Thursday, October 6, 2016

Dream of Pakistan's Cap (Part 5)

Ahmedis in Pakistan

When Haye was growing up, he played cricket on a ground near Rabwah's main mosque. His parents couldn't afford to send him to study in Lahore, so he went to the local Taleem-ul-Islam College. During his secondary education, he moulded himself into a fast bowler. Cricket wasn't the town's dominant sport in the '60s and '70s - Rabwah's boys were big on rowing and basketball. Haye joined Fazl-e-Umar, which he recalls was formed in either 1969 or 1970 and was then registered under the Faisalabad division.

"There were about 20 to 30 of us," Haye remembered. He still has a pile of clippings about his short-lived career, culled from newspapers of the day - the Muslim and the Pakistan Times. In 1972, Haye was the only boy selected from Rabwah for Sargodha division's Under-19 team. He was recruited by the Pakistan Army to play for its myriad department teams. "During my time, the 501 Workshop [part of the army's engineering branch] won the inter-army championship for the first time in its history," Haye said. It was a feat he helped pull off by convincing the team management to let him bring in a couple of players from Rabwah - his brother and brother-in-law - and another from Islamabad. "I can't win with the players you've got," he told them.

Then Haye heard from Pakistan Television, who were not a first-class side at the time but in the grade below. They wanted to sign him up. Haye had a club match that day but he was in a car accident on the way to the game. That put him out of commission for a couple of months, effectively signalling the beginning of the end of his cricketing career. Meanwhile, jobs for Ahmadis were drying up. Haye's brother, his former coach and team-mates had already left for the West. He stayed back in Rabwah to take care of his parents, particularly his mother, who was bedridden. He opened a couple of businesses, including "Cassette House" - which now sells CDs but hasn't changed its signage - and a sporting goods shop.

By the early 2000s Fazl-e-Umar was floundering. Its star players were long gone, and there was no place to practise. Haye stepped in, registered the club with the PCB, and tried to whip the team into shape. Instead of finding conventional financial supporters, he roped in former team-mates, now comfortably ensconced in places like Germany. "I've made them into sponsors," he explained. "I said, 'Look, if you send €100 [approximately U$114], then we can do net practice for a month.' If I need to do nets, I need 14 bowlers, and 14 balls cost Rs 4000 [$38]. And if you don't change the ball after four or five days, the boys don't play." Despite issues with his back, Haye still bowls 40 to 50 balls a day in the nets.

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