Wounded Tiger: A history of Cricket in Pakistan by Peter Oborne, book review - Reviews - Books - The Independent

Simon & Schuster, £25. Order at the discounted price of £20 inc. p&p from the Independent Bookshop

Wounded Tiger: A history of Cricket in Pakistan by Peter Oborne, book review

Pakistan's passions have often played out through their love of the gentleman's game, as a penetrating sports history reveals

The Palestinian literary theorist Edward Said noted that western writers are able to come to terms with the east only through stereotypes. Thus was it the fate of Pakistani cricket to be defined by negative images, and its cricketers to emerge as caricatures.

Despite their records as players and leaders, Javed Miandad was portrayed as a hooligan, and AH Kardar, their first captain, as a fanatic. The country's cricket and its players are far richer and more varied than this pigeon-holing would suggest. And, ironically, it has taken a western writer to restore the balance.

The paucity of imagination when dealing with these fine cricketers contrasts sharply with the imagination that formed them. Imran Khan once told me "We don't come through the system because we don't have a system." The stories of greenhorns catapulted into international cricket are not matched anywhere else. There is a system, it is just that the rest of the world does not understand it. Even today, the terms associated with Pakistan include "ball tampering", "match fixing", "dodgy umpiring" and Ian Botham's recommendation for a mother-in-law's holiday. Seldom is all this countered by the cricketers' remarkable technical inventiveness and sheer joy of playing.

In Wounded Tiger, a variation on Imran's rallying call before the 1992 World Cup which Pakistan won ("We should go out there and fight like cornered tigers"), Peter Oborne brings to the task the sensitivity he displayed in his book on Basil D'Oliveira. This is the most complete, best researched, roses-and-thorns history of cricket in Pakistan. The author places the cricket in its cultural and political context, detailing the series played, the personalities who shone (or didn't), and the decisions that mattered.

"Cricket", he says, "came to fill the same role in Pakistan society as football does in Brazil. It represented, in an untrammelled way, the national personality. A new generation emerged (in the 1970s) which played the game with a compelling and instinctive genius. Many of these new players came from poor backgrounds, and some from remote areas….they imposed their own personalities, with the result that cricket went through a period of inventiveness and brilliance comparable to the so-called Golden Age before World War One."

Both reverse swing and the "doosra" are Pakistani inventions. That it was the medium pacer Sarfraz Nawaz who developed the former is well established, and so is that Saqlain Mushtaq was the father of the latter. Oborne shakes that latter certainty, however, suggesting it may have been a left arm spinner, Prince Aslam, who first bowled the doosra in the 1950s. Keith Miller thought Aslam was the best bowler of his type in Pakistan, but he fell foul of Kardar, the martinet.

Kardar was, in some senses, the creator of Pakistan cricket, the captain who led the team to a win in England on their first tour in 1954. A generation later came Imran in his role as preserver and inspiration to another set of imaginative fast bowlers and spinners, the Wasim Akrams, the Waqar Younuses and Abdul Qadirs. The destroyer, to complete the analogy, is probably the politician who has ensured that this talented side gets no international game at home. This is, as Oborne puts it, Pakistan's age of isolation following the terrorist attack on Sri Lanka's team bus in 2009.

Oxonian Kardar took great pride in dressing like an English gentleman, but as he became more confident, "he acquired a post-colonial sensibility." The English way of running the game no longer appealed. This conversion had consequences for Pakistani cricket, which began to focus inwardly. It learnt to run before it could walk – playing Test cricket before there was a domestic structure in place. Kardar's conversion might also have been helped by the English treatment of Idris Baig, a Test umpire kidnapped by England skipper Donald Carr and some teammates and given the "water treatment" in a room on a tour of Pakistan (he was made to sit and two buckets of water were thrown at him).

The details of that unsavoury incident, which might have got a team banned today, are here for the first time. Baig made some bad decisions, and the English had a problem with his personality, but this was ridiculous. "Carr's team," says Oborne, "like many England sides to follow, was locked into too narrow a set of social and moral parameters to be able to fully respond to Pakistan." At the end of it all, it is Baig who emerges with dignity; when he met Carr many years later he greeted him with a warm hug.

The story of Pakistani cricket calls for vivid colours and bold brush strokes. Record-keeping is not one of the strengths in a country where a player like Alimuddin is seen to have played first class cricket at the age of 12. Any writer must necessarily take in the oral history and the legends that grow with every telling if he is to present a full picture. Oborne focuses on the historical, but does not ignore the anecdotal. The footnotes provide excellent reading, especially the one on Pakistan President Iskandar Mirza, who "fled penniless to Britain, where he is said to have lived in a small west London flat and worked as an accountant at Veerasami, the Indian restaurant in Piccadilly."

What makes Pakistani cricket tick? Many of their teams have taken to the field with no player on talking terms with any other. Miandad and Imran were at loggerheads when they batted together to ensure their World Cup win in Australia, 1992. Once two different sets of players turned up for a Test match at home. Yet it has all somehow worked out. Oborne tells us how.

Suresh Menon is editor of the 'Wisden India Almanack'

Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Time and time again: the popular daytime quiz has been a fixture on Channel 4 since 1982

TV
Arts and Entertainment

To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthday

books
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams is reportedly competing with Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss for a major role in True Detective

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sam Smith returned to the top spot with his album 'In The Lonely Hour'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Backshall is set to dance with Ola Jordan on Strictly Come Dancing. 'I have a friend who's a dancer and she said to me 'You want Ola because she's a fantastic dancer and she can make anyone look good' meaning 'even you'!' he said.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sting and Paul Simon on stage together at Carnegie Hall in New York

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week