Playing on bouncy pitches


Farid A Malik |

Playing on bouncy pitches is not easy, this is why the Pakistan Cricket Team is having problems playing on New Zealand’s uneven pitches. The importance of curator who prepares the pitches cannot be underscored. Initially, there was a big fuss about neutral umpires that has now been resolved thereby bringing the focus on to the pitches. Batting coach Grant Flower has revealed that the Pakistani batsmen cannot read the bounce on these pitches, especially on the short pitched deliveries. Captain Sarfraz Ahmed has promised to bounce back in the one day matches.

Pakistan needs to bounce back politically as well. With only one free and fair election in 1970 in its seventy years history, Pakistan’s record is indeed pathetic. Without a credible ballot there is no mandate, heavy or light is immaterial. Credibility of the electoral process is the prime responsibility of the political players. Unfortunately their focus has been on winning elections by announcing results which lack relevance. Once in power, these so called leaders encroach on national institutions to consolidate their grip on authority for personal interests. Serving the people is not on their agenda.

For democracy to take roots there has to be level playing field, together with neutral umpires. In our democratic struggle there have been two major milestones, the elections in 1970 followed by the 1973 constitution. It now seems that both these events were a fluke, and the Muslim League a major villain. PML-N has been in the corridors of power for over three decades. Takht-e-Lahore is now in total control of the largest province of the country. Now that Mian Sahib has been disqualified by the Apex Court he has started talking about people’s mandate. Something which they never had. Their reliance has been on SHO’s and Patwaris, not the people.

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The big question is will PML-N risk a free and fair election for a real mandate? In the original 1973 constitution, the Prime Minister and Chief Ministers were restricted to two terms only. This restriction should be restored in the interest of democracy. Most constitutions of the word have similar restrictions. In USA the President is allowed two terms for a total of eight years, two terms for a total of ten years should be enough in our case.

In order to get a credible mandate, PML-N has to risk a free and fair elections, and that too on a level pitch. India has succeeded in developing an indisputable electoral process. Election results are readily accepted by all contestants. New Delhi the capital is ruled by the Aam Aadmi Party, while Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) runs the federal government. The states are divided amongst several parties. In its last stint in power BJP was led by the poet-politician Atal Bihari Vajpayee, now Modi is the leader. Pakistan can learn from the Indian democratic framework.

A few months back I had to buy a Rs 50 stamp paper. The stamp paper vendor demanded Rs 80 for the same. He was taken aback on my refusal to over pay and requested for me to sit down to listen to his explanation, on oath he said that he had to pay Rs 10 extra to buy the paper from the treasury, he had no option but to recover his cost. Out of curiosity I asked him if the situation in Pakistan could be corrected. He said no, as longer the rulers do not change.

I then asked him another question, “Will we have another free and fair election in our lifetime?” the answer was again no, he was clear with the Sharifs at the helm and together with their appointees it was not possible. I thanked him paid Rs 70 for Rs 50 official paper and came home. I am sure the agencies have more information of the situation on ground than my friend, the stamp vendor.

With bouncy pitches and umpires of choice the matches are bound to be fixed. The first and defiant generation of Pakistan is now fading, our journey remains incomplete. In 1970, we were able to force a free and fair election, being underage then, I could not vote. Since then I have voted in ten farce electoral exercises. Will we get to vote in another real contest?

In the sixties, the Gaddafi Stadium was built across the canal. In order to watch test matches we took a bus that dropped us at the intersection of Canal and Ferozepur Road. From there we walked to the stadium carrying our lunch boxes and transistors to watch Hanif Muhammad to bat for three days. While he could not win the match for Pakistan, he refused to give in. he batted for his country and defended his wicket till the match was drawn. The crowd became restless and wanted stroke play. We did not then comprehend his grit and honesty of purpose in putting his country on the Cricket world map.

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Earlier Abdul Hafiz Kardar the son of Lahore played several captain’s winnings for his country. He was known as ‘Hafeeza Khubbo’ I am not sure whether he played at Gaddafi Stadium as the venue in those days was the Gymkhana Ground in Bagh-e-Jinnah. After retirement he built the Cricket Board (BCCP) and then served as Education Minister of the Province. He was an honest, upright and able individual who served his country well both on and off the pitch. Where are the Kardars and Hanifs of our times?

Finally it is back to the pitch and the curator who prepares it. Bouncy pitches and fixed matches have taken the bounce out of the nation. Pakistan needs major process corrections not cover up and excuses. There is another Kaptaan in the arena who is fighting for a credible ballot. The Bhuttos have made significant sacrifices for democracy. Now it is the turn of the Sharifs to shun their past and stand up for the democratic order leaving the SHO’s and Patwaris to focus on their official responsibilities.

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan was designed and destined to be a constitutional democracy. Another credible ballot under the 1973 constitution will put the country back on track. Despite being an average cricketer, Mian Nawaz Sharif has a historic opportunity to play an innings of his life by upholding the credibility of the ballot. Let the match start on a level pitch with neutral umpires so that the outcome can be acceptable to all parties.

Dr. Farid A. Malik is Ex-Chairman, Pakistan Science Foundation. The article was first published in The Nation.

Courtesy: The Nation