I Wait Eagerly for the Day
Recently I returned to Australia, to the town of Katherine in the Northern Territory, deep in the Australian outback. Being a Pakistani and Australian TCK, I have fond memories of Australia. It was where I completed my secondary and tertiary education, forming lifelong friends and memories. My friendships and memories, however, were mainly urban, with minimal exposure to the rural community, and even fewer encounters with the indigenous community. This was my opportunity to dive into a different culture within Australia, one just as rich but highly misunderstood.
Katherine has a large quantum of resident Aboriginals; indigenous owners of the land, which very recent studies have shown have inhabited this soil for 65,000 years. Many of them live on their indigenous lands (land handed back to them by the Australian government) in closed communities, and commute to Katherine for work or pleasure. Fridays are the latter, with a local Katherine bar, the Mahogany’s, being host to where they come to belt out country songs of yesteryear. Who could say no to that?
The atmosphere was lively, with the small town of Katherine (12,000 people) having a large swathe of its indigenous community present to catch up with mates, chat about the Australian dry season to date, and ask about how their respective communities were preparing.
During one of the karaoke interludes, I was tapped on the shoulder, firmly but warmly. “Mate, how are you doin’?” It was a tall indigenous man, with light green eyes and a captivating smile.
“Where are you from?” he asked.
“Pakistan,” I answered. I chose not to divulge my partly Australian background, just to see how he would react.
His eyes lit up further. “My favorite batsmen is Sachin Tendulkar—the little master”. This guy even knew Sachin’s nickname, so he was clearly the real deal. I went on to ask him about cricket in the Northern Territory, and more so, the indigenous community.
“Mate, us indigenous folk love our cricket. We have so much talent. Great batsmen, bowlers, fielders, you name it; we have it. But the Australian team just won’t pick us”.
I went on to ask him why that was the case. He told me there was a range of issues, both moral and institutional. He felt the Australian cricket community didn’t see indigenous Australians as worth the investment, and therefore wouldn’t invest in youth academies, coaches, or provide financial support to indigenous players to hone their skills in domestic leagues in the major cities.
This sounded oddly like my view of Pakistan; talent in abundance but lacking moral fibre and institutional writ. We exchanged stories about our respective worlds. I told him that Pakistan, just like Australia, was a British colony, and even though the colonizers had left, I felt the colonial hangover they left was such that these moral and institutional issues remained rife, and opportunistic behavior was used to stack the cards against the average young cricketer trying to move up the ranks. Growing up in Australia had made me reflect somberly on how effectively Pakistani cricketing talent could have been harnessed if they had the institutions and infrastructure which Australia offered. Then again, maybe they wouldn’t have been so unpredictable and fun to watch.
He went on to tell me that the first Australian team to tour England was in fact an indigenous team, back in 1868, years before the first White Australian cricket team went abroad. The history books, however, seemed to have conveniently omitted this watershed achievement. I saw this common trend of selective history being played out in Pakistan as well. I traded selective history blows with him that the inventor of reverse swing (Sarfaraz Nawaz) and the ‘doosra’ bowl (Saqlain Mushtaq) were Pakistani, but you didn’t hear these people being championed as loudly. Growing up, I always wondered why my Australian friends would always ‘umm’ and ‘aww’ when they heard these names—was it because they just happened to not know, or because they chose actively not to?
Amongst the negative backdrop, however, there was an overwhelming sense of positivity to this guy. “Whatever happens though, us indigenous boys can’t be kept down. We play our cricket, and we love it”.
I responded with my own piece of positivity: “The recent Champions Trophy that was held in England; do you know who won that? That’s right. Pakistan. Ranked bottom out of all the teams taking part, we put on a spectacle of talent and class. That’s why we’re nicknamed the ‘cornered tigers’. You can’t keep us down. I’m sure it’s the same for the indigenous talent in this country as well”.
He smiled back at me strongly and told me “one day, an indigenous man will captain the Australian cricket team and come tour Pakistan”.
A match where both my countries take to the field, showing the talent and diversity they innately have? I wait eagerly for the day.
We apologize for the delay in publishing our Wednesday article. We hope granting you a raw sneak preview of next month's edition will make up for our tardiness! Read Danish's "Ikigai. A TCK guide" here before the rest of the editorial team have had a chance to review it!
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