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Finding Neverland Blog Archive

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Farewell Post


This will be the 1000th post on the blog, something that otherwise would have been a happy post about achievements but sadly, not the case, it will be the last. 

Only I can tell how sad I feel while writing this post but in my heart, I know that this is the right time to move onto better, maybe bigger things. This blog has given me everything that I wanted, it presented me with all the opportunities that I wanted, and more or less, I availed them. 

There is so much that I could still write about, so much that come in my mind that can easily keep this blog going for years, but that's life, maybe it has run its course. 

At the very beginning, it was everything I had or perhaps, it was the only thing I had, but over time it became a place where not only me but others could share their views and use it as a platform for future.

I do not have the capacity to write a lot here so I will start by thanking everyone who joined the Finding Neverland family. It was an incredible ride, and from my heart's bottom, I thank you. I also want to thank everyone who read the posts, shared them over other networks. Lastly, I want to thank all the people who motivated me, suggested me, and in some cases, forced me to write about particular things. 

Sorry to everyone who was offended, let down or hurt in any way by me or any of the post.

It will be an understatement to say that I am leaving with a heavy heart when something is very close to you, it becomes your passion, then forcing yourself against it becomes really tough. 

The journey was worth it, it has taught me so much that perhaps it will be enough for this lifetime. 

Leaving with just one request, remember in kind words please, and implement it, if you learned something while reading anything here. 

Thank you once again from the bottom of my heart for all your love, kindness and support. 

This is a farewell to everyone, from Finding Neverland Blog and me, 

Goodbye, Forever. 😄

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Dream of Pakistan's Cap (Part 12)

Ahmedis in Pakistan

Initially, studies did get in the way. Though Faisal's first breakthrough came in 2004, when he played for Bahawalpur's U-19 team in an inter-district tournament, he soon went back to studying for a master's degree at Rabwah's School of Theology. It was there that Haye spotted him playing in a tournament. When Faisal returned to cricket again, in 2011, he played for Jhang in an inter-district tournament and propelled them to victory in the final against Faisalabad.

"That final [for Jhang]... I had confidence and talent, but I didn't have the practice, because I'd been out of cricket for five years." He made 113 in the first innings, and 67 in the chase in the second. A few months later he was making his first-class debut for Faisalabad, scoring 72 in his first innings against PIA in the Quaid-e-Azam trophy. Four years later came the performances in the T20 Cup that did not bring him much attention.

"It's the kind of performance you only have in your dreams," he says. "God was so kind." He prefaces almost every other sentence with an earnest Alhamdulillah and mash'Allah.

Pakistan did not come calling and neither did any side in the PSL. A franchise official responsible for player picks said Faisal's performances in the T20 Cup had been monitored but gave the impression that he was not an especially fashionable choice: a one-down anchor for a weak regional side, nearly 30. Five, six years ago, maybe, not now. On the day that Faisal realised he wasn't being drafted, Rafay declared he wouldn't let anyone watch a single match of the league in his room, where usually every match is watched on a flat screen TV, in full mahol(atmosphere).

Rafay is Faisal's biggest champion. He helps him train and stick to a low-carb, protein-heavy diet, and once challenged him to race until one of them dropped (it took over two hours for Faisal to beat Rafay). The brothers encourage each other, even as they face the unending spate of disappointing news. "He became emotional when I wasn't named for a [PSL] team," Faisal says. "Our father said that we shouldn't worry. Whatever God has done is for the best.

"I was ready with my bag and was supposed to go the ground when the live announcement [for the PSL] was airing on ARY. I was sitting there thinking, 'My name will appear just now… when I leave, I'll go to the dessert shop, buy boxes of sweets and distribute it to everyone in the ground.'"

When his name wasn't announced, Faisal was disappointed. "I felt like putting my bag down and not going. But that would be giving up, and this is a sin. Whatever it is, I have to go. I didn't practise the way I should have. I was trying to get rid of my frustration; I hit every ball in the nets. There was a frustration that anyone would have. But it's not that I've lost the will and become disenchanted. I think that God will do what's best for me.

"And if it isn't meant to be, it won't happen."

Meanwhile, a community waits for someone to break the glass ceiling. Faisal's uncle, Kashif Imran, lives in Rabwah and occasionally plays for Fazl-e-Umar. He wants to see any Ahmadi cricketer break through, not just Faisal. "It'll be a break. It'll erase this indelible stamp that's there right now - that they won't get an Ahmadi to play. If that kind of thinking exists, it'll change that. If just one guy represents, the path can open up."

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Dream of Pakistan's Cap (Part 11)

Ahmedis in Pakistan

But after the tournament, there was silence. Faisal is reluctant to go into further detail or assign blame for his not being picked. Perhaps, he says, it is because he is from Bahawalpur and not a major city like Karachi or Lahore. Haye and the others insist it is because Faisal is Ahmadi. He has not hidden his faith. His family are prominent members of the community in Bahawalpur, and many of his team-mates over the years have found out because he has had to bow out of praying with them.

"Some people do discriminate, but I don't feel it," Faisal says, demonstrating a sense of patience far beyond his years. "When there's a water break, if I drink water first, then I can tell that some people won't drink it then. So there are these small differences that keep cropping up. Anyway, you can guess what's going on. I try to drink water right at the end."

He is not sure whether anyone in the PCB is aware of his faith. When I asked Rasheed whether or not Faisal's faith had played a role in his non-selection, he said: "I can say for myself and for the selectors that we do not think of this. As national selectors we are not representing a particular place. Our thought process has to be 'national' for us to pick a national team."

