Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Dream of Pakistan's Cap (Part 9)

Ahmedis in Pakistan

The revelation hangs in the air. It is difficult to comprehend. Pakistan's first ball in a World Cup was bowled by an Ahmadi.Pakistan's first ball in a World Cup was bowled by an Ahmadi.

Malik bowled that ball nine months to the day after his country's parliament had passed a law constitutionally excommunicating him and his community. In the months that preceded that day and the ones that followed it, Ahmadis were dubbed traitors and heretics. Malik did well, taking 2 for 37 and ending the World Cup with five wickets. He was, in fact, Pakistan's joint-leading wicket-taker for the tournament, alongside Imran Khan and Sarfraz Nawaz. He never played for Pakistan again. Haye believes Malik was selected for the World Cup because the impact of the 1974 decision was yet to set in, and because the team needed him.

According to Khadim Baloch's Encyclopaedia of Pakistan Cricket, Malik suffered an ankle injury that kept him out of cricket for much of the following season. When he returned he did well, and as part of ZA Bhutto XI against New Zealand, in October 1976, he was on the fringes of national selection again. He did not make it, though perhaps a lack of motivation had something to do with it. In an interview with the Cricketer (Pakistan) in December 1975, Malik said he did not consider himself "a professional cricketer". Cricket was a hobby, he said, and he was proud he had got a job at NBP on his educational merit (as an engineer) and not through a sporting quota. Eventually he retired from first-class cricket in 1982, returning in the mid-'90s as a match referee. He supervised a fast bowling camp organised by Sarfraz in 1999. On August 1 that same year, he died of a heart attack. He was buried in Rabwah.

What was he thinking that day in June when he made his Pakistan debut? Would he have thought about his journey, from his birth in Lyallpur (now Faisalabad) to captaining his college team, to this moment at Headingley? Did he know he was making history in more ways than one? Did he know that Ahmadi boys would never dream of what he had achieved? Did he imagine a world where his team-mate that day, Imran Khan, would shun the idea of even hiring an Ahmadi or asking Ahmadis for their votes? Did he know that 41 years after he made history, Ahmadi boys would be told to "join the circle of Islam", and that their team-mates would refuse water if they drank it first?

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