Speaking in English may not be Pakistan cricket players’ fundamental job, but it should be a part of their job

Published: June 16, 2017
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In a world where there are numerous issues to be addressed, we get carried away by unnecessary matters a little too often. This is evident through the recent case of Sarfraz Ahmed’s off-the-record comments on the absence of Urdu reporters in a post-match press conference. Ahmed made these comments after Pakistan defeated Sri Lanka in a nail-biting match due to heroic efforts by the captain himself.

Even in his wildest dreams, Ahmed could not have imagined being mocked over something so insignificant, let alone becoming a trolling trend on social media. Most of our Pakistani cricketers do not have a strong grip on the English language and being able to speak in English is by no means a measure of one’s intellect. It is about time people realise that these players’ fundamental job is to play cricket, not to speak fluent English.

Ridiculing our players over their English-speaking abilities is not acceptable because English is not our mother tongue. But putting English aside, one can question whether our players’ ability to communicate in Urdu is good enough?

The truth is that even when some of our players are spoken to in Urdu, they do not have appropriate answers and usually end up becoming a part of unnecessary controversies due to their statements.

However, let’s understand that cricket is still a game which is played by nations which once were under colonial rule or a part of the Commonwealth, so its association with the English language is natural, contrary to other sports.

As a matter of principle, if a player is not able to communicate in English, no one has the right to mock him. On the contrary, I also do not subscribe to the views that these players are just meant for playing cricket.

All said and done, I personally believe these cricketers are the ambassadors of their respective countries and have to communicate with the international media, answer their tricky and at times pinching questions, in a language understood by most.

We actually become complacent when we subscribe to the views that these players are not supposed to know how to speak in English. It may not be their fundamental job, but it should at least be considered a part of their job.

Yes, many may not readily agree with this idea, but cricketers cannot be blamed for this because most of them hail from humble backgrounds and do not have educational opportunities. That’s where we should question our educational system and the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).

Why is it that our education system isn’t able to produce enough individuals who are skilled at sports and have enough education and finesse to communicate on international platforms as well?

Most of the international cricketers are not necessarily graduates, because this sport demands copious amounts of time and energy. Unfortunately, numerous cricketers from the subcontinent have to give up their education after Matriculation or grade 12, but how is that we see so many Indian cricketers being able to communicate effectively in English?

PCB is equally responsible for not grooming our players and providing them with crash courses during their off-seasons so that they may learn the aforementioned skills. PCB has enough money to throw on the board of governing members, however, when it comes to grooming our players, it acts extremely miserly.

So if we accept the idea that these players are not necessarily required to speak in English, we are letting many people off the hook, especially PCB and our education system.

The story does not end here.

We already have only a few cricketing resources that represent Pakistan on international fronts such as Rameez RajaWasim Akram and Waqar Younis. Former Indian cricketers easily outweigh us in this department and it is our lack of English-speaking skills which has led to our absence from the International Cricket Council (ICC) forum. The ICC is also primarily responsible for tweaking various cricketing rules, and resultantly our players tend to miss out. Only a handful of our big names have made it to superior platforms after their departure from the cricketing field. Unfortunately, we as a nation have not yet realised the significance of having our voices heard on international fronts.

A presser from Virat Kohli will help substantiate my point.

Interaction and communication between players helps them learn new skills, strategies, and gain mental composure. For years, various international stars have benefited from other team players by imparting their valuable experience, so if we become complacent in our approach of not learning this language, our players will be reluctant in communicating with cricketers from other countries.

We need to revisit our understanding and pressurise PCB to draft an effective policy on this matter and implement it, otherwise the mocking will continue to surface time and again. Keep in mind that this mocking was not about Ahmed, it was actually directed towards Pakistan. The sooner we learn, the better it will be for us in the long run.

Muneeb Imran

Muneeb Imran

The writer is an Avid cricket follower and nerd of the game who lives in Saudi Arabia and follows Pakistan cricket whereever it goes.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Indian Guy

    This is hypocracy at its best. We don’t mind using the things given to us by the white man like mobile phones, laptops, TV, cars, bikes, airplanes etc or even playing the game invented by them but when it comes to speaking their language it suddenly becomes a humongous fuss. Moreover (and unfortunately) the quality of education in South Asia is determined by the English speaking skills of a person. The more fluent he/she is in English the better the quality of his education is perceived to be (which is not entirely wrong to be honest). Learning a new language and adopting their annoying customs are two completely different scenarios and should not be confused any other way. That is all.Recommend