One problem, as another selector, the former fast bowler Saleem Jaffar, pointed out is that Faisal is not yet part of a big-name department side. He signed on with State Bank of Pakistan (where his father works) just before the T20 Cup, but they are a Grade II side and not yet playing first-class cricket. "The quality is better than that of regional cricket, and the boys play with Test cricketers," Jaffar explained. "If a boy plays well in a region, a department will pick him right away, and that's where he's made."

Cricket is very much part of Faisal's family. As well as Rafay, his oldest brother, Muneeb, played and looked destined to do so professionally. "Our father had given him permission," Faisal says, pausing to sip his tea. But Muneeb's career was cut short, Faisal says, because it was difficult at the time for boys from small-town Bahawalpur to make it into a regional team. Muneeb now lives in Germany. Aqeel Anjum, an older cousin, has also forged an accomplished first-class career as a batsman.

Mubashir Ahmad, the father of the boys, is to be credited for encouraging the three to play cricket. "There are very few parents like ours, who give the kind of support our father has given us," Faisal says. "Parents tell their children to become doctors and engineers. But our father said, 'Fine, study, but if you want to play cricket, do it properly. Make a name for yourself.' People would ask him what his children did, and he'd say, 'They play cricket.'"

Monday, November 14, 2016

Dream of Pakistan's Cap (Part 10)

Ahmedis in Pakistan

In 2013, Faisal bin Mubashir's brother Rafay was waiting for his turn to play in a practice match in Lahore. He had been selected for the Pakistan U-19 side for a tri-series to be played in England that August. Rafay was excited about the future, about the possibility of playing in a game that would be broadcast and watched back in Pakistan by his parents and family. As Rafay waited - the burden of expectations, his own, his family's, weighing on his shoulders - the team physician turned to him. "Become a Muslim," he said.

Rafay had a ready retort, honed from years of being teased and mocked about his faith in school: "I'm going to play now. I'll become a Muslim after that."

Before this "invitation", Rafay had gone to apply for a visa for the tournament in England. The physician had spotted Rafay's religion on his passport. "So he started asking around [the others], 'Are you Ahl al-Hadith?' [people of the traditions of the Prophet]," Rafay recalls. "When he asked me, I said, 'Thank God, I am a Muslim.' He said, 'What kind of Muslim?' I said 'I'm an Ahmadi Muslim.'"

He still can't describe the feeling of representing Pakistan. He sat out the first four games before playing two and missing the final, which Pakistan won. He scored 35 and 1. He then played another couple of games against England U-19 in December that year, in the UAE, but made only 1 and 1. It's easy to see why he wasn't selected later, especially as there were others in those sides who impressed and progressed (Sami Aslam and Zafar Gohar, to name just two). Rafay admits to a lack of performances. Now he hasn't played professional cricket in a while. He missed a season because of a badly twisted foot, and now can't find a place in either a local or first-class team.

In Rabwah, one name is now the living epitome of the town's disappointment, the crystallisation of its disillusionment: Faisalbhai. "No one is as unlucky as Faisal," Haye says. "If you can't make it to the Pakistani side after performing this well, then what is the criteria??"

After each match in that domestic T20 Cup, Faisal's old coach Khalid Farooq convinced him that the PCB was watching, that they just wanted to see how he would do in the next one, or the one after that, or the high-stakes match against Lahore. "We were staying at the Hill View Hotel [in Islamabad]. All the players [of all teams] were there, except for [Shahid] Afridi. Everyone was saying that Faisal is going to be named in the national squad, that it had to happen now. I told the coach that I have to put my name forward, and he kept saying, 'When you get the good news, call me.'" Faisal kept hearing that his name was all but final for one squad or another, in Pakistan's A side, if nothing else.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Dream of Pakistan's Cap (Part 9)

Ahmedis in Pakistan

The revelation hangs in the air. It is difficult to comprehend. Pakistan's first ball in a World Cup was bowled by an Ahmadi.Pakistan's first ball in a World Cup was bowled by an Ahmadi.

Malik bowled that ball nine months to the day after his country's parliament had passed a law constitutionally excommunicating him and his community. In the months that preceded that day and the ones that followed it, Ahmadis were dubbed traitors and heretics. Malik did well, taking 2 for 37 and ending the World Cup with five wickets. He was, in fact, Pakistan's joint-leading wicket-taker for the tournament, alongside Imran Khan and Sarfraz Nawaz. He never played for Pakistan again. Haye believes Malik was selected for the World Cup because the impact of the 1974 decision was yet to set in, and because the team needed him.

According to Khadim Baloch's Encyclopaedia of Pakistan Cricket, Malik suffered an ankle injury that kept him out of cricket for much of the following season. When he returned he did well, and as part of ZA Bhutto XI against New Zealand, in October 1976, he was on the fringes of national selection again. He did not make it, though perhaps a lack of motivation had something to do with it. In an interview with the Cricketer (Pakistan) in December 1975, Malik said he did not consider himself "a professional cricketer". Cricket was a hobby, he said, and he was proud he had got a job at NBP on his educational merit (as an engineer) and not through a sporting quota. Eventually he retired from first-class cricket in 1982, returning in the mid-'90s as a match referee. He supervised a fast bowling camp organised by Sarfraz in 1999. On August 1 that same year, he died of a heart attack. He was buried in Rabwah.

What was he thinking that day in June when he made his Pakistan debut? Would he have thought about his journey, from his birth in Lyallpur (now Faisalabad) to captaining his college team, to this moment at Headingley? Did he know he was making history in more ways than one? Did he know that Ahmadi boys would never dream of what he had achieved? Did he imagine a world where his team-mate that day, Imran Khan, would shun the idea of even hiring an Ahmadi or asking Ahmadis for their votes? Did he know that 41 years after he made history, Ahmadi boys would be told to "join the circle of Islam", and that their team-mates would refuse water if they drank it first?