Waqar Younis is an opportunist, his namaz apology means nothing

Those who have followed the former Pakistani cricketer’s career wouldn’t be too surprised by the absence of sportsmanship

File image of Waqar Younis. AP

A recent remark made by Waqar Younis, one of Pakistan’s leading wicket-taker in both ODIs and Tests, following Pakistan’s win over India in a T20 World Cup match in Dubai has taken the cricketing world by storm. While the resulting outrage has forced Younis to offer an apology, the damage has already been done. Younis’ comment that the “best thing” for him was to watch Mohammad Rizwan offer namaz in front of Hindus during the match against India strongly reeks of Islamic fundamentalism. Pakistani politicians and media regularly pass such crass remarks, but coming from a player of Younis’ stature, it is most disappointing. It doesn’t just reflect his communal mindset but also highlights his absence of sportsmanship as well as lack of graciousness in winning which is most damaging to the sport.

Now, those who have followed Younis’ career wouldn’t be too surprised by the absence of sportsmanship. During the historic 1999 Kotla Test, Younis had suggested to the Pakistan skipper Wasim Akram during a mid-pitch conversation to get out in “some other way” in order to deny Indian leggie Anil Kumble his 10th wicket of the innings. “No. That would be against sportsman spirit,” retorted Akram. In July 2000, Waqar became the first bowler to be banned from playing in an international match for ball-tampering. During the 2003 World Cup match against Australia, Waqar was removed from the attack after bowling beamers at Andrew Symonds, becoming the first bowler to be dismissed in such a way during an international match.

Also, it is well documented how his infamous rivalry with Wasim Akram blighted Pakistan cricket throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s. Even his coaching stints for Pakistan have been full of controversies. And despite being a highly skilled swing bowler himself, he failed to groom any world-class bowlers for Pakistan, mostly owing to his inner insecurities, jealousy, and vainglory.

Younis’ recent comment makes it quite obvious that he hasn’t yet learnt anything about sportsmanship even after all these years. Married to a Pakistani-Australian doctor, Younis has been living in Australia since 2005. Ever the opportunist, he conveniently plays the Australian card when it suits his interests, but otherwise, he is a “Proud Pakistani”. Despite his repeated efforts to become involved in coaching in Australia, he failed to create any major opportunities for himself. In 2012, his application for the post of Australia’s bowling coach was turned down by Cricket Australia after he failed to leave an impression during an official interview for the job.

Set to turn 50 in November this year, Younis clearly has limited options outside of Pakistan. So there is a major possibility that his communal comment was aimed to appease his political masters in Pakistan. It wouldn’t really come as a surprise if it’s none other than his former skipper Imran Khan and his communal regime that he’s desperately trying to please through his anti-Hindu remarks.

While on one hand there is the case of Waqar Younis, on the other there have been reports of some Kashmiri students celebrating Pakistan’s victory over India. What’s alarming is that such incidents haven’t taken place for the first time. Similar incidents were recorded during Pakistan’s victory over India in the final of ICC Champions Trophy as well back in 2017. While such incidents have been minor in nature, these simply cannot be overlooked or brushed aside.

What if these are not just random incidents but as part of a targeted attack by anti-India forces to make India look weak and divided to the outside world? That’s why it’s paramount for the intelligence agencies to examine these events in great depth. At the same time, national media should avoid giving unnecessary attention to such events. For, every time such incidents get the media limelight, it’s bound to please India’s enemies at large. Also, it’s equally important to remind these anti-India forces and the international media about the Kashmiri youth who are guarding the borders day in and day out to ward off any enemy attack.

In today’s age of social media, it is very easy to create distractions in order to divert everybody’s attention and mislead people. The case of the recent manufactured outrage by trolls from Pakistan makes for a great study. Following India’s defeat against Pakistan in the T20 match, Mohammed Shami was purportedly subjected to online abuse. Now, Pakistan completed the victory in the 18th over of their innings bowled by Shami. When some trolls started posting vile messages on Shami’s Instagram feed after the match, many former Indian cricketers came out in his support.

While it’s heartening to see how everyone came out in Shami’s support, it was later observed that the trolling actually came from social media users in Pakistan which could very well have been fake accounts run by the Pakistani Army, ISI, Al-Qaeda, or even Taliban. Whether it’s the communal remark made by Younis or the case of Kashmiri students or the manufactured outrage against Shami, the existence of a common thread cannot be ignored. That’s precisely why we need to be extra watchful these days.

The writer is an Indian critic and journalist who has been covering art and culture for over 10 years. Views expressed are personal.

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