  • israr

    Muneeb Imran CHILL … I see u faaar faaar away from sports … in Europe most players do not speak more than one language however they understand the game and they loov it, Pakistan is a fabulous cricketing nation and most of our ppl DO NOT understand English, there are translators everywhere in the world if u need one, common wealth or not its absolutely fine infact I like those players who cannot understand English… I know anwar ali for example played in UK for about 3 years club level he never needed to speak English … so what’s up with ur slavery attitude dude, the English he speaks is good enough for others to understand and if they do not please get the translators … wasim, saqi, waqar, mushi they all DO NOT SPEAK correct English but their English is good enough to get them managerial jobs anywhere in cricket and they have … so just … u know what I think u were sitting alone had nothing to do so u threw ur filth on tribune who accepted it …Recommend

  • Waqas Hassan

    It is not such a big thing. English is not a requirement for playing cricket. I suggest they should be assisted by official translators at such events. English is just a formality not a requirement. I disagree with the author’s stance.

    Crash courses and all that can come later. They can be offered to A category players, Those whose performances have been extraordinary can then focus on building their international personas. Until then, prove their performance and let the translators be the face of playersRecommend

  • Hammad

    Sorry don’t agree with you. We need to strengthen our identity and our language. ICC should have a translator. The cricketer job is to improve his cricket skill not English skill. Stop being self conscious. Get out of this inferiority complex slave mindset. Even if our captain knows English he should proudly answer in Urdu cause that’s the language​ majority of Pakistani speakRecommend

  • Mohammed Atchha

    We must thank Hamza Ali Abbasi for bringing this issue out in open. It does not take much from PCB coffers to make our lads fluent in spoken English . Is it Greek or Latin to our PCB (or Sanskrit ) ! .All it takes is a few months of coaching by professional tutors. Must hammer this down on board officials heads.I suspect other boards are doing the same as none of them look like they have graduated from IIM , IIT or whateverII !Recommend

  • Milind A

    “and being able to speak in English is by no means a measure of one’s intellect”

    Agreed. The bright side is any Pakistani cricketer’s “intellect” is not exposedRecommend

  • Khan

    ET stop posting each and everything you get.Recommend

  • Red

    When i started reading this article i did not agree with the title or the author. However some good points were made..The PCB should train cricketers in some English language courses because this will help out the cricketer himself. After retirement they will have opportunities to still stay employed within the game like Wasim Akram & Waqar Younis.
    It is definitely not their job to speak in English,most super star athletes don’t. However since this will help our players with their careers it is something we should consider.Recommend

  • ABKhan

    @Indian guy

    You Indians didnt even mind to clean the ears of “goora saab” (white man) during British rule, please read your history. So plz do not compare Pakistanis with mentally slave IndiansRecommend

  • Jahanzeb

    Muneeb , Cricket is not a part of your job , but it should be.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Your argument is flawed and your priorities are wrong …… why should the sportsman be forced to speak in a language that is alien to him / her ? You claim the cricketer is an ambassador for the country….if so then it is more so incumbent on him to speak in his his own countries language and let a translator translate into English.Recommend

  • Jahanzeb

    Dear Muneeb. Thanks for letting cricket team know they speak.nned to too English. They English not good
    Very bad. If they speak good english they win matches. You should give them tuition . They can learn all the boys. Very good
    Recommend

  • Parvez

    WHY….WHY should they be fluent in English ? Their job is to play cricket and as sportsmen they represent Pakistan and if they speak in Urdu on a public forum they should be respected. The problem seems not to lie with the sportsman but with with people like us with misplaced values.Recommend

  • Bilal

    Honestly speaking I disagree with you. Look even big European soccer players don’t speak English but still maintain their star status due to their PERFORMANCE. If their is an issue with English they should have a translator.Recommend

  • gp65

    Totally correct. Modi speaks to all international media in Hindi, not because he is unable to speak in English (he addressed US Congress in English) – but as a matter of national pride. The content matters, not the language.
    Having said that, there certainly are certain aspects of communication where coaching would not be out of place. When Hassan Ali explains that his celebratory action is akin to a bomb going off, it is strange to say the least. There are other such comments by other cricketers.
    By the way I have become a big fan of the young lad who performed fantastically for his team and got the golden bowl.Recommend

  • gp65

    You are correct. This distorted value system where fluency in English equates to higher status exists in India too unfortunately. This needs to change.
    Where India differs is that regional languages are spoken with pride and nationally too 22 languages are considered official state languages. In Pakistan, Urdu seems to have a higher status than Punjabi, Sindhi, Baloch and Pashto.Recommend