can be observed without any belligerent calls to Jihad.

But the general impression remains that a good number of masses in Pakistan views Islamist militant organizations positively and accept their active role in politics.

Merely playing to the galleries would not be sufficient for the federal and provincial governments. Simply adding these militant outfits to the list of “banned organizations” to create an impression on Western powers would not work.

An ideological awakening and education of the masses are required to ensure a gradual social change.

Or at least for the government to be able to enforce the bans that it proposes.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.