Supremely talented teenagers, Javed Miandad’s unappreciated role as a leader and the revolutionary impact of reverse swing on cricket are some of the striking themes of British author Peter Oborne’s insightful new book Wounded Tiger: A history of Cricket in Pakistan.
Wounded Tiger, a play on Imran Khan’s almost mythical ‘cornered Tiger’ speech before the 1992 World Cup final in Melbourne, aims to set things straight and go deeper into a world where cricket has “been entwined with national identity” ever since the days of the Raj. The current era of Pakistan cricket, the book highlights, also serves as metaphor for the situation the country currently finds itself in. But throughout the journey, Wounded Tiger also reminds its readers that the magic these men have been able to conjure up on the field, and are still capable of, can ultimately lead to national recovery.
Oborne, who is also the chief political commentator for the Daily Telegraph, says, “Cricket writing about Pakistan has sometimes fallen into the wrong hands. It has been carried out by people who do not like Pakistan, are suspicious of Pakistanis, have their own preconceptions.”
The author, who has also written the award-winning biography Basil D’Oliveira, Cricket and Conspiracy: The Untold Story among other works, starts off by going into detail about how Indian authors Ramachandra Guha and Shashi Tharoor, the latter who also served as a United Nations official, are “careless” in misrepresenting facts about Pakistan cricket in their respective efforts. Autobiographies by England cricketers, with some exceptions, are blind to the warmth and generosity of the Pakistani people and English journalists have tended to follow suit, he adds.
Oborne argues that as such Pakistani cricketers appear as caricatures.
“Javed Miandad as a hooligan; Imran Khan as a princely scion in the tradition of Ranji; AH Kardar as a fanatic. None of these images bear much connection with reality.”
Wounded Tiger, though, is not just about presenting a truer picture of these great men. It appreciates the “beauty” of Pakistan with its ever-present follies. From the uncertainty over the ages of the record-breaking “teenaged debutants” to master inventors and the most shrewd of tacticians to the ability of pulling out surprises that is unique to Pakistan alone.
Oborne puts this unique ability in context when he writes of Pakistan’s 1954 tour of England, a tour that many say put the country on track for future greatness.
“This was the dark state of affairs as Pakistan approached the fourth Test match at the Oval: Kardar’s job on the line, dissension in the camp, ridicule in the press, and Pakistan’s position as a Test nation in question. In many teams everything would have fallen apart, but not Kardar’s Pakistanis. Fazal put pressure on Kardar ahead of the Oval game to issue a statement that Pakistan would win the Test.”
Oborne’s story concludes with Pakistan in cricket isolation but the essential message is of celebration and conviction that Misbah-ul-Haq and the future holds some promise.