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Hey, quit this Pommie Bashing! 25 November 2006

Posted by TwentyTwoYards in Howzzat!! (aka the 'Honourable Game').

Hmmm seems ’tis the season for England bashing! In reality, some of the bashing is excessively harsh on England – the series is only two days old so a long way to go. In any case, Australia are the better team, playing in conditions well suited to them, so of course they should, and will, win. England are accused of being obsessed by the Ashes, but are they really? Hardly, they had a very good summer against Pakistan when they comfortably won the Tests and drew the ODIs – yes, the Ashes is the most important cricket trophy for them, but they still managed to turn out a very credible Test performance against the Pakistanis!

In any case, England’s Ashes obsession is nothing close to the Australians – in England, Ashes ranks way below other “key sporting events” in the public consciousness, whether it be the Soccer World Cup, the European Championships, the FA Cup, the UEFA Champions League, Royal Ascot, Rugby Union World Cup, Wimbledon, even the Boat Race. Ashes is not even available on normal, terrestrial TV – all of the others I have listed are, and many have blanket wall-to-wall coverage on all times whereas for cricket, even for most important cricket like the Ashes, only some in England can see delayed and very brief highlights whilst the rest can’t even see that without stumping up a fat wad of cash for good ole Uncle Rupert.

Compare this with the Aussies’ Ashes obsession – where that is undoubtedly the most important sporting event in their most important sport – this in a country which is perhaps, per capita, the most successful in the most number of sports, yet is still fixated on a two inch urn. The Ashes has a very special place in their culture, and everyone, from the Prime Minister in Canberra down to the road-sweeper outside the Wolloongabba will be focused on one thing, and one thing only, for the next few weeks, and that will be Pommie bashing – that’s how it was in Douglas Jardine’s days and that is how it still is.  It would be a national calamity there if home Ashes were ever taken off Channel 9 and free-to-air terrestrial TV there and a tragedy of unprecedented proportions if Ricky actually managed to lose the Ashes twice in a row, given the personnel at his disposal. In national surveys, overwhelming majorities of Australians always confirm the Ashes as being the single-most important sporting event for them, in any sport, anywhere. Hence, if anyone is obsessed with the Ashes, its the Aussies – and frankly, why ever not – its a free world!

As for the oft-repeated mantra that England “don’t have bottle” or “are simply no good”, then, I am not so sure. After all, this same England side did beat us Pakistanis fair and square in the summer in the Tests, and to the surprise of many, even managed to draw the ODIs, this despite Pakistan having full use of its fabled and famed first-choice pace attack. Of course, us neutrals can prattle on for hours or even days about how England are woeful or the Aussies are past-it, but probably better to rely on the views of someone who is actually there.

I quote below from two posts by Seamer on WAT – this chap’s an experienced cricket follower. And he was at the Gabba for both of the first two days. He is a Queensland local, and as is the wont for residents of that state, is a staunch Aussie in every way, shape and form. He is also not someone who is averse to a bit of Pommie bashing. The views quoted below thus have added relevance, coming as they do from a strong Aussie supporter:

Post 1

A great two days for an Aussie fan. Glad i was there for them. I am not too keen to make series predictions yet though – i still think the series will be close, though there is little doubt Aus will go 1-0 up at the Gabba.

It was really bad toss for England to lose. A dry hard wicket that is already starting to crack up both down and across the wicket. There is still plenty of runs there, but batting will get progressively harder each hour the test goes on.

Anderson and Harmison failed to put the ball in the right spots and consistantly bowled too short or too full. Flintoff of course was superb and contrary to what others are saying, so was Hoggard. Giles tossed it up and to his credit bowled in a quite attacking fashion but he, Panaser or any other finger spinner was always destined to struggle on the Gabba

Flintoff is tactically inept IMO. So is Ponting too i suppose, so both teams cancel each other out in the captaincy stakes at least.

The hot, humid weather was brutal, but i was surprised at the level of England fitness. They bowled and fielded well for the entire innings. Hoggart’s effort to nail both Ponting and Gilchrist in his 29th over is an example of the tenacity showed by most of the English team (with the exception of Harmison – i would be absolutely ashamed of myself if i was him)

My conclusion is England are definately up for the challenge – England teams from bygone years would have broken but this lot did not. Despite the seemingly one sided state of affairs, England actually looked good from my perspective from the sidelines. Australia can be well pleased of their efforts too and there can be no doubt they are hungry and keen for revenge.

This series might well live up to the hype yet.

Post 2

Yes there are many reasons why the Aussies will be highly motivated. Revenge for sure, all the barbs at there age, and home ground advantage. They will take some beating.

But i am just saying that while on the surface England look like they are playing poorly, they are not. They were generally sharp in the field, and Flintoff, Hoggard and to a lesser degree Giles, bowled really well through the entire innings under very difficult conditions. Jones was awesome behind the stumps too.

