Shahid Afridi

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Isn’t sports reduced to jingoism when it’s considered patriotic to win?

The Pakistani cricket team returned home only to find their fans in no mood to forgive them for their dismal showing in the T20 World Cup.

Chants of  ‘Shame, shame’ rent the air at the Allama Iqbal international airport in Lahore.

Cricketers in the Indian sub-continent are accustomed to such treatment from their volatile followers.

When they do well, they’re worshipped as demi-gods; when they fail, they’re devils incarnate.

Sri Lankan skipper Angelo Matthews was a sorry figure as he pleaded with the media and his countrymen back home to cut his young team a little slack after being knocked out from the tourney.

He said:

“It has been a disappointing few months for all of us. We’ve let down the fans and we’ve let down the whole country. We haven’t played good cricket at all. We’re disappointed. All we can do is try and stick to our combinations and not try and change the team too much. Try to pick about 20 players and re-evaluate them over six months — give them an opportunity to settle down and see what they come out with in terms of performances.

We can take decisions then. Quick decisions won’t solve this matter. We have to try and be patient. If you look at the style we played in, we are not deserving of a semifinal place. The team didn’t play well. That’s why we lost. “

India are the only sub-continental side to make the semis. New Zealand, West Indies and England make up the numbers.

The mercurial Shahid Afridi riled jingoists back home when he claimed that he felt more welcomed by Indian fans than anywhere else including Pakistan.

The identification of patriotism with sports is not restricted to just South-East Asia.

Wanting your fellow countryman to win is fine, but associating that support with patriotism is overdoing it.

On the far edge of the spectrum is Norman Tebbit’s Cricket Test of April 1990.

The parliamentarian infamously declared:

“A large proportion of Britain’s Asian population fail to pass the cricket test. Which side do they cheer for? It’s an interesting test. Are you still harking back to where you came from or where you are?”

He revived the controversy post the London bombings when he said:

“I do think had my comments been acted on those attacks would have been less likely.

What I was saying about the so-called “cricket test” is that it was a test of whether a community has integrated.

If a community was looking back at where it had come from instead of looking forward with the people to whom they had come to, then there is going to be a problem sooner or later.”

And in 2014, Tebbit produced an ancestry test.

Speaking to BBC Newsnight, he said:

“One test I would use is to ask them on which side their fathers or grandfathers or whatever fought in the second world war. And so you’ll find that the Poles and the Czechs and the Slovaks were all on the right side. And so that’s a pretty good test isn’t it? Perhaps we’ll even manage to teach them to play cricket gradually over the years.”

Rick Ayers in the Huffington Post writes of the Super Bowl on the 4th of July:

“Twenty years ago, I would refuse to stand up for the Star Spangled Banner — making a small protest of the notion of imposing a rightist political ritual on the moment of a sporting event. Back then, one could look around and see plenty of others sitting. If anyone gave me a hard time, I would easily glare back, knowing I had my principles and my rights. Now I either stand up or find a way to be at the concession stands. The atmosphere is more challenging, more aggressively conformist. You could get hurt if you don’t participate in the ritual.

There are so many ways this hypocritical nod to ‘our troops’ is nauseating. The display of militaristic patriotism, the ritual unity of our ‘supporting our boys,’ is actually an act of complicity in sending them over to Iraq and Afghanistan to die. The super-patriots are not the friends of the GI’s; they are loading them in the death transports to the front.”

He adds:

“As I watch the soldiers march out in stiff uniforms, bearing a flag that almost covers the infield, I see the Americans around me adopt an attitude of reverence — our soldiers are our heroes and they deserve our love. Jane Addams, the founder of Hull House in Chicago and an opponent of World War I, mused on the phenomenon of crowds cheering our troops as they marched down Main Street. We are not celebrating that they are going to go out and slay others, not really. We are honoring them because they are about to go out and be slain. Yes, their very suffering and death has sanctified them, has made these youths a holy object, someone from among us who we send out to die, to preserve our community, our way of life.

