A garbage-riddled ground, rather a debris-riddled ground, the kind of filthiness you’d only imagine in squalor; worked up by drudges, second-rate restaurants that have not the slightest of concern for hygiene; shuttered up corner shops of carpentry; caldrons lying scattered like carcasses after a bloody war – the entire passage smelt of an unwashed arse. Whether it was a dog’s arse or a man’s I don’t know, but it was certainly unwashed; a characteristic tang of human urine had hung in the air; this was the path that led up to gate number 4 of the Pindi cricket stadium.
Let me come to the point and tell my readers of the sordid entrails of this very unpleasant looking structure; but we really mustn’t consider ourselves worthy enough to host international teams, and worse, foreign spectators.
I had gone there quite excitedly to watch the second day of the first test between England and Pakistan.
Inside, the scenery was much worse – except for the playing grass which was thankfully weedless, prodigiously watered the night before, and formidably encircled by the iron fence. But what of the stands where the commoner – whose hard labour our cricket board milks so fiercely – sits? What does this commoner get? A low stand, shadow-less; rather whatever little shadow there lies is of the sun as he begins his long march downwards in late afternoons. And consider the hotness of the day as though you were in an open-air bakery – very un-December-like – and you foolishly dressed for wintry pleasures, thinking you’re just half a mile away from Himalayan cliffs. And now you felt every centimetre of your frame singed; an Englishwoman sitting three seats apart already looked amber-dyed.
Sir! These stands deserve hygiene, newer seats, and above all a view. Having a highly rated international team playing at this facility, which was not even half prepared, hardly propped up, felt like dating someone without brushing your teeth
What else was there for home-taking? Of course, the low stand which hardly affords a view, covered with half split seats, on the verge of wilting, some of them so frail that if you were to fiddle with them they might break like meringues; and whose colour had faded from lack of care; and on which were prints of man boots, and underneath of which were heaves of debris, dark and ugly, brushed aside. Neither the workers nor the organisers had enough conscience to have the place washed fastidiously; dust was the marrow of the scene. Dust and stamped up cigarette butts strewn everywhere; giving them company were half finished bottles of cola and twisted cans (I being a coke-bibber stuck one in my front pocket). The very soul of the place was bilious; almost like a gargoyle spitting evil. I’d also largely blame the public here, for we as a nation are in the habit of disowning all the things we use. The things we feel we have a right over are usually the ones that very soon fall into disrepair. Talk of politics all day if you like, talk of this party or that; we all suffer from our individual conceptions of how things should be, our little monomania’s. But nothing should fly till we own the land we have. We don’t strive enough for it, yet desire to live in a comfortable bubble.
To my experience now; the walls on the left flank of the stand had scribblings of obscenities in the vernacular, as though it were a public toilet, and it was scarlet from determined, savage spitting of paan. There were even cracks appearing in them, more like fissures. The paint was falling off like a tallow fast in decay, shrinking from the flame. The air was swimming with flies, and we sat panting in that queer, shade-less, winter heat, overflowing with sulking humanity, defying noon-day sun beams with enough melanin.
But then came some respite, a sudden burst of breeze had turned the sky mackerel; and the sound of the ball pummeled by an Englishman’s bat came pealing over us, somewhat suppressing the ordeal of our sorry surroundings.
There were only three things that won my appreciation at the stadium.
One, a certain cat, very healthy, and one who had a great fluff round her pericardium and her mane; he looked after himself; skulking up and down the stand, gnawing at a grain of rice or a lump of meat, or a packet of chips ripped open; now bouncing off a seat, now perching on the highest buttress, very royally with his tail dangling on the outside, screened from our view.
Second, and the most agreeable reason for most of us ordinary commoners to cling to the stadium was the English team; just the look of it, brimming with energy; there was that comforting lightness about their play, the confidence you have when you know you’d do nothing wrong. At the time of these experiences, England were batting with a certain intent and had already pushed their side close to a gargantuan 600 runs in the first innings; a feat richly deserved. I expected Pakistan to put up a similar show with the bat as the pitch was neither damp nor hard, and had just the right ingredients for prolific run scoring.
And third was our thick-limbed, broad-chested, hat-shaded, sun-bleached young lad Naseem Shah, who seemed quite the figure out there, springing about like a duckling in the outfield; though it was his bowling that I was particularly interested in; his side on action, very copy book with a Dennis Lillie-ish tinge to it. His run up to the popping crease was more like a muffled chuff of a countryside British train.
Anyhow, let me not stray further from my purpose, which is to entreat the Chairman of the cricket board, his Excellency Ramiz Raja.
Sir! These stands deserve hygiene, newer seats, and above all a view. Having a highly rated international team playing at this facility, which was not even half prepared, hardly propped up, felt like dating someone without brushing your teeth. It was like self incarceration; intensely sad.
Kindly look into it: I believe you must not come up with a fiscal excuse considering the amount of international cricket that is being played. On the contrary, if there exists even a scrap of some fiscal comfort, I suggest exploring a new site for a state-of-the-art cricket stadium; for here the great romance of watching cricket seems to be permanently absent.