Pakistan is now out of the Finals of the two sports that it was considered to be favorites in. Two sports than are considered more ‘Pakistani’ than most others: Cricket and Kabaddi.
Pakistan did make it to the Finals of Squash in the Mens’ Team category, the Pakistani Mens’ hockey team plays in the Finals today, and the earlier gold victory of the Pakistani women in T20 cricket has already raised the national spirits.
At one level one hears of Afghanistan beating Pakistan in cricket and Iran defeating Pakistan in Kabaddi and one is speechless. At another level it is good to see these two sports usually confined to very limited geographies catching on a more global sports. At both levels, all one can think of saying is: Hunn kar lao gall!
But I must confess that over the last couple of days as I have followed the Kabaddi results – yes, I have – it was interesting watching a glimpse the other day of the Japanese Kabaddi team (which lost out to India in the other Semi-Finals) and seeing photographs of the Iranian Women’s Kabaddi team (which will be appearing in their Semi-Finals against India later today). Indeed, Iran has become a bit of a powerhouse in the sport; and Thailand and Japan seem to have also picked up a medal-worthy interest in it. Cricket, too, is becoming even more Asian with its entry in the Asian Games – China and Japan, again, seem to be taking it up seriously; look out, world!
A large part of me is, of course, dejected for Pakistan’s sake. But I must confess that I feel delighted for the Afghanistan team, which has been the darling of Asian Games cricket in the year that the sport has made its Asian Games debut. With India not sending a team at all to either Mens’ or Women’s cricket and with the Pakistan national team also playing elsewhere and sending its second string team, the Afghanistan team had emerged as a major force and a toast of much discussion at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, China. Many in the Afghanistan team grew up in Pakistan and picked up a knack and love for cricket in Pakistan. And they have been playing with gusto, with style and with a zeal that is endearing.
Congratulations, Afghanistan. Congratulations, Iran.