Pakistan don’t ever change, you are the ultimate entertainers

Published: March 3, 2016
Mohammad Amir and Umar Akmal are two of the most talented players around but have made headlines for the wrong reasons in their controversial careers. PHOTO: AFP

Mohammad Amir and Umar Akmal are two of the most talented players around but have made headlines for the wrong reasons in their controversial careers. PHOTO: AFP

Disclaimer: This article isn’t for those too weak, or too passionate, of heart. Those who seek catharsis in sports, who only love her for the joys she brings, should look away now. If you are still reading this, you are one of the few who love sports not only for the elation, but for the suffering she inflicts too. She is a harsh mistress, admittedly all the harsher for Pakistani cricket fans, but harsh nonetheless for one and all. That is what makes her so beautiful.

On Wednesday, Pakistan’s five-wicket loss to hosts Bangladesh meant they were knocked out of the Asia Cup. The all-too-familiar nature of the loss — calamitous fielding, poor top-order performance, slow run-rate earlier in the innings, batting first on a pitch where letting the other side put up a total may have been the smarter choice — has left the country understandably fuming.

What incensed them the most was not the loss but the déjà vu it caused. The feeling that we have been here before, that running in circles in these dark alleys is way more frustrating than the darkness itself.

Asia Cup: Bangladesh stun Pakistan to reach final

Why can’t we be like arch-rivals India, the eternal yardstick, who have a never-ending production line of world-class batsmen, they ask? Why can’t we be like those Australian or South African teams that deliver such efficient performances, especially in the field? Why can’t we even be like Bangladesh, a young plucky team on the up with a future bright and filled with endless hope?

Because, for better or for worse, we are not them. We are Pakistan; hopelessly mercurial and permanently tainted, precariously talented yet forever raw, always charismatic but regularly frustrating.

We are not flawed because we have the potential to be the ultimate entertainers; we are the ultimate entertainers because we are flawed. And while so many of us would swap this for a lean mean winning machine, the side isn’t changing any time soon.

29 balls, seven runs: Pakistan’s Asia Cup story

Mohammad Sami will be blamed for his part in the loss against Bangladesh; his two no-balls and a telling misfield turned the game on its head when all momentum was with Pakistan.

Had he been born on the other side of the border, Sami may have gone on to become one of the greatest bowlers to don India’s blue. As things stand, he may not even be in Pakistan’s top five right now.

But Sami was not born on that side of the border, and so he is the archetypal Pakistan player. A seemingly unexplainable phenomenon that can still somehow manage to cross the giddy pace heights of over 150kmph at the age of 35 and produce unplayable outswinging yorkers out of the blue. Those yorkers, when they do arrive, are all the more wonderful to watch because every Pakistani fan knows they could so very easily have been half-volleys — as was the case with the two no-ball — or full-tosses.

Afridi lost his place in the team a few years back: Javed Miandad

On Wednesday, had he been a couple of inches behind the line on the first no-ball, his over could well have been hailed as the match-winning one. Had any of the steps in his run-up been just a few centimetres smaller, had he not jumped that far before delivering the ball, had he not stretched his front foot so much. But he did, and on such small margins does sport crown her heroes and condemn her villains.

No set of fans pray as hard as Pakistan’s when the ball is skied into the night sky by an opposition batsman — no set of fans has seen so many matches decided by dropped chances. But then no set of fans will ever know what it was like to watch Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis bowl in tandem, nor know the fool’s hope that Shahid Afridi carries every time he comes out to bat or what Mohammad Amir meant, and still means, to this nation.

Every Pakistani fan dreams of promised days when the Men in Green will be better winners, but at what cost? How big a loss it would be for cricket if they became more predictable and less frustrating, how horrible it would be for the neutrals if Pakistan stopped being Pakistan. They lose many matches that they shouldn’t, and they will continue to do that, but won’t they be terribly boring if they didn’t. Isn’t this so much more fun?

Published in The Express Tribune, March 4th, 2016.

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Reader Comments (7)

  • Shabbir Ahmed
    Mar 4, 2016 - 12:53AM

    Wonderfully written!!Recommend

  • Allah Hafiz
    Mar 4, 2016 - 11:28AM

    Had he been born on the other side of the border, Sami may have gone on to become one of the greatest bowlers to don India’s blue. As things stand, he may not even be in Pakistan’s top five right now.

    This is where u guys make mistakes…you people are not close to ground realities….Sami is inconsistent just like other pakistan bowlers….Zaheer is 3 times better than sami….if in india he would have not even made it into the team….keep your foot on ground from air please….Recommend

  • sunny
    Mar 4, 2016 - 1:26PM

    Wow!!! Amazing article. i really enjoyed your article. Please keep writing these wonderful articles. Amazing! Five Star article.Recommend

  • Shah(Berlin)
    Mar 4, 2016 - 1:44PM

    The problem is with our people. We lack sportsman spirit. Period.
    The match with Indian and with Bangladesh was a fight. The other team also comes to play.Lets get the facts correct:
    1) Pakistan started very weak in batting but was still able to deliver a decent total of 130 runs. 145 would have been perfect but than 220 would have been excellent ! This discussion can go on for 10 hours !
    2) Bangladesh started very strong but still our bowlers were able to block them and lower the run rate. Bangladesh did not win easily.
    3) The 8 runs which Amir gave in the last over played a huge role in Bangladesh winning. But right now our blood is for Amir so we will close our eyes and instead bash Sami for those 2 no balls. But remember the same Pakistani awaam will ridicule Amir once his performance goes down. And mind it in world cup Amir will have problems and the pitch will be different.
    (P.S just to make clear….I would like to mention here I myself love Amir and his bowling and love that he is back)

    The point is, it is sports. We mock our players recklessly.Room of improvement is always there. but to be serious I would never play for such a country because you cannot play freely. You have a pressure from awaam, that is unbearable.

    During the Football world cup, I was in Germany. Germany vs Ghana..the germans played very bad. They it was a close win. Did the media criticize the team? Yes…Did they ridiculed the team? No…. They started discussing how to improve ….and it lead to Germany winning the cup….
    My point is we Pakistanis love to bash……..we want to have an over night change..and tht is my friends not possible.Recommend

  • DM
    Mar 4, 2016 - 2:52PM

    Beautifully Written..A refresher.Recommend

  • Apoorv Swarup
    Mar 4, 2016 - 3:34PM

    @Allah Hafiz: Completely agree, the domestic circuit in India is much better now and that coupled with the IPL has truly helped in raising the standards and the fitness levels of all players, directly affecting fielding and playing standards. Kohli and the others are proper athletes in their own right and not merely pot bellied cricketers of yesteryear. Consistency is the name of the game, thats why even someone like Harbhajan is on the sidelines and doesn’t have an assured spot in the playing eleven right now!Recommend

  • SHAH
    Mar 4, 2016 - 5:31PM

    Hindus-tan played very good cricket and hence on top of the chart.. Good Luck and take the Asia Cup; you actually earned it and deserve it; Recommend

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