I see that Nestaquin and I disagree about the Younis Khan’s thoughts on cricket as a tool to eradicate Pakistani terrorism. Nestaquin writes:
However, what irks me is the absence of awareness and the gross naivety in regards to the seriousness of the situation. Asking the ICC to save cricket from the nefarious elements within Pakistani society is akin to expecting a butterfly to rescue an antelope from the jaws of a crocodile.
Well, phrased like that, it does sound ridiculous. But I think Nestaquin has a few things wrong: first, cricket, on its own, will not “kill terrorsts.” No doubt Khan only meant that it would be a vital element in the fight for young men, who now prove only too willing to strap on bombs instead of pads. No one thinks the ICC will provide a more compelling political elite in Pakistan; a better military; a sounder economy, and a more vigorous intellectual class. But playing cricket still helps, as sport forms a huge part of social relations.
Nestaquin thinks, however, that Khan has the chicken before the egg. Instead of using cricket to end terrorism, he argues that Pakistan needs to first stop terrorism before it can think of cricket. His proposed solution isn’t so sunny:
If the Pakistani people want cricket to thrive in their country the answer to their anxiety is simple. Use the intelligence of a united populace and the full might of your military to eradicate your lands of these murderous thugs.
Emotional stuff. No matter that in counter-insurgency campaigns, using the “full might” of a military may not make the most sense. (Even the United States is considering cutting deals with portions of the Taliban, as Pakistan recently did with its western countryside.) No, it seems to me that Nestaquin has it the wrong way: precisely as terrorists aim to militarize a society, calmer elements of civil society — sportsmen, for instance — need to hold the line and speak to a standard of normalcy that should not waver.
Lastly, Nestaquin thinks that the Taliban would hold a dim view of cricket. Perhaps. We know, however, that Afghanistan’s cricket team, which has enjoyed a dream run of late, has roots in refugee camps across Pakistan and has provided much hope to the still fragile regime there. One Wisden anecdote puts it nicely:
Allah Dad Noori, the founder of the Afghanistan Cricket Federation, was playing one day in Kabul when a young man walked by carrying an AK47, watched for a while before being invited to join in. Afterwards, he asked if he could play next time. When he returned he was without the rifle. “Where’s your AK47?” asked Noori. “Oh, I don’t need that,” the youth replied. “I’m playing cricket!”