AFP ran a story on 16th December in which a PCB official said that the players were banned from social networking websites. “Nobody is allowed to discuss cricket on websites like Facebook and Twitter, and since there is a clause in players’ central contracts, they are bound to follow it,” Intikhab Alam said. Maybe the players should stick to appearances on Morning Shows and Cooking Shows.
The story further unfolds and the reason for the latest PCB action – which can only be likened to the paranoia of a parent who has to deal with a hot daughter using her very own personal laptop webcam a lot – is because Zulqarnain Haider, a one-hit wonder and a one-match winner, has announced his retirement via Facebook and threatens to “name and shame on Facebook Pakistani teammates allegedly involved in match-fixing”. Blackmail? Well done.
Intikhab Alam – apparently the locker room spokesperson instead of the Team Manager, or Head Coach, or whatever job Ejaz Butt has him doing – said players had disowned any Facebook and Twitter accounts. “We have also sought advice from our legal adviser as to how to stop people making fake Facebook and Twitter accounts. We can take them to court if they don’t abstain from this,” Alam said. Intikhab Alam and the PCB should also consider taking Zulqarnain Haider to court over his insane use of the most horrible English language to be employed by any decolonized nitwit.
Intikhab Alam also said the ban is part of the Pakistan Cricket Board’s drive to maintain strict discipline and lift the team out of a series of fixing controversies. Good. Banning people from interacting with the public is surely going to instill transparency and ensure that the cricketers know the entire nation is backing them in their sports endeavours because really, it means a lot to us if they perform well.
The spell-check says endeavors but I’ll stick with my version.
Senior batsman Younus Khan, former captain Shoaib Malik, Umar Akmal, Asad Shafiq, Kamran Akmal and Shoaib Akhtar have Facebook profiles, but only a few use their accounts regularly. Still there was criticism of the ban. “It is a bit harsh on us, because it’s social contact and we can talk to our families on Facebook while on tour,” said one cricketer, who is travelling to New Zealand with the team later this month but did not want to be named. Well, start using Skype. You get better reception, its free, and if you can afford a webcam, you’ll really make the most of “talking to your families” while you’re on a three-week tour out of Pakistan. Better yet, get a Gmail account.
Players from England and Australia regularly use Twitter to vent their feelings. Players from England and Australia also get to crib about how their players’ feats come to naught because their opponents cheat by fixing matches. One side wants money, the other wants glory. What can we say?
Also, England players were banned from using Facebook and Twitter by the ECB after the players were suspected of spreading ‘hate messages’ about the Board to their fans and followers. How did the English players respond to the ban? Non-compliance. Because the sport is run by the players, not by the managers and the administrations. The flowery use of English shows that our players are woefully – or conveniently – uneducated to be aware of this basic ‘rule of the game’. By flowery, I am referring to Saeed Ajmal’s interviews to English sportscasters, a clip of which is enclosed for your viewing pleasure here:
“Surprisingly”, the AP article says, Pakistan’s popular all-rounder Shahid Afridi is not on Facebook and neither have his fans created a community page in his name. Oh yeah? Well I managed to find what looks like his wedding picture online. So may be is hiding… somewhere… online… deep cover in the Pakhtun pages. Or… “Maybe Afridi has privacy on his Facebook page. The only way you can judge whether players’ pages are genuine or fake is through their mutual friends,” said IT expert Imran Fida. Good. An IT expert who is also a perv. Didn’t know Pakistan had those too.
Sorry Mr. Fida. I am sure you are a good expert. Please do not hack my computer. This is all in good fun.
In May, Pakistan briefly blocked access to Facebook after an anonymous user called on people to draw the Prophet Mohammed to promote “freedom of expression”, sparking angry protests in the conservative Muslim country. Ahh politics and religion! They mix together so well for Pakistan. Just like a cup of chai during soota break.
On to a serious note, Facebook and Twitter do represent modern ways of communication between individuals; whether they are celebrities or public officials or not, that is a separate deduction made on the roles of human beings in societies. Many actors, actresses, politicians, journalists, and even sportsmen, have Facebook and Twitter accounts. One reason – as is noted – is to accumulate and pander to a fan base, a targeted audience that chooses to be part of a group or follow an account. Celebrities use social media to personally interact with their fans and followers, a sort-of private engagement that fans even a decade ago would never believe possible. Another reason is to communicate to this large audience, in an age where mass communication is only aided by these tools. Again, personal communication between two individuals, or between an individual and a group, is made surprisingly easy with Facebook and Twitter – human beings and their social skills have in fact been evolving to suit the Facebook and Twitter program designs, not vice versa! The need to “be online” means you really can’t be an anonymous surfer anymore, and that you need to have an online identity that is dynamic and that reflects your likes and dislikes. (I for one am most aware of how the “Like” feature on Facebook reflects one’s identity – and impinges on others’ privacies).
But when Wikileaks really dismantles any notion of secrecy between state and subject, and when freedom of information because a right so powerful that it can tackle any attempt to separate a human being from his privacy, is banning someone’s Facebook account or Twitter feed really going to help? Is it better to let the truth get out, or to stifle it till it gets out in a way you never wanted it to? Or you could state once and for all that these players are nothing without the PCB; that their celebrity status is wholly and solely because of the PCB recognizing the player’s talent and allowing him the opportunity to play for the national side, and in pursuit of which, the player is no longer a private citizen, but a contractual soldier of the national ideology.
