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Book Review: Far More Than A Game (2020)

“The modern-day journalists and the media professionals would not have even imagined the difficulties and the hiccups that I and other reporters of my generation had endured during the 1950s and onwards.”

Chapter 30 Page 289


INTRODUCTION

Since the 1960s, Qamar Ahmed, the author of the book, has covered more than 450 tests, 700 one-day internationals, and nine World Cups (the first eight and then 2019) as a journalist for many agencies like BBC, The Times, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, AFP, Reuters, just to name a few.

The cricketing journey of the author is not about the history of Pakistan cricket but international cricket. It is a passion that leads you to eternal respect that you earn after a love affair with the game.

Far More Than A Game is divided into thirty chapters that are spread over almost 300 pages. Most of the details are the author’s first-hand experience due to the nature of this book being autobiographic with an assistance of a few national and international books.

The reading of this book is easy, comprehensive, punched detailing with straight incidents from different timelines, and with complete liberty of his opinions.


 PERSONAL ACCOUNT

This autobiography is pretty personal and perhaps I can say the book is a rollercoaster ride about Qamar Ahmed’s life. By latter, I mean that he is totally open to all the parallels if he feels to speak about and thinks of no consequence about a series of questions he may be asked about his life. And I liked the nature of his openness that describes his personality and the autobiography being put to the best use of it. The reader won’t feel the sensationalism of the literature but the admittance about his life that he moved on but were vital to being written in the book.

The author depicted his disappointment in General Zia-ul-Haq’s leadership which was so disturbing to him that he refused to shake hands at a party. There is an entire chapter (no.22) about the two incidents that soured his relationship with Imran Khan. The writing of this chapter clearly indicates an agitation that should be addressed to the reader due to the fact that this eighteen-page chapter is surprisingly the lengthiest of all the chapters he wrote along with another chapter about his first-class career. I do not question the author’s motive but I am writing my honest observation about the writing of the book that this particular chapter was stretched as compared to the other interesting chapters that required more detailing than this. If this chapter had eighteen pages of details, then I reckon that a chapter about the road trip from London to Pakistan (no.14) deserves a separate book.

There are several personal accounts that help in shaping the authenticity of an autobiography. In one chapter (no.9), he writes about a life that was wasted in college because his parents wanted him to pursue a career in science rather than wanting him to choose his own career. An octogenarian passes an important piece of information to the readers about his younghood that his life decisions were made by his parents that succumb to a traditional parental syndrome in South Asia which has been emotionally attached in this region for quite a long time. Deciding about the life of a kid is understood but someone who passes his childhood and enters into college hood has the right to make his/her own decisions. The author addressed this matter, advocated liberty, and encouraged the readers to follow their passion rather than a silly tradition.

There was a French girl he was seeing in 1965 who was in England to learn the English language (no.11). Only a few paragraphs were written about her but nothing much. I liked the idea of keeping it short just like a brief series of meeting in life. It is like a gust of wind that blew from one direction towards the other once in life. It is a special mention of interest people at old age remember despite the time has passed around fifty years to that.


“Never for one moment as a schoolboy then I had even the slightest of inkling of what the destiny had in store for us and what was to come which would not only change the life of my family and that of many others and that of the country itself which would influence also the course of history.”

Chapter 1 Page 20


EUROPEAN PERK AND HISTORY LESSON

Far More Than A Game is a fascinating read for more than one reason but the most significant point to consider reading this life story is that the author was one of those few Pakistanis who got European, especially a British exposure to a socioeconomic life that fetched a lot of international diversity. Living a life in a multicultural country develops individualism and helps in socializing with people from different diversity. So that worldly experience fetched a lot of stories and incidents that happened with the author.

And then the author belongs to the greatest generation who experienced the partition of India. A lifetime that the next generations can neither feel nor imagine the suffering. So his personal account from the earlier chapters is a source of real history that the readers are unable to find in the books that are provided by their academic authorities.

The book starts with a sorry tale of partition and his childhood memories in the first chapter followed by a gripping narrative of his family’s migration from Chapra to Hyderabad. There are two chapters that are history lessons, one is about Hyderabad city and the other is about his ancestors, a knowledge that was treasured to him by his uncle from Mairwa, a city in Bihar state.


