Wounded Tiger

Published: 2015
Pages: 592
Author: Oborne, Peter
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Rating: 4.5 stars

He will always be in the category of the brilliant, if unsound, ones’. Percy Fender famously wrote these words to describe a young Don Bradman before his first tour of England.

The words were to prove so far off the mark that Fender, one of the great thinkers of the game, never lived them down. If only Percy was still with us, he could have had his moment of justification if he wrote those infamous words about Pakistan cricket (obviously he would have to change ‘he’ to ‘Pakistan’ and perhaps lose ‘ones’).

Perhaps Fender could include: frustrating and resilient to describe the Pakistan team, but as Oborne so expertly and authoritatively explains they have many excuses for their capriciousness.

We learn from this fine book that Pakistan seemingly lurches from one catastrophe to another. From civil war to government interference, to player revolts, stability is almost unattainable.

This unrelenting drama could have been heavy reading and with another writer it may well have been a slog. Oborne obviates this problem by telling the history through those cricketers at the coal face. Some receive more ‘stage time’ than others, such as A.H. Kardar, Fazal Mahmood, Hanif Mohammad, Javed Miandad and Imran Khan, the first and last named featuring most prominently.

Oborne starts the story from the perspective of Fazal, which exposes the reader to the bloody start of Pakistan through partition. In cricket, we follow Pakistan’s travails for acceptance as a Test nation with the MCC preference for them to continue to play as part of the Indian cricket team.

It seems whether as a nation or as a cricket team, Pakistan has been in constant battle and/or civil war. In cricket it can be between Karachi and Lahore or India. Their clashes with Anglo nations is perhaps the most cringe worthy for the English reader. Beset with mistrust, misunderstandings and on occasion racism, Oborne demonstrates the supercilious attitude to Pakistan of the ‘white nations’ and debunks some of the established theories such as ‘dodgy’ Pakistan umpires.

With the amount of war that the Pakistan nation has been subject to, when added to the interference from the government in cricket it is a shock that they have performed at the highest level. There is however no surprise, due to the outside influences, why they have never dominated world cricket. Oborne delves into all areas of Pakistani cricket and the outside influences but he keeps coming back to the players and this is the real heart of the book.

Two players who encapsulate the Pakistan story, and whose story Oborne explains with clarity and care are Javed and Imran. The former comes through with his reputation enhanced, as a player committed to Pakistan cricket. Imran comes across as self indulgent. Imran, like Kardar, would not play under another captain once he reached the Hegemony role and this forced Javed, he always did it with good grace, to relinquish the captaincy every time the capricious Imran returned to the side.

Most would say this was justified as Imran was clearly the better captain but as Oborne points out, Javed had as many Test wins and did so in less matches.

This is perhaps a pro Pakistan read, although Oborne does not hesitate to criticise when warranted. The following paragraph on cricket fixing an example:

Those involved betrayed the game of cricket, tens of millions of passionate supporters and their country. Either through their actions, or through their reticence, they disgraced their families, and themselves. They have left a permanent and ineradicable stain on Pakistan cricket.”

Every now and again a cricket book becomes the canon for its subject and this is one such publication. It should be read by all cricket fans and is highly recommended. In many ways Wounded Tiger deserves five stars; however a couple of annoying typos, such as Oborne listing Lord Harris* as captain of Yorkshire, costs this book that honour.

*you can imagine his Lordship giving an ‘it’s not cricket’ speech in response to this error.

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