Books

Corridor of uncertainty

Aug 8, 2014
Insightful and explosive, claims the jacket of Wounded Tiger . It indeed is. For Peter Oborne, the noted political commentator at Daily Telegraph , the subject became a fascination following his many trips to Pakistan. It is a study on the history of a nation that has not been given its due for being an intriguing, but formidable cricket force in the world.
 
Wounded Tiger , published by Simon and Schuster, is a definite account of Pakistan’s love with the game that grew to earn appreciation for the team’s sheer unpredictability on the cricket field. Pakistan could win from lost position. And lose at the door of victory.
 
Oborne brings out some sensational aspects of the game and delves into issues never written about in amazing detail. The chapters dedicated to A. H. Kardar, Fazal Mahmood, umpire Idris Baig, the 1960s and various controversies that pulled Pakistan cricket back is compelling stuff. The writer makes a startling revelation that Fazal was saved from being lynched by “Hindu fanatics” in the train by Indian cricket legend, C.K. Nayudu.
 
Oborne’s book is a must for every cricket lover. He discusses the book in this interview. The excerpts:
 
What attracted you to write on Pakistan cricket?
 
I used to know India much better than Pakistan and my parents used to live in India. However, I was sent on several reporting assignments to Pakistan and couldn’t help noticing that wherever I went I saw children playing cricket on the streets. Just everywhere, on every tiny bit of flat land with cars weaving in and around them. I found this very interesting and I decided in the end that I wanted to tell the history of cricket in Pakistan.
 
What was your experience of collecting information because there is not much documented work on cricket in Pakistan?
 
You’re quite right to note the almost complete absence of documented information. The great Indian cricket historian Ramachandra Guha notes the same thing is true of India and that documents just don’t seem to survive. To give one example about Pakistan, there were literally no documents of any kind at the Pakistan cricket board. None, whatsoever.
 
This meant I was very dependent on face-to-face interviews with survivors of the early cricket teams and also newspapers. For the days of early Partition I got quite a lot out of the Bombay and Calcutta newspapers. The MCC archives are also an essential source. These have been greatly improved lately by the new chief librarian Neil Robinson so I was able to rely, for MCC tours abroad, on the excellent files that now exist at Lords.
 
What was the most fascinating aspect of your interactions with people connected with cricket in Pakistan?
 
I had enormous fun just interviewing old Pakistan cricketers and not just the first-class cricketers, the club cricketers. Basically, Pakistan cricket flourished from the club cricket in Lahore and Karachi from the 1920s onwards. I really enjoyed talking to the old timers.
 
I also found it very exhilarating going to places like Peshawar and up the Swat Valley and talking to young cricketers who were playing in what sometimes became very much like a war zone. I found their enthusiasm and love of the game incredibly exciting and wonderful.
 
What impressions have you formed of the state of the game in Pakistan?
 
There are two ways of looking at Pakistan cricket. One is seeing the negative side of things i.e the fact the international team is forced to play all of its cricket outside the country.
 
That really is a problem as it must be a terribly lonely life for Pakistan’s international players, having to live in hotels and airplanes.
 
It also means the lovely tradition of Pakistan cricket — where young players suddenly burst into the international team from nowhere e.g Wasim Akram and Tauseef Ahmed are great examples of this — are dying out. It is a national game for Pakistan, like football is for Brazil.
 
Do you believe history has not done justice to Pakistan cricket?
 
One of the main reasons for writing this book is the fact that there is very little good writing about Pakistan cricket. Furthermore, quite a lot of the writing about Pakistan cricket is jaundiced, written by people who do not like Pakistan.
 
There is a very negative English cricket writing which is clearly biased against Pakistan cricket and sometimes racist. Some Indian writing about Pakistan is jaundice. Understandably so, due to the relationship between the countries since partition.
 
Would you be tempted to travel to Pakistan to watch international cricket whenever the game returns to this sub-continent giant?
 
I long for cricket to return to Pakistan and I will make it my business to accompany the first international team that goes back there.
 
Book : Wounded Tiger
Author:Peter Oborne
Publisher:Simon and Schuster

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