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Laugh-a-minute amidst serious cricket

Unlike Pakistani cricketers for whom India is a fun tour, for the Indian cricketers a tour of Pakistan is far from fun, writes Sunil Gavaskar.

india Updated: Mar 14, 2004 01:07 IST

Unlike Pakistani cricketers for whom India is a fun tour, for the Indian cricketers a tour of Pakistan is far from fun. Dangle a visit to India, and the Pakistani players will do somersaults to be on it. But though Pakistan does not offer the kind of freedom that India does, there are some 'characters' in Pakistan who help pass the time.

One such character was a man who used to call himself a 'Doctor'. Whether he was one or not is not really known, but for a 'Doctor', he had plenty of free time on his hands to watch the match or just be around to watch the nets. He was good at making crowds do anything. For instance, he would suddenly go near a section of the crowd and say something. The next thing you saw was the entire section doing exactly as he was directing them. So if he said "bend down", the crowd would do that. If he said "lean back", the crowd would do that. If he said "lie flat", the crowd would do that. It was quite hilarious, for the rest of the crowd did not know what was happening and were wondering why a section was behaving the way they were. He even did it to our Assistant Manager whom he had doing all kinds of things in our dressing-room till the team burst out laughing. After that the Assistant Manager threw him out of the dressing-room.

We asked ‘Doctor’ to accompany us on the team bus as it was leaving Gaddafi Stadium and as we were passing a maidan, he saw two workmen squatting in the middle of the maidan all by themselves. We stopped the bus and he ran out and said something to the two workmen. Soon we saw them bent low, running first forward and then back, then lying flat on their tummies and crawling as if they had to go under barbed wire. Doctor then ran back to our bus, got in and implored our driver to take off fast. We asked him what he said that made people do all those things but he would not give his secret away. He confided on a later tour that he said that a hot electric wire had fallen and it was dangling over their heads and that’s why the people did his bidding and moved this way and that. He apparently was close to being arrested by the bodyguards of the late Prime Minister Bhutto, for he had made them lie on the floor and move around in panic instead of standing by to protect the PM.

The other characters were on-field, virtually the entire team. Pakistanis like to have a chat among themselves and sometimes that can lead to some disagreement, followed by the choicest Punjabi abuses. Even misfields were followed by abuses from the bowler, and often the misfield by one brought smiles on the faces of the others. Never have I heard a team abuse its members as much as the Pakistani teams have, and yet the 1978-79 and 82-83 series were won quite handsomely by the Pakistanis. They may be divided among themselves on a variety of issues like star power, background, looks, talent, earning power, but when it came to performing against India, they forgot all that the moment the ball was bowled. Then it restarted as the bowler was walking back to the mark. It was distracting at first but then it became hilarious as newly-phrased abuses came through.

There were some cheeky guys like Javed Miandad and Mudassar Nazar who would talk nineteen to the dozen, exhorting the bowlers, especially Abdul Qadir to bowl "delivery no.14" or "delivery no. 10" and the best part was that if that delivery was hit for a boundary then Qadir would have an almighty go at them for not letting him bowl the way he wanted to. The irrepressible Javed would in turn tell him that he wanted the delivery to be bowled in a particular spot and so it wasn't his fault if Qadir bowled it where it could be hit. Miandad at silly point and Mudassar at short-leg was a laugh-a-minute act and with the serious sounding Bari, the batsmen had a problem not getting out laughing. They would talk about their escapades the previous evening across the pitch and it was hard to shut them off because they made the story sound so interesting. 'Jimmy' Amarnath was often seen pulling away from the stumps and laughing as he heard the two fielders exchange stories.

Javed now is the coach of the team, having replaced Mudassar, and he will no doubt have more variety of deliveries for us. Unfortunately, he won't be out there in the middle and the guy taking the silly-point position may not have the same sense of humour or ability to make a simple thing look funny.

Indo-Pak cricket has a different flavour - thanks to the characters. Hopefully the modern cricketer will also find something to smile about other than on reaching a personal milestone.

First Published: Mar 14, 2004 01:07 IST