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October 11, 2020

Hammad Siddiq saves the day

Karachi

October 11, 2020

Chikoo (played by Hammad Siddiq) is the captain of a cricket team. He represents a fictional country called Qabristan (graveyard).

In the play, he colludes with a match fixer. But in reality, he turns out to be a show stealer in an overly simplistic play set in Chikoo’s room in a hotel.

On the night before the World Cup final that is to be played between Qabristan and India in England, Chikoo lures the team’s best fast bowler, Sam, into a match-fixing plan, offering him a colossal amount of money in British pounds.

By the end of the first scene, Sam half-heartedly gives in to the captain’s demand, setting only one condition that the team’s star batsman, Farmi, be made an accomplice. Chikoo, a batsman out of form and insecure captain, is jealous of Farmi.

In the next scene, Chikoo and Farmi exchange pretty obvious dialogues. Farmi slams the captain for corrupting a young talent like Sam and in return the captain reminds Farmi of his misdeeds in the past.

When Farmi is told that the match-fixing plan is devised by a Bombay-based bookie, whom they refer to as Maulana D and who has in his record an old video of Farmi showing him to be a part of a match-fixing deal, the cricketer finds no escape. The trio, along with another player Gullu, is set to play their role to lose the game.

Here comes the first twist: Qabristan defeats India. Sam, the man of the match, claims six wickets. Sam and Farmi are over the moon. Conversely, the captain is losing his mind as he reruns to his room from the ground. Chikoo tells Sam and Farmi that Maulna D will get them killed.

Here comes the second and the last twist in the play that lasted for one-and-a-half hour — Farmi had double-crossed Chikoo and Sam. In collusion with the bookie who had paid money to six Indian players for deliberately losing the game, Farmi fixed, or say re-fixed, the match in favour of Pakistan.

And guess what Maulana D looks like. The bookie is not a man sporting a beard and wearing a cap as she is a young woman in a modern outfit. Let’s not count it as a twist in the plot.

As Sam faces the reality, he loses his mind and now Chikoo is over the moon. It is this part of the play when Hammad Siddiq has had the audience bursting into laughter given his powerful performance.

Sam questions reality. “Was it me who outperformed the Indians with my bowling skills?” Sam is told that four of the six batsmen whom he dismissed on the ground were part of the match-fixing. It is this part of the play where the audience expects a shred of complexity in the plot but the play goes as straight as a news bulletin. The bookie wants the trio to fix the upcoming tours, offering them money and warning them of dire consequences if they reject the offer. Next comes a couple of drunk journalists who deny to break the news that Sam tells them about the match-fixing. Sam is told that even the president of Qabristan is part of the game – not to mention the characters talking of how corrupt and insensitive politicians are towards the public.

What does Sam is supposed to do now? Of course, suicide. Voilà! Sam is dead. The media is told that his death was due to drug overdose. He could not handle the early success he received.

He was a hero. In the end, Sam has a monologue where he tells the audience how he came from a poor background and why he could not cheat on his first love (cricket) that was his paradise. The play was named ‘Stumped’. It was staged on Friday at the Pakistan Theatre Festival being held at the Arts Council.