This does not have a rational basis — for the war may indeed be a disaster, a waste, a cruel joke. Thousands more may die while politicians dither and maneuver. No matter. The important thing is that they are to die and that is something that gives our lives meaning. It is primal, it is sick, how we send them off. How different if we were to see our identity, our sense of community, with other peoples in the world and not just in our narrow and embattled enclave. Our self-imposed nightmare.

And, of course, even those who oppose the disgusting wars America has launched in the Middle East stick to the narrative of the slaughtered GI’s, the victims. We are against the war but we support our troops. Someone needs to deliver the bad news. These are not just heroes. . . . or victims. These are Americans who are killing, slaughtering people in our name. Yes, Iraqi and Afghan families, parents and children, are being burned, blown open, lacerated by American weapons wielded by American youngsters. Get used to it. The trials of Marines for murder in Hamdania and Haditha will be added to the tortures of Abu Ghraib. And more horror stories are yet to surface. The Iraqi victims have no names in our consciousness but their suffering will not leave us in peace. Ultimately, to heal, our soldiers will have to confront not just their victimhood but their complicity in the crimes of this war.”

Avram Noam Chomsky, American philospher and political activist says:

“When I was in high school I asked myself at one point: ‘Why do I care if my high school’s team wins the football game? I don’t know anybody on the team, they have nothing to do with me… why am I here and applaud? It does not make any sense.’ But the point is, it does make sense: It’s a way of building up irrational attitudes of submission to authority and group cohesion behind leadership elements. In fact it’s training in irrational jingoism. That’s also a feature of competitive sports.”

David Alm on Contrary Blog echoes Chomsky and Ayers when he writes:

“Because if we’re already amped up about sports, then we’re also amped up about being American. And that’s exactly what makes the whole business (because that’s really all it is) so damn unsettling.”

Substitute American for whichever nationality you are, and you’ll find that the above statement resonates with you too if you’re averse to mixing patriotism, politics and sports.

It’s simply another form of jingoism.

And, perhaps, Indians understand it better than anybody else.

The T20 game at Dharamshala was moved to Kolkatta because the Himachal Pradesh state government refused to guarantee the safety of the visitors from across the Wagah border.

In the past, Shiv Sainiks have dug up pitches and threatened agitations whenever cricketing talks or relations resumed. The mileage that can be derived from such shenanigans around an Indo-Pak cricket game—not any other sport—that drives such posturing.

Can sports be above politics? Maybe yes, maybe no.

The isolation of the South African cricketing team was one of the drivers for the lifting of apartheid in that  nation. Yes, cricket fans never got to enjoy the likes of Barry Richards and Graeme Pollock but it was (arguably) a small price to pay.

India, too, have used sports as a weapon to protest apartheid. India refused to play South Africa in 1974 foregoing a chance to win a maiden Davis Cup. India’s Davis Cup tie at home against Israel occurred only after then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s intervention.

The team made the final that year losing to Sweden.

India and Israel were again drawn to play each other the following year in Tel Aviv permission for which was denied by the External Affairs ministry. The encounter never materialised since both teams lost to their first round opponents.

Sporting policy is not entirely black or white. It’s shades of grey—like all questions and decisions surrounding ethics.

When will sports fans realize that?

Ijaz Butt: What he said, really meant and definitely didn’t

Ijaz Butt has a seaside catch in Shahid Afridi.

What he said:

“Misbah is an innocent captain, if someone else given the statement over captaincy, he will be thrown in the sea.”

Ijaz Butt renews his feud with Shahid Afridi taking umbrage at the all-rounder’s statements about Misbah-ul-Haq’s captaincy. The remarks sparked speculation that the 40-year-old will step down as skipper for the World Cup given his recent run of low scores.

Afridi said:

“Every captain has his own approach and I can’t be Misbah and Misbah can’t be Afridi. If he is comfortable with his approach then what is the problem? But players around him should not become Misbah. Each player has his own strengths and he should carry out what he is capable of rather than suppressing himself.

