When the magic of cricket scored in letters between PMs John Major and Nawaz Sharif
Lovers of cricket, both were prime ministers of the United Kingdom and Pakistan in the 1990s and both faced tough political situations at home.Updated: Jan 05, 2019 18:31 IST
Letters between prime ministers are usually couched in diplomatese even when relations may not be at their best, but some individuals develop such rapport that missives go beyond the usual — such as between John Major and Nawaz Sharif.
Lovers of cricket, both were prime ministers of the United Kingdom and Pakistan in the 1990s. Both faced tough situations at home, but their letters to each other, now declassified, show they often used cricket terminology to refer to matters of state and politics.
The latest cache of declassified documents released by National Archives includes several originals signed by Major and Sharif. Major was prime minister between 1990 and 1997, while Sharif held office between 1990 and 1993 (one of his three terms as prime ministers).
Soon after the then-Pakistan president Ghulam Ishaq Khan dissolved the national assembly and dismissed the Sharif government in April 1993, Major wrote to Sharif on 29th of that month: “I was very glad to have the opportunity of seeing you last month, and am sorry that since then you have run into difficulties.”
“As you will know, whether you are in or out of government, you will always be sure of a warm welcome in Britain.”
After the Supreme Court restored the national assembly and Sharif’s government in May, Sharif wrote to Major on June 10, 1993: “Politics, like cricket, is often perceived and perhaps rightly so, as a ‘game of glorious uncertainties’, a fact amply demonstrated by recent events in Pakistan”.
“While I settle down at the crease for a new innings, please allow me to express once again my sincerest thanks for your kind sentiments,” Sharif added.
Cricket analogies continued after Sharif lost the October 1993 elections and Benazir Bhutto took over as prime minister. As leader of opposition, Sharif wrote to Major on May 10, 1994: “By the way, I have resumed playing cricket”.
A week later, as Major faced challenges in the UK, Sharif wrote: “I have been reading with concern reports…regarding the political situation in the UK, and the difficulties and pressures you are facing”.
“I am confident that given your sincerity, objectivity and human tough, you would overcome these temporary difficulties, and carry your bat through the entire innings in a blaze of glory.”
Major responded on May 23, 1994: “I am pleased to know that you have taken up cricket again. It must provide a welcome respite from politics, even if you rarely get the time to play!”
Major again used cricket discourse in a letter to Sharif on June 14, 1994: “All in all, I feel as if I have been batting on a fairly sticky wicket, with the ball swinging about and sometimes bouncing unevenly. But we have scored a lot of runs over the past four years, and we are not out and going for more!”
In one of their first interactions as prime ministers in 1991, Sharif’s suggested to Major to hold a ‘Crickathon’ at the Harare summit of the Commonwealth heads of government.
It was enthusiastically supported by Major, who believed that “after the English language and the common law, cricket is the third unifying thread of the Commonwealth”.
First Published: Jan 05, 2019 17:43 IST