Sunday, January 02, 2011

Cricket: An Apocryphal Tale of the Abject Failure of a Game as a Sport

Once upon a time, not so long ago, in a madrasah far far away, a Shaykhul-Hadith sat on the pulpit and exhorted his hundreds of students on the subject of sports.

"Islam encourages Muslims to be of sound mind and strong body," he began. "The break that you get which lasts from after`Asr until Maghrib is specifically intended to be an opportunity for you to go out and exercise, so that the mind can focus better on your studies."

He further contributed, "If you were to go out for a run or the like, you will receive the benefit of exercise well and good. If you wish to play a sport, then not only will you benefit, but you will also have fun and wax your competitive spirit. Many of the more strict and stern madaris look down on sports as a waste of time, preferring the more dull forms of exercise because students often get carried away in their games and start to look forward to them more than their studies. We however think that such a draconian outlook is misplaced, especially given the fine group of students we have in this institution."

So far his speech was relatively standard. That is enough for most. However, with all due respect to my people, no desi bayan is complete without a story of incredible and unbelievable proportions. Such stories are generally treasure troves of wisdom with much practical advice to impart to one who wishes to change their life for the better; the only Achilles heel to such stories is that one will inevitably scratch their head and say, "What the hell?" Nevertheless, it is often a fault of bayan-surfers that they go to listen to bayans only to relish that one strange and wondrous story they had never heard before, if not for any other reason, then so that they can say they heard something new tonight.

If you are still reading this, then that means that you probably have a little bit of that in you too, so as a polite blog-host I am obliged to indulge you...

He continued, "Hitler was a proud leader who believed the German people to be the master race. He was devoid of divine guidance and a man of horrible action and intent. However, no one can accuse him of not being proud of his people, or not wanting only the best for them, in whatever convoluted and twisted way he was able to.

One day Hitler was sitting with his cabinet, and he asked, 'Is there any sport in which the Germans do not dominate?' One of his cronies replied, 'Sir, we dominate in every sport (as the ghost of Jesse Owen says 'pshhhhhhh!') except cricket.'

'Then we must assemble the finest of German athletes available and have them train by night and day, so that the German people can be supreme in cricket as well!'

(This is the point at which your common sense takes a coffee break, and despite having just said, 'What the hell, man,' you sit back in amused anticipation of where this is going).

Hazrat Shaykhul Hadith continues: "When this team was assembled, and they had trained long and hard, Hitler received word that they were now the most talented cricket team in the world. Pleased with himself, Hitler inquired as to who the world champion team was at that time. He was told that it was England. He ordered that England's team be invited to a grand match that was to be a display for the German people and the world. He attended the match himself.

After the first day of play, not quite understanding the game, he asked what the result was. He was told that the match wasn't over yet and that it would resume the next day.

The same thing happened on day two. He was given the same answer.

The same thing happened on day three. Upon receiving the same answer he flew into a fit of rage and said that the German people will not have their time and talents wasted on such a long, drown out, and pointless game. He thereafter decreed that no German will ever play cricket again, and thus Germany exited from the world cricket scene.

Although Hitler was a thoroughly misguided figure to say the least, on this one issue he had a point, so it is the official request of the madrasah that whatever sport you play in your break time, please do not waste your time or ours on playing cricket."

You live long enough and you will see and hear strange and mysterious things. If you keep the company of the wise, you will find wisdom in the most bizarre of places. If you listen to enough bayans, you will never cease in your wird of "what the hell..."