Asia Cup 2014 is fast turning into a seditious and contentious affair for the Indian government as Pakistan’s gambling rings prepare for the final. India has alleged sedition against students from a private university in the occupied valley of Jammu and Kashmir because they backed the Pakistan cricket team in the match against India. In Pakistan, the less so-called democratic of the two, certain individuals support the team of their liking and cheer it on but no one, especially the government, goes as far as charging a citizen for anti-state activities.
Sri Lanka is the hot favorite, according to the bookies. Pakistan is not completely written off, but as the one-on-one encounters between the two countries are concerned, Sri Lanka of late has had the upper hand, as the team recently defeated Pakistan, the defending champions in the opening of the tournament. Pakistan, it seems, needed this drubbing by the Sri Lankans to put them in the right frame of mind and revive their confidence, which will give them the ambition to win the Asia Cup 2014.
Much of the pressure was relieved when Pakistan defeated arch rivals India in typical Pakistani fashion. The difference between the two countries is that a majority of the Indian cricketers come from an educated background while the Pakistan cricket team is made up of street smart cricketers. The Indian team plays exquisite, by-the-book cricket while the Pakistanis have the talent to flout the book. The Pakistani cricketers have the essential killing instinct, as they showed in their match against India, a quality the Indians lack. Hence, a seditious and contentious Pakistan will play against the Sri Lanka in the final of the Asia Cup 2014.
Cricket is a team game so the maverick nature of one player alone does not ensure victory. It is great for Pakistan to have among their talented ranks the likes of Shahid “Boom Boom” Afridi, but it would be suicidal to depend solely upon his brilliance. But history is favoring Pakistan, as Afridi made a century in 37 balls against Sri Lanka in 1998, a record Corey Anderson of New Zealand has broken by blasting a century against the West Indies, in 36-balls, last year in the Caribbean. Afridi, with his -back-to-back sterling performances, has dazzled the crowds and provided spectators their tickets’ worth. Afridi is in contention to win the MVP or, in cricketing terms, “Player of the Tournament” prize.
For a young Pakistani, cricket is the way out of the endemic and gross poverty that plagues his country. A young Pakistani boy dreams of rising above by earning important international contacts and, with it, money and status. Not all earned money is “white,” though. The case of Amir is a good example. A young boy of 18 from a humble background rubbing shoulders with world celebrities was sure to turn his mind as he was discovered to be involved in match fixing.
Match fixing has plagued cricket ever since the Australian Kerry Packers Series. This series was a rebellion by international cricketers in which they refused to play for their countries by opting to play in Australia instead. This series injected so much money into the sport that cricket, the game of gentlemen, metamorphosed overnight into a game with bookies and gamblers.
The ICC T/20 World Cup 2014 will be played in Bangladesh, while the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup will be hosted by Australia and New Zealand.
The final of Asia Cup 2014 between a seditious and contentious Pakistan and Sri Lanka will happen when the teams of all the countries are in a frame of mind to prepare their final squads for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015.
Commentary by Iftikhar Tariq Khanzada