Over the course of the next few lines (paragraphs; pages; volumes – I can never stop when it comes to cricket!) I will try to make a case as to why you must have us, Winning XI, aka W11, as your breakfast hosts. I could take the easy route and just quote your website where each AUD 1,000 would land the contributor to dinner – we qualify for about three – but honestly there is far more to you coming over, and us meeting you, than spending some hard-earned cash! Here goes:
Let me start with an introduction. I am a Chartered Accountant by profession (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azkFz1ZbXyU) (HUGE Monty Python enthusiast amongst other vices). I am employed as the CFO by a major US Pharmaceutical and Healthcare company (I could be a big deal if I weren’t so modest ☺). I am forty years old, father to two boys, Ali (7) and Ibrahim (3), and recently shaved off my remaining hair and grew a Captain Haddock beard. But what I really am is just one thing – a cricketer.
I quite literally live and breathe cricket. While my talents are limited, I more than make up with mad passion and enthusiasm. I started playing, as most Pakistani youth do, with the taped-up tennis ball on the streets. The weather was mostly scorching, which helps explain part of my tan, but that never dissuaded us from playing. Cricket pretty much was the main plot, while school and studies played side roles. In fact, I often think that I only studied hard to have my parents off my back. Letting me play. I remember learning the first of my Finance and Management skills gathering teams to play, and funds to buy balls and tape. Those were good times but money was quite limited. In those days it also meant that playing with the cricket ball with full gear was pretty much out of the question.
No piece about cricket can ever be complete without dedicating a large portion to my superhero growing up. While my kids have to choose between Superman, Spiderman, Ironman, Hulk, Ben-10, Batman, Thor and whatnots, all of these combined for me was the man I affectionately give the nickname of The-Grand-Aalahazrat-Ayatullah-Janab-Qibla-Muhammad-Javed-Miandad-Khan-Sahab-Madzallahu-Rehmatullah-Alaihe-Damata-Barkatahum or as the world knows him as Javed Miandad ☺ (For reference these titles are usually ascribed to so-called ‘holy’ guys and can be seen on posters across town where religious zealots add them to compensate for the penile length of their favourite bearded madman – in Javed’s case of course we all know how well his cock worked – just look up April 18, 1986 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjJOqAhLz9E) – that fucked about a billion people at one go).
To me he defined life. And cricket. And of course, Pakistan! The mum-and-dad of the game who stood for all that a cricket mad boy from Karachi could dream for. He came from a middle-class background, spoke broken English at best, even had a slight lisp, but man could he bat! And in his case batting was just the sideshow. The real act was the in-your-face defiance that he had for the world. The game and its affairs were gora dominated, and here was a man from Karachi who told them all to squarely FUCK OFF!!! The stance, the antics, the bravery and bravado – we grew up to a time where if he was on the crease, we ALWAYS had a chance. This is what we are – we ALWAYS have a chance.
And then there is even more to it. He came from Karachi and spoke Urdu. My city, my language. Peter Oborne and Richard Heller have been typical Brits in “White on Green”, a must read for you, and talked about some of the underlying dirt in Pakistan cricket, especially in the context of this divide. Let me though, use my lack of editorial filters and controls to explain what this really was. Karachi is the largest city but its populace largely consists of those who migrated from the East when the countries were carved out. To date we call ourselves ‘muhajir’! And there is very good reason too. There has remained a very strong feeling that the people already settled in the provinces never truly accepted the muhajirs into the ranks. This was and still is the way of the land, as from Hanif Mohammad to Fawad Alam, there is a long and sad list of our boys and men that kept getting overlooked. Javed rose so high that the ‘locals’ couldn’t keep him out, and boy did they try!!! He was, and in my head still is, a huge-erect-cock-god fucking all and sundry out of the park!