UNFORGETTABLE MEETINGS

One of the luxuries in the field of journalism is meeting important people from different walks of life, and so did the author. Qamar Ahmed missed no chance detail in separate chapters about his once-in-a-lifetime moments when he met Kerry Packer (no.15), Sir Don Bradman (no.16), and Nelson Mandela (no.21). Touring India was mostly personal for Qamar Ahmed due to his origins. But he holds the distinction to have met with the Indian film industry’s greats. Imagine people in those times like the author getting the honor of meeting the great Raj Kapoor at his residence where along with the Kapoors, they also get to meet Dilip Kumar. Meeting two of the biggest superstars of the golden age at the same place is surely one of the best memories of a lifetime.


CRITICAL CHAPTERS

Far More Than A Game is not only about history and the people he met in his lifetime, it is also about some very serious highlights that were needed to be addressed that occurred in the last chapters of the book. One was about Salim Malik and the kind of world he entered to regret for life.

There is a special place for Indian cricket legend Sunil Gavaskar in his heart and the twentieth chapter is dedicated to him to talk about some situations which may have gone unheard of. It was shocking to understand that Sunny was stopped by the MCC staff twice to enter the Lord’s cricket ground. The details about these incidents are covered in the chapter.

A much-needed drive to address some controversial incidents like the Gatting-Rana altercation, the Inzamam-Hair ball-tampering controversy, the bus attack on the Sri Lankan team, etc through his experience made rounds in the book.

The twenty-eighth chapter is full of funny and priceless moments that the readers will read with keen interest. I like a few of his moments like the historic moment of South Africa’s re-entry into international cricket, his brawl with a mugger, mistakenly calling Alec StewartHansie’, a cricket manager asking to sacrifice a black sheep, and many more. If I was sitting along with the author when he called Alec Stewart ‘Hansie’, I would have seriously couldn’t stop myself from laughing my ass out. It was a really funny and ‘innocent’ blunder.


CHAPTERS ARRANGEMENT

Arranging and compiling chapters in a book, especially in autobiographies are very vital. I have read a few autobiographies and being a bibliophile, I have this idea that there are two different arts involved in shaping and publishing a book; one is writing it as a whole, and the other is giving the whole writing the best possible finishing in a way that reader is captivated to read a life story.

I will be a little critical here about the arrangement of the chapters. As per my reading experience, Far More Than A Game didn’t conclude fittingly. I think the thirtieth and the second-last chapter where he wrote about the evolution of sports journalism and the use of technology, would have been the perfect end with a personal message or some inspiring words for the readers.


“When checking out to proceed to Calcutta (Kolkata) for the sixth and final test of the ongoing series between Pakistan and India, I requested the receptionist at the hotel for my bill.

The reception officials gave me a pleasing smile to say: “No bill Sir, we know who you are. We have been told by Dr. Hari about you that this was your house before you left for Pakistan as a schoolboy.””

Chapter 4 Page 47


The first three chapters in the book highlight in detail about his childhood, migration, and painful history. And then in the next chapter, he remembers his return to India. That fourth chapter needed to be distanced from the previous chapters and arranged in the middle of the reading.

With a gap of a few chapters and crossing the time to the late 1970s, this reunion moment would have melted the emotions more. It is my opinion that talking about the reunion in just the fourth chapter of the book was way too soon.  The editor or compiler of the publishing company should have considered giving the sentimental feel to the reader by arranging this chapter somewhere far from the earliest details.

The fourth chapter has an amazing detailing of reuniting, giving the readers a staunch view that partition gave us a lot of painful stories and reunions of a lifetime. Imagine if hatred had its say and those landlords had killed Qamar and his family? There would be no story to tell us, there would be no legacy of cricket journalism and broadcasting, and there would be no reunions or faith in humanity to hope from those tragedies.


CLOSING REMARKS

“Far More Than A Game” is the anatomy of cricket journalism, a pocket dictionary to the evolution of cricket, a time-traveling diary that settles nowhere but gives you an experience of a lifetime. A cricketing life to celebrate, thank you so much for your lifetime contribution and service to this beautiful game.


