An Enigma that is Pakistan.
I have a certain obsession. It goes back to my adolescence with a tape-ball in my hand. It goes back to being bullied in school and running home to bowl at my brother, until my feeble arms gave away. To hurt him for having the perfect school life in the same school. Heavy metal, Slasher movies and the only active violent thing I could find in otherwise a peaceful sport was fast bowling. Nothing, absolutely nothing competed the glamour of being a fast bowler at that time. Wasim, Waqar and Aqib hunted in packs. They thought opponents are just dirt off their shoulders. Such Swagger. They were the wolves. The warriors. The underdogs — They are everything that I wished I am.
Collectively they represented one team. Collectively, they were never great. The improbables. Always the underachievers. The unpredictable. The weird ones. The outcasts. The black sheep. — They are everything that I wished I never am. But for the hope that springs eternal, for the glimpses that keep the lover interested, I followed them.
18 years later, the improbables have once again defied all reason and common sense, spat on logic’s face and made a mockery out of it to make the greatest comeback in the history of cricket.
No team has defied odds so routinely in the history of any sport. You can, in fact, always give them good odds on defying odds. I know that doesn’t make sense, but so does the enigma of Pakistan cricket team.Pakistan loves to lose when you back them to win and when you give them no chance, they will turn in their best performances. You bet on them at your own peril. I backed them to lose as any true Pakistan fan would do on the game day. They proved me right. Once again.
Game Day — 338 Runs on the board. There is a fast bowler, who has served 5 years of a ban. Mohammed Amir used to be held high as a young prodigy, some even equaled and compared him with the great Wasim. He had the entire cricket world in his hands and then he threw it away for spot-fixing — disgracefully, bringing shame to his nation.
Time flies by. Two year since his comeback. He hasnt lived up to his expectations. He is not the bowler he once was and it was probably his last match before the axe falls on him. Rohit Sharma on the other end. Rohit on his best days can make 338 runs on his own. Aamir charges in. Two good balls right on the money.. Off the third, Rohit is out. Struck straight in front with a ball pitching somewhere near leg stump.Pakistan go crazy in the middle. But Its not over yet. India’s best is next.
Amir has been working over Virat Kohli. He knows the only death trap for Virat is outside off stump. He had already beaten the inside edge, and brushed a leading edge. Finally, Amir takes his edge, a simple catch floats through to slip, it all looks perfect. But its a drop. Gasp!! Amir is angry, Pakistan are upset. Gasp!! Text book Pakistan!
Next ball. This time it’s a leading edge and this time it’s caught. In the space of two balls, Pakistan have shown their entire life story. Amir is redeemed, Pakistan are on top, Kohli is gone. That’s Pakistan at its best and its worst in a matter of two balls.
This has been Hasan Ali’s tournament. Their new bowling sensation and Pakistan just breeds them in their fast bowling farm. The guy is a perfect 90’s fast bowler, skills, swagger and an uber cool celebration. A crowd pleaser, already!!Hasan Ali comes and wipes out the tail, finishing with match-figures of 3 for 19.
It is one of the greatest comebacks in the history of cricket. It wasn’t a comeback in one game, or against one opponent, it was against the best the world had, in four straight knockout games. They were lucky to get here, luckier to stay, and then once they found their feet, they were as glorious as Pakistan cricket can be.
As we sat to watch the very first match in the tournament, my girl friend asked me who is my current star cricketer in Pakistan (after Shahid Afridi retiring). I was blank. At the end of the tournament and in a matter of 4 matches, I am now spoilt for choices. Mohammed Amir and Hassan Ali are my favorites and they will only get better. Pakistan will keep producing fast bowlers, Pakistan will keep writing improbable stories. But they will never be consistent. They will lose more than they win. They will perform only when they are wounded and cornered. And I will continue to be the sadist I am. I am okay to get hurt and feel pain more often so that I can enjoy these rare moments of joy.
I am also worried that someday I will be a creepy old uncle, who will gather around my grand kids and tell these stories.