<i>Wastelands and yesteryear cricketers</i>
It is said old cricketers never die, they get run out. The mind stirred up memories uncontrollably, of days long gone into the dim past, yet looking back in retrospect those were heady days of innings' each of us played, alone or in tandem with colleagues and peers who we shall never part with. Certainly not in spirit, atleast.
Rubbing shoulders each day with J.S.Badshah, chewing abstractions with A.S.M.Farooq, trying to change the cricket world with Roquibul Hasan and planning the future with Mainul Haq are activities almost as rewarding, if not downright as essential as the need to smack the half volley square of the wicket past point. Add to it the emotional and sentimental exhortation of Ash Haq to attend Ayesha's wedding and relive, albeit temporarily the memories that are destined to stay. Memories that centred round Ash's own pavilion as it were, in Eskaton. The mind and body look forward with unabashed excitement to meet up with Yusuf Rahman, now also in town. Ah, the pitch may well be a rotten grave but the ghost can still hit a hundred with the board of a coffin lid.
As we follow with pride our cricketers flying our flag in every corner of the globe, it is perhaps selfish of us in some ways to think that maybe, just maybe, the world may have had just passed us by. Circa the 70's, one still remembers the general attitude towards cricket then. It was one of frustration and despair. One did not even know if ever there would be the same set of people around to guide and encourage those who wanted to make a go of it. Sadly, some of the stalwarts, players and organisers alike had left us during those apocalyptic nine months never to return. They were either dead, in exile or just plain shattered by the holocaust. With no meaning left in life to continue with what was then considered a frivolous pastime.
One looks back in anger therefore at those wasted years of a cricketer's life. Fighting the pain, frustrations and forces that stunted the progress of our cricket being. For us it was straight out of Dire Straits(sic) all along. There was that definite shiver in the dark, but all the while it was raining in the park.
Our cricket heroes were straight out of the contemporary novel of that era. A problematical hero. A figure symptomatic of a field where there was need to have a hero. Yet everything conspired to prevent him from being one. If the Bangladeshi cricketer was considered never to achieve the heights, the summits climbed each day by his contemporaries in other parts of the world, we had to assume that the ascent, the struggle was in itself enough. He was a happy Sisyphus in whites.
The danger lay within ourselves. The collective self in other words. Spare a moment to understand what transpires when human aspirations confront the outer world. True to form, when the rational and the irrational come face to face, a sensitive man is expected to discover not meaning but absurdity. It was such a tempting pitfall that lay just around every conceivable corner, and into which, to a man, each of us existential cricketers fell headlong.
Cricketers as we were then, were adrift in a morass of indecision There was no final purpose to things, no social aim worth the effort. We were condemned to play our parts in the fields as if there was no reality behind illusions. And hence we played to our illusions with an absurd flourish. A trip to England, a footnote in the official ICC Souvenir were the highpoints in our lives. An achievement that only those cricketers of that era would find the need to care about or appreciate. Looked at in retrospect, it was perhaps the most banal of human aspirations. Yet, we ruined budding careers, threatened marriages and in effect played truant with the most vital phase of our lives for just that much. One may well ponder now, whether we were not deluding ourselves, whether we were not indulging in collective hara kiri.
We need now more than ever, to learn from the past. All of us connected with the game must of necessity understand what we are asking our present generation of cricketers to do. Or where we are expecting them to reach. Some tangible goals that will make the pursuit of the elusive worthwhile. Otherwise, the game that we loved and played will only acquire a comic vitality, a vitality that paradoxically will sap our collective cricketing energies. This vitality has its own nasty edge with a rusty sharpness that will cut us down, after having come so far and if we are not careful, to mere mediocrities on the world stage.
We, who had given up the best summers of our lives for this great game, would dearly like to see our present day cricketers enjoy their seasons in the sun. Remember your roots, but grow wings too, so you can soar to reach those heights we could not. Rest assured, we will not grudge you that. There is now that value centred goal at the end of the tunnel, unlike our days. Go for it and do us proud.
Shakil Kasem was a former national cricketer