I have been watching Gabba test for over a decade and this was the first time in ages that the opposition did’nt get mentally broken. They were bested, but not broken. They have earned my respect after watching them the last two days in any case. Drop Anderson, have Harmison find form and win some tosses and game on IMO.

So all in all, yes, England will probably lose the Ashes this time. But not because they are woeful, but because this is a truly special Australian team, playing together perhaps for the last time, in its own back-yard. These southern hemisphere types generally don’t need any additional motivation, but here, we can add in the sheer humiliation of being the first team to lose the Ashes for 18 odd years – the “Dad’s Army” of Antipodean cricketers would like to set the record straight. Two of them in particular: Warne & McGrath. All-time greats, both of them; would they really even countenance ending their glorious careers by losing to the Poms twice in a row, and this time, in their own back-yard?

Think about it.


Free Speech in Pakistan? You’re serious? 20 November 2006

Posted by TwentyTwoYards in Hypocrisy, Land of the pure...and the not so pure.

Comment gone lengthy… (©: Knicq Enterprises) – in response to Sabizak’s comment on the previous post.

I do agree that many Westerners are of course admirably honest and diligent in their views of Jews and Israel – I have discussed a few of them (eg Finkelstein, Chomsky et al) here previously. However, even these guys are hardly mainstream. The dissenting voices of a few ‘leftwing’ intellectuals (the Ivy League tenured class) may be grudgingly tolerated but are never welcomed. The difficulties encountered by Professor Finkelstein when publishing his books in the US are just one stark reminder of the numerous controls on ‘free speech’. In any case, a few bastions of left-wing or anti-establishment rhetoric do not a country make.

When it comes to the mainstream discourse, even those mild criticisms of Israel are rebuked. The opprobrium and scorn heaped on Mearsheimer and Walt by their peers, by the media and by the wider America society, for stating what most of us outside the US would accept as being a ’statement of the bleedin’ obvious’ is eye-opening. The message is this: whilst its okay for lefties (eg Chomsky) or fascists (eg David Duke) to criticise Zionism, it certainly is not kosher for ‘normal’ folks to do so.

Secondly, I would submit that the reference to Pakistan is somewhat irrelevant here. We (Pakistanis, or Muslims, for that matter) do not claim to be paragons of “free speech” – in fact, our penal code and our society places visible and well-known controls on expression. To berate us for something we never claim to be in the first place seems a trifle harsh – whilst we never claim to be adherents of such dubious notions as ‘free speech’, “they” (ie the Western world as a collective) do! Hence, it is only proper that ‘they’ are held accountable by the standards they themselves proudly cherish and uphold, allegedly.

However, as Pakistan has been mentioned, it would be instructive to explore the issue. Sabizak wrote that in Pakistan, if you “publicly deny the ideology of pakistan”, your fate would not be the envy of many. Is this really borne out by the facts?

Pakistani print and electronic media is replete not only with denials and criticisms of the canard that is the public face of the ideology of Pakistan, but also contain veiled and not so veiled criticisms of many aspects of Islam. Even the recent fiasco that is the so-called “Women’s Protection Bill” was used by many in the ‘liberal intelligentsia’ as a convenient stick to hit Islam and Islamic concepts with, generally in a manner that had little relation to fact or reality. Every evening, loony lefties such as Pervez Hoodbhoy, Mehdi Hasan Rizvi, Samar Mubarak Ali et al fill Pakistani TV screens with semi-demented notions of what Pakistan should be or should not be – and these notions generally do involve robust critiques of Islam and of Pakistan as an Islamic state. Heavens have not fallen and these mouthpieces continue to receive their paychecks from their foreign or local paymasters – doesn’t sound like a particularly repressive environment to me.

I do agree that such criticism and free speech is rare and confined to the Western elite of the country, but that is often the case, even in richer countries. In Pakistan, even mainstream politicos like Iqbal Hiader, Umar Asghar etc openly and blatantly express sentiments that are not only inimical to Islam but often downright blasphemous – that does not seem to impact the vote bank of the political parties these gents caucus with.

Let me clarify – I am not implying that the above is necessarily a good thing or even something to be applauded – my personal view is that it is not – however, the fact that it exists should nonetheless be acknowledged.

Pakistan’s largest selling English language newspaper, The Dawn, is a bastion of ‘left-wing and anti-establishment rhetoric’, and has been for as long as I can remember. The newest decent entrant in the print media market, aka The Daily Times, has made a name for itself with its stridently ‘liberal’ (though not libertarian) and pro-West stances. Najam Sethi, Cowasjee, Dr Lodhi, Irfan Hussain, Khalid Ahmed, Ejaz Haider etc have all made a nice living out of this racket, and there are many more waiting to jump on the gravy train – if criticising Islam and Pakistan wasn’t so lucrative an enterprise, these guys would have been out of business. :-)

So no, being critical of Islam or Pakistan’s ideology in Pakistan is not a one-way ticket to gaol – it is a decision that makes sound commercial sense and is thus the choice made by many of the leading media barons of the country.