If he [Misbah] is winning matches with his approach then what is the problem? I am different and have an aggressive nature. I love to play aggressive cricket because people in my country are aggressive, my players are aggressive and I want them to play aggressive cricket. I love watching them playing aggressive in the field. I know when they play aggressive cricket, they are expressing themselves.”

Shahid Afridi during Pakistan's tour of New Ze...

Shahid Afridi during Pakistan’s tour of New Zealand in December 2010. Scorecard. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He added:

“Earlier, the time and the atmosphere was different after the spot-fixing. It was tough to gel the dressing room but I treated every player accordingly; younger were given affection and some needed to be given fear of the stick. You know our nation runs on the strength of a stick.

But captaincy in Pakistan is a challenge. I was aggressive even off the field. It haunted my earlier stint. I have learnt the lesson though; things should be operated amicably. But my mindset in the field is the same as a leader is the one who should decide the playing XI, he is the one who has to get his boys to fight on the ground. He knows what he wants and he is the one who has to face everything after the match. Whoever is the captain, he should be given ample authority to pick his best players.”

The stick Afridi refers to was very much in evidence when the controversial and temperamental talent recanted his criticism of Misbah.

He clarified later in a statement issued by the Pakistani Cricket Board (PCB):

“Let me state at the very outset, Misbah is the best choice as Pakistan captain for the ICC World Cup 2015. I have always backed him to the optimum whenever I have played under him, just as he had when I had the honour to captain the Pakistan team.

I have said this before, and I reiterate, that I shall continue to serve Pakistan Cricket and fully support Misbah to the best of my ability.

This is my final statement on the issue.”

Ijaz Butt was PCB chief when Afridi was sacked as captain of the T20 and ODI sides in 2011 on disciplinary grounds.

What  Butt really meant:

 “I don’t really like Shahid Afridi. I like Misbah. He’s a lamb. Afridi’s a shark. He should be thrown back into the ocean.”

What he definitely didn’t:

 “You know that we can’t let Afridi go, at least, not until the World Cup’s over. So…”



Waqar Younis: What he said, really meant and definitely did not

Waqar Younis Calls On Shahid Afridi to Endorse ‘’

What he said:

“It is time he just kept his mouth shut and focused on his cricket.”

Waqar Younis renews the war of words with Pakistani all-rounder Shahid Afridi.

Afridi announced his comeback to international cricket following the exit of former PCB chairman, Ijaz Butt.

Afridi is a staunch critic of Butt and former coach Waqar Younis.

Younis was evidently responding to Afridi’s latest claim that Younis did not quit as team coach but was sacked by the PCB.

Waqar said:

All the time he is criticizing somebody and using distasteful language. It is time he just kept his mouth shut and focused on his cricket.
To me it seems as if he always on the lookout for cheap publicity by making unwarranted and unhealthy comments about somebody or someone.

The former fast bowler added:

For months now he has been criticizing Ijaz Butt and saying all sorts of things like Butt is old and he should go home, this is not the way to talk about a former player and head of the board. He has problems with everyone and wants the world to believe he is the victim.

Afridi, surprisingly, had no comment to make about Younis’ latest remarks:

“I don’t want to make any comments on Waqar has said. I just want to play cricket for my country.”

What Younis really meant:

“Afridi can’t bat and bowl with his mouth open, can he? The mouth should come into play while fielding—queries (and cricket balls).”

What Younis definitely didn’t:

“I’ll keep my mouth open and focus on my commentary.”

Shahid Afridi: What he said, really meant and definitely did not

Shahid Afridi Will Retire One Final Time—When He Does

What he said:

“The next time I retire will be the last time.”

Shahid Afridi is clear that when he next intends to retire, it will be final.

The former Pakistani skipper announced his conditional retirement following differences with former PCB President Ijaz Butt and then coach Waqar Younis.

Afridi said:

“I stopped playing because of Butt. He has gone now and I am back. I am fit and want to play. The next time I retire will be the last time.”