“I always believed that if you are good with people they are good with you and in turn respect you for what you do. That is how I thought a journalist should be when dealing with a story or with people related to it.”

Chapter 22 Page 207

The autograph of the legend himself…

TV Review: Jimmy Savile – A British Horror Story

A HORROR STORY

Once upon a time, there was a radio and television presenter in Britain back in the 1960s. He began to host BBC‘s Top Of The Pops and became a well-known celebrity. In the 1970s, he was known to fix any of children’s desires and wishes in the show, Jim’ll Fix It. On the show, he would receive thousands and thousands of letters, and he would attend a few of these and read it to the audience. The letters were full of children writing to him to grant their wishes. And he didn’t break their hearts; on the contrary, he won them.

Already establishing himself as the British messiah, the hospitals sought his help to raise money for good. And he listened to their calls and believe it or not, he raised around £40 million in charity. This is a massive number to raise in those times. His reputation was cemented to be a Godly man who is humble, the most respected, the dearest, and the kindest to everyone.

Wherever he went, people would gather around, wait for his glimpse for hours, take autographs, take pictures, and feel blessed that he kissed them. He befriended the former British premier Margaret Thatcher and the Royal Family. He became some cult, some saint. He became their national hero who served the country once in the great war and then contributed to philanthropy throughout his life.

And then one day, he died. The British media was mourning, and the general public was mourning. His followers forwarded their prays, and goodbyes and many came to the memorial service to have a glimpse of the coffin where he lies. He was people’s servant. They all believed that Lord took his life, a soul departed to conclude an era of dedication to put the public in staunch grief or melancholy. But what they didn’t realize was that his death was actually Lord’s act of goodwill to put a halt to the horror he implanted in scores of British lives that they never realized or got to know about in more than fifty years.

Almost a year after his death, plenty of reports surfaced, and a thorough investigation that involved police and the media concluded to the nation’s utter shock that he had sexually abused/assaulted more than four hundred people, mostly underaged, as young as five. London’s Metropolitan Police (Met) began Operation Yewtree to investigate the allegations and concluded with a report that counted the victims to be more than five hundred. The Guardian claimed in 2014 that the number of his victims was more than one thousand. That man was Jimmy Savile.

A few years ago, when I came to know about who Jimmy Savile was, I was stunned to realize that he abused most of those children during his time at the BBC and the National Health Service (NHS); how come no one raised the concerns or doubts about his mysterious personal life. How come Jimmy Savile never got caught in fifty years?


English disc jockey Jimmy Savile (1926 – 2011) presenting the BBC music chart show ‘Top Of The Pops’, UK, circa 1973. He is wearing a personalised tracksuit. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)

THE DOCUMENTARY

I had the curiosity to know the right and convincing answers to my years-old questions. Thankfully, Netflix decided to commission a two-part documentary about that sex predator, Jimmy Savile: A British Horror Story. And by watching this show, I got a lot of insiders about this psycho. The documentary has plenty of footage that depicts his charms and charisma that were hiding his heinous saga for decades.

The two parts are smartly divided. The first part gives the audience thought about Jimmy Savile as the ever-caring servant of children who appeals to granting their wishes and also gives an insider about how Jimmy Savile rose to prominence to a magnitude where he saw himself in the company of the most powerful politicians. In the second part, the filmmakers try to locate the signs where Jimmy Savile came close to being caught.

The documentary’s biggest success is convincing its audience that Jimmy Savile successfully manipulated and made a fool out of the entire nation. There is numerous footage in the show where Jimmy, in the interview, is asked about the personal, sexual, and emotional aspects of his private life. And Jimmy, in response, speaks a tone and uses such one-liners that the audience takes him lightly and believes to be his usual jokes. This documentary proves that Jimmy was the smartest not to be caught. He had all the answers, he was quick wit. And he had the propensity to tackle any given question and reply without wasting a second and that too shamelessly. He was so powerful that it never mattered if he will ever be caught. He knew he was the authority. If anyone complained, no one would believe a word against him.

My jaw kept dropping and dropping when I observed with rage that he was giving all the clues and referring to his listeners about the things he did horrible all these decades but the audience was laughing and assuming as if he was joking. Especially when he joked that his case comes up next Thursday.

