Shahid Afridi, you know, isn’t one for subtlety, while playing cricket or operating off the field.
I remember how, among a roomful of people during an internet chat session, he flirted with embarrassing candour with the prettiest girl in the room. That, we thought, was harmless, and even mildly amusing, because he had about 20 people around him. The presence of spectators took the sting out of it.
But it seems Afridi, after nearly 14 years in international cricket though just shy of 30 years, isn’t above committing indiscretions before thousands of spectators either, right in the middle of a cricket field, with 25 cameras on him, showing his images to millions around the world on a Sunday evening.
It was surely the daftest, most comical thing ever done on a cricket field – and probably the second most infamous bite in the history of sport after Mike Tyson’s attack on Evander Holyfield in 1997. Biting the cricket ball – a commendable feat from a dental standpoint, it must be admitted – isn’t the done thing, and Afridi knows it well. His team-mates, after all, have been under the greatest scrutiny over the years due to allegations that they tamper with the ball to help their remarkable swing bowlers.
Afridi, when he bit the ball during the One-day match against Australia, thus did his team great disservice. The question will be asked now: If the captain can actually go to the length of biting a cricket ball to make it swing more, what may the team do if they get an opportunity to do it surreptitiously? He also let down all those who had supported Pakistan in the aftermath of the Oval Test of 2006, which Pakistan forfeited after being accused of ball-tampering.
Pakistan, when Afridi tried to bite the “white cherry”, had a chance to win the game and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, an accurate swing bowler, was to bowl; Afridi tried to do his bit in the most stupid manner imaginable.
Daft though this action is, it can’t be condoned because of that reason – that it was so incredibly stupid. Stupidity can’t justify crime.
Caught in the act, Afridi’s first instinct was, of course, to lie – apparently, he said “I was just trying to smell it, [to see] how it is feeling”.
Later, after he’d had the time to look at the video of the incident, he confessed and apologised.
Interestingly, he also said that all teams in the world do it. "There is no team in the world that doesn't tamper with the ball,” he said. “My methods were wrong. I am embarrassed, I shouldn't have done it.”
Afridi, clearly, believes that ball-tampering, because it’s so widespread, is all right; and that his only offence was being caught, and that’s the only reason he’s embarrassed.
If he’s telling the truth, the International Cricket Council might want to investigate this offence and become more vigilant – though that may not be necessary for comically ostentatious offenders like Afridi.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
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