Success has many fathers, failure is an orphan is a saying which seems to have a special meaning when it comes to the complicated world of Pakistan cricket.
While it can be said that Pakistan cricket, before the triumph in the 2017 Champions Trophy, had suffered from a lack of good news, it is a fact that any iota of a positive result in the past has brought out reactions which to outsiders would border on the ridiculous to put it nicely, and possibly insane, if one were to be honest about it.
It has almost been a tradition for important office-bearers in the Government of Pakistan to personally congratulate the team if they win a series or if a player crosses a significant milestone. Cash awards are likely to flow if the achievement is of significantly high quality and all and sundry, mainly rich businesspersons, are likely to come forward with an array of gifts for the players.
In contrast, if the team were to fail in any significant way, it is also a given that a few enterprising Pakistani officials will queue up at the gates of the local TV station to demand an inquiry into the failure with allegations of impropriety thrown in for fun.
Lining up to bask in reflected glory
Whether driven by emotions that seems to afflict all aspects of Pakistani life or whether it’s simply a desire by those in power behind Pakistani society to flex their muscles in public, the manner in which the Pakistan cricket teams are rewarded or punished can be quite spectacular.
On June 4, the nation heaved a collective sigh of disgust as their team was, as expected, taken to the cleaners by their arch-rivals India in the tournament opener of the Champions Trophy. Reactions from fans and experts alike were full of despair and within hours of the defeat, out came the rumours that an inquiry committee set up by the Pakistan Cricket Board would be in session soon to discover the reasons for the team’s failure at Edgbaston.
A day later, possibly after some chastisement from Mickey Arthur, their head coach, who was busy trying to rally his troops back in to action, came the denial from the PCB that all talk of an inquiry committee was baseless. The fun and games had begun and knives were being sharpened, but then the unthinkable happened.
Pakistan regrouped. They took hold of themselves and shrugged off the mental scars of their defeat and never looked back at the Champions Trophy. South Africa, Sri Lanka and England were taken care of by a team rejuvenated as if by magic and they reached the final where they summarily dismissed the much-fancied Indian team with style.
A nation rejoiced
The nation rejoiced as did the nation’s keepers. Confusion must have reigned supreme in those hours as the “inquiry experts” realised that the expected inquisition of Pakistan’s cricketers was slowly turning into celebrations for the champions.
The fathers of success started to rear their heads from all corners of the country and before the unsuspecting Pakistan cricketers knew it, plans were being made to elevate them to national heroes; the likes of which had not been seen in the country since the triumph in the 1992 World Cup.
And so, on July 4, a Pakistan cricket team which till a month ago had probably suspected an invite to the corridors of power to explain their dismal performance in the Champions Trophy were ushered into the Prime Minister’s house in Islamabad to be feted as heroes of the nation.
While the celebration of the team’s triumph was not that big a surprise given the magnitude of their achievement, television audiences around the world were greeted with the curious list of non-team members who also showed up to be honoured alongside the real heroes.
Why were non-members being rewarded?
Pakistani government officials have never been known to be completely in tune with accepted standards of governance, fiscal or otherwise. It should have therefore come as no surprise when apart from the Champions Trophy winning squad and coaching staff, a few others also strolled up to the dais and collected a few million rupees for their alleged “role” in the successful campaign.
The roles in question ranged from standing at press conferences and looking clueless as media officers, while the players they were representing were roasted by the media in no uncertain terms, to organising non-existent international tours.
It also included some well-known but not respected media figures who throughout the Champions Trophy wasted no time in undermining the spirits of the team but then had no qualms to accept awards for their mystifying services to the nation; details of which only they and the prize givers would presumably know. As one Pakistani analyst commented, “Cannot imagine Sky Sports pundits being given medals if England had won the Champions Trophy!” and he had a fair point.
The farcical parade of grateful receivers even included Pakistan’s chief of selectors and his co-selectors who were also rewarded for doing their work right! Of course, the fact that they sent a clearly unfit Umar Akmal to England only for him to be sent back by an alarmed head coach was neither here nor there. It was always said that Pakistan teams were the epitome of unpredictability but not many people knew that the people who run the game in Pakistan could also be relied upon to provide a few surprises of their own.
It was indeed a noble gesture by the Prime Minister of Pakistan to share his valuable time with the team and show the nation’s appreciation for their feat. What was clearly not on was to reward hangers-on, people who had no role in the Champions Trophy win and various others for political and personal reasons under the guise of public service. The Champions Trophy triumph is a great testament to the never-say-die attitude of Pakistan’s talented and hardworking cricketers. One can only hope that political and nepotistic considerations will never be allowed to interfere again when rewarding national heroes.