If you are anti-Modi, chances are your freedom of speech will be freer than an average Indian because you will not only get support from Modi haters but will also get a platform to broadcast your violent tendencies.
Shekhar Gupta’s ThePrint recently provided a platform to former Pakistani cricketer Shahid Afridi, who very casually mentions that when Pakistani cricketers are facing Indian cricketers on the ground, their orders are clear: “go and destroy them, almost like a suicide bomber does”. As an afterthought and to make light of it, Afridi mentions in brackets that he knows it doesn’t sound politically correct and that nobody ever gave such a direct order but “you know what I mean by that analogy!”.
No, Afridi, I don’t. You see, a 20-something man was trained by terrorists living in your country to blow himself up so that he could kill our soldiers. A bunch of suicide bombers bombed a few churches in our neighbouring country Sri Lanka and killed hundreds of families and left behind devastated families. Oh, and Islamists were celebrating that suicide bombing. So, no, your analogy is very problematic and I am not sure if I know what you mean by that analogy.
The article ThePrint had published was an excerpt from Shahid Afridi’s book, ‘Game Changer’ he co-authored with Wajahat Khan. The headline of the article shouts how Gautam Gambhir, former Indian cricketer and currently BJP’s candidate for East Delhi Lok Sabha seat, “has no personality or great records, just a lot of attitude.” That is how Afridi describes Indian cricketers ‘whom they had orders to destroy almost like a suicide bomber’.
Perhaps Gupta, as Editor of ThePrint, thought that anyone hating on a BJP candidate would be a good bet. So what if the person casually talks about terrorism? I’ll even stick my neck out and say that Gupta finds an element like this far more useful if that person is from Pakistan, a country which harbours and nurtures terrorism like a loving mother. You know what I mean by that analogy.
Afridi says how every game against India was an adventure, ‘a battle’. “Like good soldiers tend to do in combat, we took the lead from our seniors, from guys like Wasim Akram who, like good generals, led from the front and were themselves that much more motivated whenever we played India,” Afridi writes in his book. A friendly reminder, another one of their senior is now their country’s prime minister and is quite fondly called Taliban Khan due to his soft corner for the Taliban. Who is to take guarantee that Afridi’s analogy will not end up being his ideology if ever he decides to take the plunge in politics? After all, he doesn’t want his daughters to take up cricket professionally because of ‘social and religious reasons’. Sounds quite Taliban-esque to me.
Afridi likes to use the army lingo and even this short excerpt is peppered with phrases such as ‘we had a give-it-all and take-no-prisoners approach’ towards India and refers to matches against India as ‘mission’.
Shahid Afridi refers to Indian cricket team as ‘outfit’. I’m sorry, but our men in blue only play the sport, they do not really harbour dreams of blowing themselves up for a game of cricket. Cleverly Afridi refers to this ‘combative’ style as ‘trademark positive aggression’.
The attitude came easily and, no, we didn’t have to be ‘coached’ into beating India. Since we were kids, the whole India versus Pakistan thing had possessed us, all of us. Even if the seniors didn’t prep us with tactics for winning, we knew exactly how to defeat India on the field. The instinct to battle India was something we had internalized on our own.
So since childhood, Pakistanis are ‘possessed’ with the idea of ‘beating India’ in the ‘battle’. Remember, this is a cricket game being discussed, not the Battle of Tiger Hill.
Curiously, Afridi singles out Gautam Gambhir when talking about rivalries.
First is the curious case of Gautam Gambhir. Oh, poor Gautam. He and his attitude problem. He, who has no personality. He, who is barely a character in the great scheme of cricket. He, who has no great records, just a lot of attitude. He, who behaves like he’s a cross between Don Bradman and James Bond or something. In Karachi, we call guys like him saryal, burnt up.
Gautam Gambhir is the current favourite punching bag of the ‘liberals’ because he joined the BJP and has maintained that he is a nationalist. Being a nationalist itself is a trigger enough to get the Modi-haters to swoop in on you and demonise you. And in such a case if you end up formally joining the political party everyone loves to hate, you cannot escape the fire.
So it is no surprise Gupta and ThePrint published these portions of the excerpt of Afridi’s book. Afridi then clarifies that it was only Gambhir he didn’t like in the Indian cricket team. His relationship with other Indian players ‘has been great’ he says. Right. No wonder he dreams of destroying them like a suicide bomber.
This makes me wonder, what would have happened if one of the Indian players had said something similar. Why just any Indian player? What if Gautam Gambhir had said this? This is a sport, not a battlefield and should be treated as such.
It is shocking, to say the least, that the chief of Editors Guild would give space and legitimacy to such hateful vitriol against an Indian.