Who would have believed him? He was the master of deception. He had influence, he was an inspiration to the British for what he did in philanthropy. No one would ever believe that he can stoop that low to possibly force the girls as young as eight to have sex with him, someone who was close friends with the Royal Family and Margaret Thatcher.

Although the documentary has tried its best to give its audience a feeling of deception from this disgusting pervert, I sense that this documentary unintentionally gave a lot of insider about his humanitarian efforts. The reason why I am saying this is because the most reckoning part of Jimmy Savile’s life in brutal crimes was when he died. The post-death revelation on Britain and the rest of the world is hardly half an hour in the show. And due to such an incredibly less number of minutes, the makers and researchers couldn’t do justice to the broader detailing of the investigation at length.

Yes, the documentary was successful in setting a tone in which the viewers, especially those who didn’t know who that pedophile was, developed a genuine feeling of hatred by the end of the first episode. But the makers focused on his social contribution pretty much. Through this documentary, I was eager to watch more about his post-death events when Met began to receive complaints that led to investigations. I was more interested to watch some of those kids in their adulthood narrating their horror incident with Jimmy Savile. I wanted the makers to adopt no holds barred just like Jimmy Savile did all his life.

In every capacity, this Netflix documentary has raised global awareness and addressed the threat. It was the technology that almost caught him. The doubts and allegations were bundling when he decided to depart. I feel Jimmy Savile was unluckily so lucky to escape from all the penalties and punishment. He would be laughing in his grave that he left the world unpunished after all the crimes he committed.


CLOSING REMARKS

So who is responsible for creating Jimmy Savile out of Sir James Wilson Vincent Savile? (Yes, he was knighted in 1990). I firmly believe that the Thatcher government and the BBC are to be fully blamed. They surely had some idea. I refuse to believe that no one in the BBC or in the Thatcher government ever built a doubt or raised eyebrows about his offenses. I have read on the internet that he assaulted and raped many children and adults in television dressing rooms, hospitals, schools, children’s homes, and his caravan.

Jimmy Savile: A British Horror Story is a reminder of the disgraced that depicts one of Britain’s darkest chapters that inflicts an eternal regret about the irresponsibility of the higher commands who chose to stay silent, see no evil hear no evil, and also preferred not to address the elephant in the room.

THE ART OF WAR – Paris Attack & the Proxy War

Predictions can meet your opinions and social media brains can vow the lost words framed in the past. It is an emotional rectifying bond of unheard whispers with uninvited gunshots. So when the music is loud, you are at temporary betrayal of daunting hope…

Unheard of your cost, the weapons had its say and the case was dismissed in the court of shadows. When bad things happen, word of mouth has no protection. The reason why yours and mine opinion differ is because we use our own brains for the textures to follow, to the faith we believe and methods we retrieve. Same methods are voiced to the readers and listeners, they tweet you and become a league. From here, if brain was wrong that day, you cannot expect the league today has its ideal foundation towards the solution. It will certainly drive a wrong road. Non-classified u-turn is unhygienic for melting egos.

A Friday night of many thousands of travelers, visitors, spectators, musical ear-folkers, sports-addict and concertgoers met their horrors in major European city – Paris. Gunfire and blasts were heard and the terror was installed by night. A series of mass shootings and suicide bombings has so far caused lives of 130 civilians and gashed around 350 others.

Locations were;

1) La Belle Equipe – A very popular Bistro, which was of full capacity when the shootings happened and killed at least 12. One witness said that the shooting at this site lasted for three minutes!

2) Le Carillon/Le Petit Cambodge – Former is café-bar and latter is a Cambodian restaurant. Both are located directly opposite to 408-year-old Saint-Louis Hospital. So far at least 12 are reportedly dead.

3) La Casa Nostra pizzeria – at this location is reported that a man with a machine gun fired on its terrace and killed 5 people.

4) Stade de France – creates massive center of media attraction due to the fact that a friendly football match between France and Germany was played and three explosions were heard after 30 minutes of the first half. The detail more worth is that French president Francois Hollande was seated there. He was rushed to safety after the second explosion. Continue reading THE ART OF WAR – Paris Attack & the Proxy War