Do you remember when East Timor was created? It was a very strange event, considering that it was the newest country in the world at the time. I mean, unlike the tedium and relentlessness of new versions of Starbucks frappucinos, or ‘Greatest Hits’ by the Rolling Stones, countries don’t pop up every other day.
So you can imagine how bizarre it must have been in the early half of the 20th century, when brand spanking new countries were appearing by the busload. Because it wasn’t just the world maps in your classrooms that had to be updated – every new country was being superimposed on ancient lands and peoples, and as such required a whole new set of myths, anthems, heroes, villains, identities etc.
In the case of the Indian subcontinent, this issue was even more vexed, seeing as the ancient land of Bharat had been chopped up into a bizarre bi-focal country called Pakistan, with the new and improved India sitting in the middle, much like the matronly aunt sits between the potential bride and groom at an arranged marriage ceremony.
The whole idea of partition was a difficult one to swallow. Amidst the cataclysmic riots, the untold horrors in violence, there were simpler questions which sought complex answers – how exactly do you go about dividing a society, a culture, a people, a land, and a history, a tapestry of songs, tales, epics, jokes, customs, and traditions?
In fact, in many ways the division restricted itself to the politics. When the more amiable amongst our generation meet their counterparts from across the divide, the first thing that inevitably comes up is how similar we all are. From our notions of punctuality to what constitutes the idea of personal space, subbies and their cultures were not as easy to divide as the blobs on the map had been.
And yet… and yet there is one problem in this whole uplifting essay.
Even though both Pakistanis and Indians share a vile passion for Himesh Reshammiya music, a penchant for amazing cuisines, suffer the same overbearing families, and remain blissfully unaware of how bad the oil in their hair smells, there is one fundamental difference.
Pakistanis can’t bat, Indians can’t bowl.
Now before the trolls descend on me, let me qualify that glib remark. When I speak of Indian bowlers, I mean fast bowlers. The best Indian bowlers are inevitably spinners – a world class Indian pace man is an oxymoron. And though I am loath to admit Kapil Dev as a genuine quick, he is the exception that proves the rule.
As for Pakistani batsmen, you have Miandad, and Hanif Mohammed. But apart from those two, there hasn’t been a single Pakistani batsman who has been strong against the best team of their time (such as Laxman) let alone being powerful against all opposition (such as Sehwag, Gavaskar, Dravid and some squeaky voiced guy whose name I forget.)
It’s an observation which has been made casually by many people, yet explanations are hard to come by. A common myth perpetuated this side of the Wagah is that Indians can’t bowl fast because they don’t eat meat. Not only is that a dubious notion on purely physiological grounds, it wouldn’t account for Muslim/atheist/non-veg eating Indian fast bowlers of whom there are plenty, usually consigned to the rubbish bin. Even the best Indian fast bowler of recent times – Zaheer Khan – would still struggle to be seen as better than perhaps Umar Gul in the Pakistani attack, and wouldn’t hold a candle against the true greats of Wasim, Waqar, and Imran…
But at least the Indian fast bowler notion has some vague theory, which has been backed up by the more credible claim that tape-ball cricket in Pakistan has been pivotal in providing quality fast bowlers.
But how does one resolve the issue of Pakistani batsmen? By nature, these are some of the most feckless and retarded creatures in world cricket. Even modern greats like Mohammad Yousuf, Younis Khan and the great Inzi have never really performed against Australia or South Africa. And the Pakistani batting lineup has also contributed to the vulgarity of providing men like Paul Harris, Laxmipathy Balaji, Nathan Hauritz, Ajit Agarkar, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Alan Mullaly, Adam Holliaoke Trent Johnston, Phil Simmons and countless others moments of glory their talents did not justify.
In either case, it makes no sense.
Does it boil down to a question of the differing ideologies? Does a theocratic state promote fast bowling, while a secular democracy is more conducive to mighty batsmen? (If that was true, what’s England’s excuse?) It can’t be a question of climate because there are too many similarities. It can’t be genes, because the biological history is shared for very long, and separate for only six decades. It can’t be culture, because as I said, the propensity for bad music and films is very much shared across the borders.
It remains then, one of the great mysteries of our time – right up there with why women find Sylvio Berlusconni attractive and why Bappi Lehri has never won a Grammy.
Article by Ahmer Naqvi