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A Cricket Journalist's experience in Pakistan

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    A Cricket Journalist's experience in Pakistan

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/et?ac=003.../schugh17.html

    Visitors' warm welcome extends to field of play

    By Simon Hughes


    WHETHER you'd choose to send your mother-in-law to Pakistan nowadays rather depends on what you think of her. Though many of the town names sound like illnesses, the country has become a good deal more hospitable since Ian Botham made his famous observation. Off the field, anyway. The England players will not be staying at the Montgomery biscuit factory at Sahiwal as they did on the 1987 tour. Nor are they likely to find rats the size of dachshunds in their hotel rooms, or exploding light switches or crummy old tellies showing dubbed episodes of The Onedin Line.

    What they will discover instead - those who weren't in England's 1996 World Cup squad - are cities with wide, relatively uncluttered main streets, along which trundle Japanese saloons with doors and windows intact. They will stay mainly in plush hotels with multi-channel television and slightly murky swimming pools and pleasant little golf courses, and travel by air-conditioned coach. Generally, Pakistan has a spacious, more prosperous feel than India, which may be only partly because it has an eighth of the population.

    They will not be gagging on mutton curry which tastes like old boots, or bowls of lentil mush, or resorting to the stash of tinned luncheon meat they will have taken with them. Apart from the inevitable coffee shop, many of Pakistan's major hotels have stunning Chinese restaurants. The sizzling chicken I ate in Peshawar was better than anything I've sampled in Soho, perhaps not so surprising when you consider you're only about 300 miles from the Chinese border. True, the dish would have tasted better washed down with a cold beer rather than warm lime juice, and alcohol isn't freely available in Pakistan hotels. But don't overdose on sympathy. Like most things in the sub-continent, it can be 'arranged' for the team room, and in the main cities you can wash down steak and chips at the British High Commissions with chilled Boddingtons for about 50p a pint while watching a re-run of Arsenal versus Leeds.

    Apart from a mosquito infestation in one of the better Faisalabad hotels and the spectre of Shakoor Rana wherever you go in that fetid place (a portrait of him hangs over the main entrance to the ground) there's little to worry about away from the cricket. Even the grounds are comfortable and the crowds generally ruly.

    Walk on to the coarse grass inside the concrete bowls, though, and it's a rather different matter. The air is decidedly chilly at 10am, there is dew on the ground and the start is often delayed, though this can be because the roller is locked up and the ground superintendent has gone off with the key. The sun burns off a layer of winter mist and around midday generates enervating heat. Dust from the cracked outfield clogs your lungs. By three the mist (or smog) is descending again and you will soon be off for bad light. There isn't much time to make your mark.

    Perhaps that's why Pakistan's cricketers are so explosive. Everywhere you look on scrub pitches and concrete paddocks barefoot youths charge into bowl, cheeks quivering and shirt tails flapping, hurling down a battered composite ball with whippy, athletic actions. Uninhibited, unprotected batsmen respond with lusty shots all round the wicket. Pakistan is a sort of cricketing Brazil; poor, marginalised, expressing itself best with its unique sporting rhythms.

    There is a smash and grab approach to the way they play cricket in Pakistan. Even their spinners have wicked, fast-bowlers mentalities. With the mysteries of Saqlain Mushtaq at one end and a battery of quick men exploring the scuffed ball's aerodynamic properties the other, the England batsmen's resources will be tested to the full. The grounds are better grassed now - because, according to one Pakistan official, "the players want to dive" - which might suit England in the field, but the precedents are not encouraging. England have won only one Test in Pakistan, 39 years ago.
    Before the Tests there are three one day internationals, during which the subject of match fixing will almost inevitably surface. Sports betting in Pakistan is like exceeding the speed limit in Europe. Illegal and compulsory. Watching a club match in Lahore one afternoon, I noticed some violent scuffling amongst a gaggle of spectators at the end of an over. When the situation calmed down, I asked what had happened.
    "Rashid here bet Fahad there 10 rupees that the next over would be a maiden," said a man called Mohammed. "There was a leg bye off the last ball and Fahad demanded his money but Rashid wouldn't pay up, so they had a fight." "Who won?" I asked. "Rashid," he said. "He's a policeman."


    #2
    How dare he said something against our mutton
    karahi. Is he in Pakistan I would love to beat him (us key moan pey thapar marney ka bara maza aain ga. But than if he is here he is our guest but if I went to England I definately will. These englishmen can never appreciate our culture but why should we care. They can go to hell.
    We don't forget...its' just that life goes on!

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      #3
      I think it is an interesting perspective of Pakistan as seen through a visitorís eyes. I agree that things have changed in appearance (in terms of comfortable hotels), but the nature of Pakistanis will never change, which it shouldnít. To look for comforts and alcohol in a land that is beyond exotic, is very shallow in my opinion. But, whatever his take, it is nice to read.

      If you want air-conditioned coaches and thick mattresses in your Hotel Rooms, stay in your own country. If thatís what you hold dear, you are too simple for our taste.

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        #4
        NY Ahmadi Last two lines are great. They think they are too sober acttualy they don't know how to enjoy life.
        We don't forget...its' just that life goes on!

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          #5
          Nice read, thanks

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            #6
            Originally posted by NYAhmadi:
            I think it is an interesting perspective of Pakistan as seen through a visitorís eyes. I agree that things have changed in appearance (in terms of comfortable hotels), but the nature of Pakistanis will never change, which it shouldnít. To look for comforts and alcohol in a land that is beyond exotic, is very shallow in my opinion. But, whatever his take, it is nice to read.

            If you want air-conditioned coaches and thick mattresses in your Hotel Rooms, stay in your own country. If thatís what you hold dear, you are too simple for our taste.
            Exactly what i would've said!!!

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              #7
              Wow! you people obviously don't have much experience of English mentality. I have to tell you that I actually thought this was quite a complimentary article! Apart from a few snide comments, there is quite a lot of praise in there too, however grudging. English journalists don't generally like Pakistan or Pakistanis, probably because they don't like the idea of being beaten at their own game by a nation they once colonised. If you think this article is negative, you would probably have a fit if you saw some of the articles in the past.

              At least they are getting better. It's given me an idea though for the Khail Khilari forum. There's always plenty of juicy stuff from the cricket journos on their trips to Pakistan!

              Comment

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