On the changes in the PCB’s composition:

The new chairman’s impressive. He’s run a lot of companies, so he knows how to manage people and I hope it will be a good change. Butt was poor during his tenure. If you look at the things that happened, it’s clear he didn’t do a good job. I think he needs to have some rest – he is in his seventies – he is an old man.

Zaka Ashraf is the new PCB chairman.

What he really meant:

“Next time, the one after that, and the one after—they’ll all be final, conditionally.”

What he definitely didn’t:

“Tomorrow never comes and Butt never goes.”

Shahid Afridi Unconditionally Un-retires To International Cricket

Zohaib with afridi

What he said:

I’m available to play for Pakistan. I never retired. I only said I wouldn’t play under the previous PCB management. I wasn’t comfortable with them because they didn’t respect players.

But as the board now has a new chairman and there’s a different team management, it is time to come back.

Shahid Afridi announces his comeback and availability for selection to the Pakistani cricket team.

The former skipper conditionally retired from international cricket after the tour to the West Indies this year citing differences with then PCB chairman Ijaz Butt and coach Waqar Younis.

Butt completed his term on October 8 ; Younis is no longer coach.

Afridi said:

“I’m fit and can play for Pakistan for a few more years.I never ran after the captaincy. I just want to represent my country and can play under anyone.”

What he really meant:

“What’s retirement but a word—a word to be used at the drop of a hat and forgotten just as quickly.”

What he definitely didn’t:

“But, what happens to Butt?”

Shahid Afridi: What he said, really meant and definitely did not

Zohaib with afridi

Shahid Afridi Has The Shivers For Sachin Tendulkar

What he said:

I saw Tendulkar’s legs shivering while facing his bowling.”

Shahid Afridi backs up Pakistani speedster Shoaib Akhtar’s claims in his autobiography, “Controversially Yours”, that Sachin Tendulkar was intimidated by Akhtar’s raw pace.

Afridi added that this was normal for most batsmen. Every batsman feared one bowler or another.

“There are times when every batsman feels the pressure, it happens against [Pakistani off-spinner] Saeed Ajmal even,” said Afridi.

What he really meant:

“My teeth were chattering so much standing so close to Tendulkar’s blade that everything else appeared to shimmer.”

What he definitely didn’t:

“More ice-cream for us in the lunch break. That’s the solution.”

Shahid Afridi: What he said, really meant and what you wish he said

Shahid Khan Afridi

What he said:

“I was a hero for them after the World Cup and suddenly I became zero.”

Shahid Afridi is quite certain that the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) flip-flops in its attitude  to him. Ijaz Butt, PCB Chairman, is the target of his ire. The former Pakistan captain labelled PCB officials hypocrites calling them ‘two-faced’ for blaming him for the ODI losses in the Windies despite his non-involvement in the selection process.

What he really meant:

“Butt thinks I’m good as long as I’m good to him.Convenient.”

What you wish he said:

“PCB officials would be excellent advisors on how to build roller-coasters.”

Imran Khan: What he said, really meant and definitely did not

Imran Khan tearing his nomination paper at a p...

What he said:

"This case is another suicide attack on Pakistan cricket."

Imran Khan slams the public row between the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and Shahid Afridi.

What he really meant:

“The national cricket board and their cricketers are always at loggerheads—to the detriment of Pakistani cricket.”

What he definitely didn’t:

“Sue—I side.”

Shahid Afridi asked to seek remedial therapy by PCB (Satire)

The coat of arms of Pakistan displays the nati...


In another blow to Shahid Afridi’s hopes of returning to the Pakistani cricket team, the team management made public a team psychiatrist’s report on the dashing all-rounder.

Mr. Gind Mames, a consulting psychotherapist, said that the former Pakistani ODI skipper is overly influenced by sports persons who have retired from their sport only to return in another attempt to regain youthful glory.

“Afridi is a huge fan of Michael Jordan, Michael Schumacher, Bjorn Borg, Imran Khan,George Foreman and Martina Navratilova, among others.” said Mr. Mames.

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