And sadly, no mention of a hairy member would be complete without talking about The CUNT! Some call him Immy. Ironic as that’s a lot of him explained – I and me!!! From the time his privileged background landed him out of the cradle into Test cricket, till today where the same sponsors have made him Facebook Prime Minister, Imran was all about himself. But man, what a cricketer he was! Imran Khan completed the Pakistani FUCK YOU to the world. Let’s face it. We are one-sixth the size of India and given that most of our life has been spent polishing boots, have not really progressed in any meaningful way. Our claim to fame mostly is that we managed to detonate nuclear devices in 1998 and that we have a lot of men in uniforms sucking the country dry. But cricket, mostly, gave us a level playing field and these guys made it count! It seems quite inappropriately appropriate that the Cock and the Cunt got together for beautiful coitus on March 25, 1992 and gave me the happiest day of my life – my sons’ births are at the same level!
I hate editors, almost as much as I hate censors. Hence in this ‘piece’ I shall keep jumping on and off wildly running trains, of thought, destined to crash, I am sure. While the fighting and surviving influences of our cricketers seem to be in direct retaliation to the goras of the world, lets also acknowledge and appreciate their positive influence on our lives. They gave us cricket! This alone should be enough to forgive a lot but in my case, they also left us with another gem that has made me what I am today – St. Patrick’s High School, Karachi. Founded in 1861, the school has had a very rich history of promoting sports and during my school days remained interschool cricket champions several years running. The Head Coach Mr. Cosmos D’Seram, originally from the beautiful island of Sri Lanka, was the Sir Alex Ferguson of St. Patrick’s cricket. I was never good enough to make it to the playing XI but after months at the camp I finally broke into the squad and happily carried water as we beat Karachi Grammar School (in school parlance the Imran Khan, although his own was just as elitist Aitchison College Lahore) at the finals in 1995.
This was the first time in life that I had got the opportunity to play on grass and with a turf wicket! Although I didn’t get any game time, the team had two future test cricketers, Danish Kaneria and Faisal Iqbal in the ranks, but I was, for want of a better metaphor, high on grass. The following years of my life were spent in trying to play more and more ‘real’ cricket, made quite difficult due the paucity of grounds and our own limited resources. Although by this time I was enrolled to become a Chartered Accountant, considered a steep task with a 2% passing ratio, but I still managed to run around the city in overcrowded public transport – there is context to this that I shall explain later – trying to organise games. One particular venue comes to mind, the KDA Stadium, which was government property and so ill-maintained that the grass cutting was left to the goats and sheep from the nearby houses.
This remains very relevant as I remember these times as my beginning. So, where we are today, has that much more meaning for me. As my professional career progressed, and I finally had more money and opportunities, I continued to play. I ended up captaining my corporate employers and by this time had figured out my place on the cricket pitch: astute captain, ala Miandad, and a rather undefinable bowler with a fast bowler’s height and run-up and very slow pace on my deliveries. I am rather pleased to say, that, given above average fielders, I can still frustrate good batsmen into gifting me their wickets.
In 2008 I left my corporate position to start a new venture. This also meant that my cricketing connections dropped. Barring the odd matches here and there, for the next six years or so there was hardly any played, hence the darkest days in life, made brighter thankfully by Ali’s birth! Then shit happened. Quite literally! While I sat on the crapper on the morning of January 1, 2014, scrolling through Facebook feeds of friends and their new year resolutions, I made one of my own. I put up a post asking my friends to join me in starting a new team. To my utter delight, I soon had a playing XI and off we went, most of us at the wrong side of 35, playing our first game, with me as captain and prime antagonist of opposition batsmen of course. I consider myself supremely blessed that so many of the rusted cricketers came back to life and soon became well-oiled machines, class being permanent et al! I am rather proud to say that the more serious amongst the bunch (Tayyab Balagamwala, Rizwan Merchant, Sameer Ahmedani, Usama Shoaib and Adeel Abbasi) went on to become more formally organised and are now called Karachi Patriots and have done marvellously at the local club level since.