Obviously, public officials and bureaucrats have contracts which stipulate if and when they are supposed to interact with the public in what capacity, and strictly discuss what matter. Need to know basis, they call it. One needs to understand that it’ll be really difficult for someone to maintain a public profile if one is bound by such clauses and terms. But privacy settings on Facebook, and Twitter to a lesser extent, do allow the user of the account to filter messages and make lists in terms of what audience can see what message – or as Facebook goes, who sees what part of your life. Yes. Facebook has redefined human social relationships, and Mark Zuckerberg is TIME’s Man of the Year.
Sometimes the question arises when fake accounts of these public figures are concerned. Intikhab Alam also alleges that fans have set up fake accounts, and the PCB legal team is trying to figure out if these people can be taken to court if they do not desist from usurping the players’ identities online. Just goes to show that the cricket players – who are celebrities for both netizen Pakistanis and the average anpar jaahil gawaar out on the street – should have verified accounts and identities online; the PCB mandarins can regulate THAT to know EXACTLY who the players know, and what the players’ fans are talking about. Marketing intelligence anyone? Anyone…?
Anyway, the point remains that if these people were on Facebook or Twitter before they joined the national cricket team, the problem starts thereon; how does one decide whether to continue Facebooking and/or Tweeting, or not? No matter what the privacy setting, there is surely some disclosure – some thing you eventually say – that could get you into trouble. So has social media really gotten us to the point where we need to be truthful to ourselves and the people who know us and interact with us? Because even if we could put up a facade, a really short while later it would come crashing on everyone because the world really is a small place and everyone and everything is just… a few clicks away? Nothing really remains hidden, and nothing ever goes away. If its not the gradual change for the future, its the history and the social media experience that urges a person to come back. I heard somewhere that even if you delete your pictures off Facebook, the images once uploaded become Facebook’s property and they can use it in ads or whatever way they want. Hmph.
A good friend and fellow Aitchisonian Haider Ali Khan adds: probably not a bad move. I remember when Woolmer was with SA, he had prohibited them from seeing wives, girlfriends during training and certain matches. Now if we could only do the same for womanising, partying and match-fixing scandals…..
Of course! Show them the good life, make them aspire to be good sportsmen, good role models, people with fame, and then put the celebrity life right under their noses with a huge sign that says “no touchy touchy”. I mean, cricketers should be trained to have manners, to display etiquette, to represent your Godforsaken country once in a while Goddamit! Womanising and partying are not honorable pursuits but they can be handled in a gentlemanly and suave way. What happened to style? What happened to girls falling hither and tither over a glimpse of Imran Khan and his boyish charms? Do these boys aspire to be good sportsmen? Or role models? Or national heroes? Or do they – like 50 Cent – just want to get rich or die trying (like everyone else in Pakistan who isn’t rich and can die easily)?
Prohibiting match-fixing scandals is already the rule, methinks. But yes, some kind of discipline is necessary. Without discipline, training and education and ‘following the rules’ becomes impossible. Yes. I said it. Regimentalization. For the poor chaps who just have to bat and bowl and catch and throw. Having said that, denying copulation and intercourse to sportsmen during fixtures – even to married sportsmen – is a medical question for physiotherapists, but it does sound a tad bit mullah-tronic. How does celibacy help you physically perform better? Does it? I would only expect it to make our cricketers more thurki; that they would be ogling the honeys in the audience stands instead of keeping their eye on the ball.
Anywho, the PCB have failed as an institution managing a sport. But in real life, we know that it is sports – the dynamics, the following, the twists and turns – that manage institutions, federations, clubs, cups and championships. The PCB needs to shed its neolithic image and bureaucratic baggage to actually utilize modern technologies and social media to its – and the nation’s – advantage. Fans can be rallied, events can be publicized, new phenomena can be encourages and prohibited, communication as well as management can be carried out, international synergies can be developed, maintained and expanded; the options are limitless. Pakistan Cricket is recently initiating a club scene, although everybody knows that its not going to be nearly as spectacular or as well-publicized (or staffed by cheerleading squads) as the IPL (or was it ICL?). But the important part is whether the cities and the localities know about the club matches, and whether they actually empathize with the wins and the losses.
I, for one, honestly think that Imran Khan can manage the PCB better than he IS currently handling the PTI. If he can, or if he wants to, I think its totally worth a chance. We need some good sport, some good game from the boys, and even if there are losses, we need to really believe that the boys gave it their best, and that winning and losing – not spot fixing – is part of the game.
I guess it really helps us – in our heads at least – when our sports team perform better.
Because when we win, we win as a nation, and forget all our divisions for the basic national identity that unites us for one triumphal moment. And also, when we lose, we lose not only as a team, but as a nation; so while some of us can be sore losers and burn effigies and slap donkeys, we feel the loss and depression engulf us as a nation. But with every loss and every accusation, the hope of winning together next time fades away a little. We get more depressed, we shed a tear or something, but there’s always the chance of better luck next time, of the next cup and the next fixture.
The PCB should take the first step in finishing the acrimonious relationship that has existed for far too long between management and players. While our players are underpaid and overworked, undertrained and overburdened, underappreciated and overridiculed, it is only teamwork, planning and motivation that is lacking in this otherwise trained and well-rounded team of individuals that perhaps represent one of the best cross-sections of Pakistani society that can be found today. I can’t mention a political party or a TV channel that could fit the same category. Nope.
Maybe the Hockey Team and the Women’s Cricket Team…?