By Syed Khalid Mahmood
The announcement of retirement from international cricket by former captain and a batting great, Mohammad Yousuf, was not the ‘only’ headline news to be broadcast by the Pakistani television channels on March 29.
I don’t think Yousuf even had left the premises of the Karachi Press Club (KPC), where he had formally announced his retirement during Meet the Press programme, when the news about the wedding of Shoaib Malik and Sania Mirza broke out.
So there were two former Pakistan cricket captains, not one, having hit the headlines on the same day. Yousuf and Shoaib may not be enjoying the most cordial of relations of late but I am sure they would have followed each other’s developments during the day with considerable interest.
While there was not much element of surprise in Yousuf’s decision of calling it a day, for it had become all too obvious by the time he announced his retirement formally, but the ‘news’ of Shoaib planning to tie the knot with Sania came as a surprise.
As the television channels started ‘hunting’ for the ‘credible’ sources to verify the ‘breaking news’ the sports communities in both the countries across the border became more engrossed in this unexpected and unlikely event.
The news was finally confirmed to the media by Sania’s father Imran Mirza later in the evening. A formal wedding reception has been scheduled within a month but there were no plans for an engagement function.
“The couple will be based in Dubai, where Shoaib is a resident, and Sania will continue to play tennis once she recovers fully from the wrist injury that has marred her career in the recent past,” Imran was quoted as saying.
“My wedding is, Insha Allah, going to be the biggest day of my life. I have been under constant glare of the public for too long and would appreciate more privacy at this very personal moment in my life,” Sania said.
“I hope to be fully fit to represent India in the Commonwealth and Asian Games that are scheduled for later this year,” she added.
Sania plans to continue playing tennis for India while Shoaib will obviously be representing Pakistan and this indeed could be a unique case where the husband and wife will represent their respective countries in sport.
Shoaib is understood to be fully supportive of Sania’s tennis career. “I fully understand what it takes to be an international sportsperson and I will support Sania in her career as long as she wishes to play,” he was reported to have said.
“Representing India, at the 2012 Olympics is very important for her and I will be the proudest husband if she can win a medal for her country,” the former Pakistan captain added.
Shoaib had formerly been engaged to another Indian, Ayesha Siddiqui, who claims to be married to the charismatic Pakistani all-rounder. According to reports Ayesha’s father has tried to threaten Shoaib to give Ayesha divorce before proceeding any further.