Life had other plans for me though! I was transferred to Dubai by my then employers and remember carrying my cricket bag as part of my first shipment allowance. I had been severed from my team and city into a place where I knew very few people and had no inkling about how I could get to play. But thanks to my school friend and teammate Khurram Baghpatee (you get extra credits if you say that name correctly!) I managed to become a mercenary of sorts, playing with whomever had space on their sides. I put up my name on Dubizzle, a website where people usually sell their stuff, and became a proud cricket prostitute. This meant that, like those lovely ladies of the night, I too would do anything for a game. I ended playing again on cement wickets and rolled sands of Ajman, after a gap of about twenty years, and also proudly at the Sharjah Stadium where the largest tactical strike in Pakistan’s history had happened. For the record, as I stood at the same end, I glanced the ball for only a single!
My time in Dubai taught me several lessons, perhaps the most substantial one was one related to our lovely neighbours, the Indians. Like pretty much all Pakistanis I grew up to a rhetoric of us-against-them. We were always supposed to be the face of good and bastions of Islam, while THEY were more evil than Mumbra and somehow set out to make the entire country give up making nihari out of cows and drink their urine instead. I am very pleased to share that almost none of these is true! In the UAE, most cricket teams comprise of Indians, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans and the odd player from Afghanistan or Bangladesh. Interaction both on and off the field allowed me to see these guys were very similar in most ways. So, with peace and economic wellbeing “enforced” upon these nations, we could be great friends and teammates! While we still need to be big time enemies while playing at international games, those guys are pretty decent blokes, take my word for it. Food for thought!!!
I came back to Karachi about 10 months back and straightaway joined up my corporate team. With that I also enrolled in another team to make sure that all my weekends were well occupied but there seemed to be something missing. After yet another hapless loss, my brother-in-law and teammate were contemplating what to do. The idea of W11 was born at the KCCA Stadium while waiting to take a selfie with Asad Shafiq who was training there. I hired Mark Zuckerberg yet again and put up another post. Yet again I was blessed to have names pouring in.
The name W11 has some interesting history too. Asked to name the team, Ali called in Winning XI. Interestingly this name could be shortened to W11 which is an iconic bus, garlanded in garish colours, always overcrowded and playing cheap Indian songs at full volume while covering the mostly working-class areas of the city. This was also a bus I rode on extensively going for cricket so I think the name honours both the city and my personal cricketing memories very aptly. At the moment, I fund all games, the idea being that anyone can play on decent turf wickets without the limitations as I had growing up. We are all amateurs who, like most of our countrymen, are cricket mad and so far, have already won and tied a match while losing six!
Enough about me and the team that you must meet. Also important is why Dennis? Isn’t he just another fucking gora you ask? No, he is not! Over the months that I have followed you, I find that you are very genuine and forthcoming in your views and very sincere with the game we all love. That’s cricket as they say! Your views of the ICC, BCCI, PCB and ACB have represented the salt-of-the-earth cricket lovers (not the Indians though, for obvious reasons). Your stance on everyone from Wasim Akram till all match fixers is something we all believe in wholeheartedly and your joke about Inzimam thinking his name was Fawad Haram has touched all Karachites in just the right places.
MOST importantly though we are super chuffed that there are people out there willing to stand by us in a world where common sense and compassion seem to be out of the window. Pakistan needs you Dennis, and we are all trying to play our little parts in making it happen. I tried using some of my sources to figure out why your visa process was taking so long, especially since we seem to have not problems letting terrorists in. Turns out that you can thank the Aussie government for the delay as visa processing times and complications are on reciprocal basis. So, if your government gets their panties’ knots sorted out, other would probably take theirs off.
As I enter the fourth page on this MS Word document, I keep thinking that if I had wooed a female journalist this hard trying to convince her, her panties would be in a right froth. Why, [name redacted] would have her legs as far open as the Khyber Pass, a place you must visit while you are up north. I understand that major parts of this piece are wildly inappropriate and if any of those offend you please visit your nearest Victoria’s Secret outlet. One thing I have tried though is to be as honest as I see you being. If this has worked, please share where you’d be on Sunday October 8 sat at 7:30 or 8:00 (W11 plays at 10:00 the same day) and we would love to come and meet you and have pictures taken with you and generally talk about all things cricket. If not, or you have better things to do, at least you could suffer through the long read.
Hope to hear back from you soon!
Jamshed Azhar – FCA
Captain Winning XI C.C. (W11)