Pakistan Cricket Team: From flamboyance to religious discrimination

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Dec 27, 2019, 10.44 PM(IST)

File photo of Danish Kaneria. Photograph:( Zee News Network )

Story highlights

Kaneria was only the second Hindu to play for Pakistan after his maternal uncle Anil Dalpat.

Former Pakistani fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar dropped a bombshell last night by admitting that leg spinner Danish Kaneria was ostracised by a few players, not due to his cricketing skills but because of being a Hindu playing for Pakistan. 

Kaneria had played at a time when Pakistan cricket consciously adopted a religious identity, an identity which had no space for the minority
 
Danish Kaneria who played 61 tests for Pakistan and bagged 261 wickets, fourth on the all-time list behind greats Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and the country's current Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Kaneria was only the second Hindu to play for Pakistan after his maternal uncle Anil Dalpat.

Akhtar's revelations saw Kaneria come forward and detail his 'alleged victimisation'

The reason we say alleged is due to Kaneria's colourful past of being less than honest with the truth.

He is serving a match ban for match-fixing and admitted in 2018 after six years that he had lied through his trial in England.

Kaneria followed a line of great Pakistan leg spinners from Abdul Qadir to Mushtaq Ahmed and remains the most successful spinner in Pakistan test cricket.

Religious persecution within a team is unheard off but the time frame of Akhtar's allegations correspond to a turning point in Pakistan cricket where religious identity came to define the national team.

Pakistan cricketers were always flamboyant, take Imran khan for example.

Imran was not just the man who ran Pakistan cricket, he was a style icon and a playboy who had well-publicised dalliances with some of the most glamorous women on the planet.

The next generation of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and a few more were caught smoking marijuana on a tour of West Indies in the 1990s.

It all started to change under Inzamam ul Haq's captaincy in 2003 and with Javed Miandad as head coach.

It became the norm to see the Pakistan team praying in the middle of practice session and every wicket or milestone celebrated with a public display of religiosity.

Contrast this with just a handful of players doing the 'Sajda' after the seminal world cup triumph of 1992.

Keen observers of Pakistan cricket have pointed out former captain Saeed Anwar's influence in this change.

A dashing and stylish opener, Anwar turned to religion after the tragic death of his young daughter in 2001.

Gradually senior players of the time including Inzamam, Saqlain Mushtaq and Mushtaq Mohammed started sporting beards and an unwritten code was established.

It was thought that religion would discipline a team that could enthral and exasperate fans in equal measure.

Yousuf Youhana, long tipped to be a captain in waiting would ultimately convert from Christianity and become Mohammed Yousuf and did captain Pakistan eventually.

That religious phase would get toned down under Misbah ul Haq's captaincy at the beginning of this decade. It is still there but not in your face as it was in the first decade of this century.