Cricket, the Ubiquitous Remedy for People in Pakistan
While many of you were probably at home this winter break, enjoying the nice luxuries, I spent my entire break in Pakistan. It was the first time I had been to Pakistan in 14 years. As expected, it was an eye-opening experience.
I have been through skid row in Los Angeles, an area regarded as one of the worst representations of poverty in the United States. In Pakistan, however, the poverty level is even more overwhelming. Give some rupees to someone on the streets, and expect to get swarmed by at least five more people. Many of them have been born into these unfortunate circumstances. The increasing gap between the rich and poor has only made the situation worse.
Despite all their adversity, cricket maintains their spirits. ‘These people would rather have a bat than bread in their hands,’ said Tariq Iqtidar, a middle-upper-class citizen. The ones who can afford an education can work for a more reliable profession. The rest put their hopes in the nations’ love: cricket.
Cricket is a sport that was invented by the British. Its presence can be found in almost any country that was colonized by the empire, even America. The field’s dimensions are like that of a baseball outfield in a full circle, with no foul territory. And much like baseball, there is a pitcher who pitches to a batter. However, in cricket a pitcher is called a bowler and the batter is a batsman. The ball is ‘bowled’ over-head from 22 yards away to the batsman. A batsman can score up to six points on a single stroke. There are two batsmen on either end at the wickets who are always in play. The wickets are three wooden sticks that are the targets for the bowlers and nine fielders to get a batsman out. A batsman can also be dismissed by catches. The bowling side has 11 players on the field and the batting side has 10, although only two batters are in play. There are many other rules in the game, but I have left them out.
Drive anywhere in Pakistan where there are people and you will feel the sport’s omnipresence. In the village of Narawal, a place that rarely has electricity, kids can be seen playing cricket anywhere. From the graveyard to the bustling narrow streets, you can see first-time walkers to old-timers bowling a ball to a batsman.
Drive through the congested streets of Lahore, and you see a full match of cricket at almost every corner. Since the rise of danger in Karachi and abroad, Lahore has experienced a massive influx of migrants. The population approximately doubled from 4 million to a barely manageable 8 million in about six years. The increase in population brought about an increase in poverty, as well as an increase of cricket. Lahore is the cricket capital of Pakistan. It is the home of the Pakistan Cricket Board, the body that manages the domestic cricket and most notably the international team.
Pakistan has consistently been one of the top teams in cricket. It won the World Cup in 1992 and made it to the finals in 1999. However, since then, the international quad has not performed as well as usually expected. The team was part of one of the worst scandals in cricket history when its coach was strangled in his hotel room after Pakistan’s upset loss to Ireland in the World Cup, which eliminated them from the tournament in the first round. The team has not recovered since. Pakistan lost to arch-rival India in a recent series, a rivalry that Sports Illustrated dubbed ‘the best rivalry on earth.’ Pakistan even saw its team lose to India again in the 20 World Cup, a shorter format of the game, where its best bowler, Shoib Akhtar, was unfit and left for acting in India.
Pakistan is a country that has a deep passion for cricket. However, along with the highly charged political climate the lack of success on the national team’s part has furthermore demoralized many fans.
Though lacking economic stability, Pakistan, the powerhouse of cricket, has the talent and passion to keep itself at the top tier of the sport. The people deserve a better representation of their commitment to cricket. If you are interested in cricket, go to the ARC and ask about the UCI Cricket team. Yeah, I was surprised, too.