World can see emerging Pakistan in its youth

PRESIDENT Trump is a stubborn student. Despite being in the Oval Office (the most pressurised classroom in the word), he refuses to learn.

He views history as a blank page. He knows little and remembers less. In his self-prescribed homework book, he has scribbled: “Obama’s presidency: bad, very bad”. His knowledge of geography is lamentable. He meets world leaders and is hard-pressed to recall precisely where their countries are located on the world map. His grasp of economics is limited to the bottom line. As long as it is not in brackets, it must be a profit and therefore ‘good, very good’. Books on ethics he has relegated to the wastepaper basket.

His flamboyant columnar signature looks like the silhouette of the skyscrapers which have been the source of his tax-impervious wealth. He refuses to disclose his tax returns to a public conditioned to believe that in the US, one can escape everything — except Death and Taxes. And, unforgivably, he has no idea what cricket is.

The match yielded multiple layers of delight.

Had, on June 18, Trump switched from Fox News to a saner television channel, he would have witnessed a match that will forever be a part of cricketing history — the finals of the Championship Trophy 2017. The next CT tournament will be held in 2021, the year after Trump has been re-elected or evicted from the White House.

Until then, Trump could benefit from emulating the mature poise, the equanimity, the modesty and the humility of another world captain — Sarfraz Ahmed. Less than half Trump’s age, 30-year-old Sarfraz raised his team from the bowels of defeat in a confidence-destroying match against India at Edgbaston. Within a fortnight, he had steered his team valiantly past the formidable road blocks of South Africa and England to confront India again, this time in the finals.

This was no ordinary match. Like a well-kneaded mille feuille pastry, it yielded multiple layers of delight.

Every sports match between Pakistan and India is a replay of the Mahabharata, a contest between cousins. Each confrontation between them — regardless of the sport — is interpreted as a test of faith, a vindication of dogma over doggedness. This cricket final was no different. An experienced Indian team led by Virat Kohli (dubbed “the best batsman in the world”) had every reason to believe they could wring the neck of this presumptuous Pakistani chicken. But as Winston Churchill once memorably said: “Some chicken, some neck!”

The Indian team, instead of repeating the earlier demolition of their Pakistani opponents, found themselves quite literally on the back foot, scrounging for runs, gasping for dignity. Gradually, as their wickets fell, their supporters lapsed into the silence of wolves and then melted away.

More than a billion viewers worldwide watched that final. Whoever did so that Sunday will never forget the experience. Undoubtedly, billions more will see replays of the match, for this is the stuff from which legends are moulded. For instance, the miracle of a no-ball that allowed Fakhar Zaman to continue and score the only century of the match. The miracle of the bails that trembled but nestled back in their place. The miracle of a one-ball reprieve for Virat Kohli — a dropped catch in one delivery, and dismissal in the very next. And the dramatic confrontation between a 35-year-old Goliath — Yuvraj Singh — and the audacious 18-year-old David, Shadab Khan.

Undaunted by the field umpire’s decision or the immaturity of his own experience, the young bowler insisted on a review. The third umpire, after viewing every angle of the delivery, adjudicated the batsman out. Technology had proved the green novice right. Yuvraj left the crease; the umpire Richard Kettleborough should have done.

What was it, then, that went so right for Pakistan and so wrong for India that Sunday? One gesture by the Pakistan team provides a clue. While Churchill advised “In victory: magnanimity”, for the Greens, the lesson was simpler — in victory: humility. Together, the victorious 11 prostrated themselves on the turf. They bowed before an unseen but for them palpably powerful presence, whose invisible support had been with them throughout their uphill climb from the failure at Edgbaston to the triumph at the Oval.

Even cricketing pundits will know the story of Krishna and his mother Yashoda. Inquisitive, she peered into the young Krishna’s mouth and saw an endless universe. If anyone needs to see whether Pakistan has a future, let them look into the youthful faces of its cricket team. These champions do need not to open their mouths, nor speak porcelain English, to reveal their limitless potential.

If only Trump would learn from the scriptures and from such examples. Every time he opens his mouth, the world sees only a fearsome abyss.

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