Interpretation of past ideas, events and words can result to wide-ranging reactions. It is fascinating, how armies almost across the globe are so deeply enthralled by reading or listening to certain interpretations of history of their nationhood and pride they are willing to sacrifice their lives. Human beings have the power to negate all logic and reason and believe in utter rubbish with total contempt towards everything else.
Sports are a mere reflection how we behave in our real lives. So, it is only natural that people in theories and ideas which can be extremely absurd and pointless in terms of rationality but to them, that is how things work. This doesn’t limit to just us fans merely, those who have been at the pinnacle of the game, seem to be guilty of it as well. Bashing the media is hip and I tend to look at the larger picture. However, when the on his retirement speech the national captain sarcastically takes a jab at one of the cricket experts (Misbah on Sikandar Bakth), severity of the problem is no longer ignorable. Geo, being the leading media house and also running the only sports channel in the country has to take a large portion of the blame. They are to blame to drive the masses towards a delusional pursuit of perceived aggressive cricket.
The idea being hammered against Misbah by Shoaib Akthar, Mohammad Yousuf (who seems to be getting paid to settle personal issues) and Sikandar Bakth, is one of naivety if not delusional. Typical catch phrases, baray dil se khelo, jhet k liye khelo, jigar hona cahieye, nidar ho kr khelna parta hy, have tainted the view point of a general cricket fan.
The vague use of the word aggression has somehow diluted the need to comprehend the finer details of the game. Add it to it the fact, lack of on screen charisma, one tone approach irrespective of the game result, and not being abusive toward fellow players on field, gives the naysayers a perfect opportunity to portray Misbah as a diffident and timid captain.
From all this talk of aggression dawned the Anti-Misbah ideology and it found its leader in Shahid Khan Afridi. The all action man seemed to be brand ambassador of the Geo backed definition of aggression. Ironically, given the history, Yousuf and Shoiab, never set out to support Afridi. Nevertheless, a lot of cricket fans, Afridi is the last link with the supremely talented 90s team. He reminds us of the good old days when in the eyes of the fans, Pakistan’s defeat were only plausible, if the players threw the match. Afridi means hope; Afridi means winning by just scaring the day light out of the opposition with sheer belief or aggression if you may. However, the difference between that side and current one is of basic ability. If the 90s were represented by Wasim Akram, this one is probably ideally represented by Junaid Khan, the gulf is humongous. Junaid Khan is hard working, and honest but is simply not Wasim Akram. So to expect the current side to mirror the immortality and aggressive attitude displayed so vigorously by the 90s side is utter fallacy. The obsession with that brand of cricket is a mirage for Pakistan cricket, the obsession has to end.
Afridi, despite being the darling of the masses and support the media, wasn’t successful in taking Misbah’s place as captain. Despite numerous stories and theories, it just didn’t happen for Afridi. His captaincy record doesn’t really make for impressive reading either. Nonetheless, there is no methods to quantify how much damage this battle outside (or may be even inside) the cricket team environment did. However, that is water under the bridge. Misbah, probably will not be around for any longer than the next 10 months (that is stretching it a bit, I feel), and Afridi won’t be around post the World T20 in March. The men for Pakistan cricket ideological battle will be gone, but their ideas (or the lack of it) shall remain. By appointing Azhar Ali as captain and Sarfraz as his deputy, the PCB in its naivety or innocence (whichever you may prefer) have given life to the ideological warfare for the media to cash upon.
The 3rd ODI against Zimbabwe was an early indication before the comparisons began. The stump mikes for the series were hyper active, which was a blessing as the commentary was pretty monotonous. Sarfraz provided timely nuggets of humour as widely circulated in social media. However, this also highlighted Sarfraz, as a product of Karachi’s street cricket who is always up for a chat, is innovative in his batting, and seemingly isn’t awed by the gravity of the situation (reference World Cup 2015, pitched to open against Steyn n co). From the outside, it seemed that he is always in the game, moving fielders inch by inch (and thanking Shoaib bhai for moving), and offering instant feedback from behind the stumps (stump mikes obviously add to the drama). To sum it up, he is what Misbah wasn’t and to some extent Afridi was.
In Azhar Ali, you shall find a calm, calculated and balanced individual, and will not see him flapping his hands around in the field. Intriguingly, Mohammad Hafeez was a lot more vocal when Azhar was captaining as opposed to when Sarfraz was in charge. As luck would have it, Bilal Asif provided the chance to Sarfraz to attack (which to his credit he did). Azhar did not have his chance; you can decide if you think Sarfraz brought about that opportunity or it just feel into his lap.
However, this is not the last of this story. Post Afridi vs Misbah, the media will be in desperate need for another talking point. From the global battle of Messi vs. Ronaldo to our very own Misbah vs. Afridi, media thrives on controversy and strong differences of opinion. Wasim vs. Waqar, Shoaib vs. Inzimam, Younus vs. half the team would be somewhere in your subconscious. When you read about Sarfraz vs. Azhar, remember who predicted it. It depends on the two how they will manage with this silly idea.