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An Open letter to Rawalpindi Express

Shoaib Akhtar must realise that sportspersons are world citizens. They transcend the boundaries of their nations. That is why the likes of Mohammad Ali, Pele, Roger Federer, Dhyan Chand, et al, are loved by fans across the globe.

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Former Pakistan cricketer Shoaib Akhtar.

Dear Shoaib,

 I am aghast after listening to the recent statements you made in the media. I do not feel this is the Shoaib Akhtar I know. You have suddenly changed gears. We have known you as a happy-go-lucky guy, but now you are talking like a hawk and a merchant of death.

You have been quite vocal about issues in Pakistan — both on cricketing and non-cricketing terms. You recently said that you want the Pakistan Army Chief to sit with you and make decisions. You also claimed with pride that you would make sure that the budget of the Pakistani Army is raised.

 I remember you said, “If Allah ever gives me the authority, I will eat grass myself but I will increase the budget of the Army.” You also said that if the budget is 20 percent, you would make sure to raise it to 60.

Like millions of Indian cricket fans, I too enjoyed your salad days as an express fast bowler. When you were called as Rawalpindi Express, I felt good as I too have Rawalpindi links. My forefathers had migrated to the garrison city in the year 1895 from Uttar Pradesh. They had gelled with a new culture like fish to water. They had established Mohalla Purbiya too near Raja Bazar. I can speak Pothwari Punjabi like you even though I was born and raised in Delhi. We even met briefly at a party hosted by Rajeev Shukla in Delhi when the first IPL was on.

You spoke about the Kargil war and told that you have left many lucrative contracts with county sides to be available for military service. You said that you were “ready to die” for your country when the Kargil war broke in 1999.

After more than 20 years of the Kargil war, you are proudly declaring you are ready to fight for your county. You should be proud of your country. I am also proud of India. Fair enough. But don’t romanticise war. Perhaps you do not know the destruction war brings. Give peace its due. After less than one decade of Kargil, you came to India to play in IPL for big money. You played for Kolkata Knight Riders and you came to India numerous times for cricket commentary as well as TV endorsements. We never understood the difference between ourselves and strangers. Even in one of our news channels, you used to come as an expert. The cricket-loving public of India honoured you like their own.

On one hand, you talk about the resumption of cricket matches between India and Pakistan. You also said that this will help both cricket boards to earn a substantial amount, which will be spent on the cricket infrastructure of both countries. But now I know that Kapil Dev had rightly told you that your cricket board may need money in Pakistan but we do not. Everything from our cricket grassroots level to team India is running top class.

 Shoaib, you should remember sportspersons are world citizens. They transcend the boundaries of nations. That is why the likes of Mohammad Ali, Pele, Roger Federer, Dhyan Chand, Usain Bolt are adored and loved by their fans across the globe. Alas, you lost an opportunity to be a sportsperson.

You should leave acrimonious and hawkish talks to political leaders. They are the same across the border, exceptions are always there.

Good wishes!

The writer has an experience of more than three decades in journalism and has contributed in different leading journals.

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