30 July, 2021

Kardar’s Men, Imran’s Boys

This superb history tells the story of Pakistan through its popular sport.

Kardar’s Men, Imran’s Boys

The Pakistani novelist Moham­med Hanif once pointed out that despite the cliches of brotherhood and blood, of rogan josh and mamma’s cooking, it is a mistake to assume that India and Pakistan are inhabited by identical folk. Part of the behaviourial difference arises out of the relative importance placed on ‘izzat’, an amalgamation, as Samiuddin points out here, “of honour, respect and repute”. In Pakistan, he says, “izzat crops up everywhere, like those casual bystanders who emerge at a road accident”.

It is a concept crucial to Pakistan’s cricket and the Pakistani polity itself. This superb history tells the story of a country through its popular sport. There is passion here, knowledge, and a wonderful lightness of touch. The mosaic is stunning both for the big picture and in the detail. The story of Fazal Mahmood and Pakistan’s first Test series against India in the 1950s has within it the delightful anecdote of a young lady wishing him good luck but telling him simultaneously his side couldn’t win. Thus...

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