@Ben_Wisden 3 minute read
What on earth does Mr. Bean have to do with Zimbabwe beating Pakistan at the T20 World Cup? Ben Gardner attempts to explain.
If, just 48 hours ago, someone had come up and said to you that Zimbabwe’s president Emmerson Mnangagwa had warned Pakistan, “Next time, send the real Mr. Bean…” after his country had caused a huge T20 World Cup upset over the Asian giants, you would have been baffled. Granted, this is in part because the Pakistan-Zimbabwe game hadn’t happened yet, but there is plenty in the rest of that sentence that would have confused you as well.
Now it’s part of deep cricketing lore, the seed at the source of a newly enlivened cricketing rivalry, breaking out of the darkest recesses of Twitter into the game’s wider consciousness. If, in 150 years, it sits alongside the obituary for English cricket in The Sporting Times which spawned the Ashes, don’t be surprised.
We’re getting ahead of ourselves. This is a story that dates back to 2016. But the best place to start in telling it is just a couple of days ago.
It was the most innocuous of tweets spawned the whole mess, the kind a hard-pressed social media admin schedules without thinking. There’s no game. Your fans are gagging for content. So you pick out the best four pictures from training, type out a positive but vague caption, add some hashtags and sign off for the day. The likes roll in. No one gets angry. Elected officials don’t get involved. Instead, when the PCB tweeted “Onto the next challenge” one day ahead of Pakistan’s clash against Zimbabwe, all hell broke loose.
A series of screenshots showing an exchange in the replies began to circulate. In the first of these now-hallowed missives, Ngugi Chasura, a Zimbabwe fan, warns Pakistan that his side are coming for them. “As Zimbabweans we wont forgive you,” he tweeted. “You once gave is that Fraud Pak Bean instead of Mr Bean Rowan…we will settle the matter tomorrow just pray the rains save you…” [No edits have been made to the text for the sake of historical posterity.]
Did not see that coming… pic.twitter.com/Q7y9ZVdE6i
— Hassan Cheema (@Gotoxytop1) October 26, 2022
Understandably, no one knew what on earth he was on about. “What happened brother?” the improbably named Sam Pakistani replied, enquiring with the kind of tenderness so rarely seen in anonymous online interactions. Chasura was not assuaged. “They gave us Pak Bean instead of Mr Bean on one of our local events called agriculture show,” he replied, clarifying precisely nothing, but adding layers to the intrigue with the skill of a master storyteller.
‘Multani Saint’ began to lose patience. “WTF is Pak bean” was the succinct question. He struck gold.
“This is tha fuck called Pak Bean who imitates Mr Bean stealing peoples money”, Chasura replied, accompanied by a picture of a man who is dressed like and sort of looks like Mr. Bean. There’s your team talk, Dave Houghton. Tack that up on your dressing room door.
At the risk of dissecting the frog, it’s worth dwelling for a moment on just why this tickled people so. The existence of a someone fraudulently impersonating beloved slapstick comedy character to con an entire country is amusing enough. But when combined with someone holding onto this grudge for years, only to raise it again ahead of one of the biggest cricket matches in his country’s history as the sole motivation for victory, it is elevated again. When video emerged of the man we must call ‘Pak Bean’ waving from the sun roof of a limousine, mobbed by fans breaking up the police cavalcade, touching palms and waving delightedly, it reaches the level of the gods. It’s like he’s the Pope, if the Pope looked a bit like Mr Bean.
The origin story: In 2016, Pakistani comedian Asif Muhammad was hired to impersonate Mr Bean at an event at Zimbabwe’s Harare International Conference Centre. It reportedly cost $10 a ticket. It reportedly did not go well. But this now transcends details and particulars. This is now the stuff of legend.
It spread like wildfire. The memes, as you’d expect, began to proliferate. Mr. Bean was mentioned on the ICC’s commentary. And when Zimbabwe pulled off a stunning heist over Pakistan – surely fuelled onwards by the slight of years hence – the countries’ two leading politicians exchanged messages to clarify the situation. “What a win for Zimbabwe! Congratulations to the Chevrons,” tweeted Zimbabwe’s president Emmerson Mnangagwa. “Next time, send the real Mr Bean…”
Pakistan’s prime minister Shehbaz Sharif replied: “We may not have the real Mr Bean, but we have real cricketing spirit .. and we Pakistanis have a funny habit of bouncing back 🙂 Mr President: Congratulations. Your team played really well today.” Followed by a single clap emoji.
And that’s where we are now. If you understood all that, I’ve done my job. If you didn’t, then, to be honest, you’re probably better off. Re-assign the space unused for ‘Pak Bean’ knowledge to learn a sonata or memorize some Shakespeare. But if they meet in the final, prepare to be bombarded again.
Rowan Atkinson is yet to comment.