First of all, Thanks to the Almighty, boys played well. Not only did the boys play well, they played well enough to beat India for the first time in 38 months, well enough to win our first ever T20 against the Old Enemy, well enough to hand India their first home series defeat in over three years, and their first to us since 2005. The boys played well enough to strike fear into the hearts of the Indian team — something we hadn’t quite done in a long time.
Thank you, #TeamMisbah. Your eponymous leader continues to be the most polarising figure in Pakistan this side of Veena Malik, and you can sometimes be so boring that it makes PTV Khabarnamas from the 80s feel hedonistic in comparison. But no one can argue against your record, and beating India in India is that one brief moment when Zaid Hamid doesn’t feel alienated, which says something saintly about your powers. For a brief while, you even made us imagine of a post-middle-order-collapse utopia as you looked to perform another #GreenWash, a term which I imagine would have become a slogan for a detergent brand had you succeeded. But then you suffered a vintage Pakistani brain-freeze in the 3rd ODI and reminded us that #TeamMisbah remains better and worse than everyone else.
Thank you, MS Dhoni. As @haseebasif quipped, ‘you were Man-of-the-Match until proven otherwise’, but this is not the reason we thank you. We thank you because you are a cricketing version of Barack Obama — a man who was inexplicably popular before suffering repeated comedowns, a man leading an aging empire, losing his hair-color and looks to the job, committing evil acts and being pilloried by all, yet still retaining a tragic sense of hope. Dhoni’s innings were all as eloquent as the most moving of Barack’s speeches, and like Barry’s words, were largely futile, empty gestures. Yet that did not prevent us from being enthralled by them, and wondering what might have been.
Thank you, Nasir Jamshed. Thank you for shutting up your loud-mouthed, armchair critics (including myself) with an average so high it should be in rehab. As someone who has been shut up by arched eyebrows, snide putdowns and meaty blows to the side of the face, this was the most pleasant shutting up I’ve had in a while. So what if your feet move as much as the hero during a masala number in a Punjabi flick (ie not very much, for those of you without access to Filmazia) — you still have more shots than a person with rabies and you used them when it counted. As many people noted, you seem to be a cross between Inzi and Saeed Anwar. In real life, Inzi and Saeed Anwar joined forces to give birth to a chain of butchers called Meat One. So perhaps it is time that we anoint you The Meaty One, because you are the Neo to our Matrix. (Until you fail, at which point loud-mouthed armchair critics, including myself, will be beaming idiotic grins and saying ‘I told you so’.)
Thank you, BCCI. Your players will get abused, their commitment to the national cause questioned, their endorsement figures brandished as proof of their greed, but if truth be told, the fish rots from the head and you are a fish so rotten you are served uncooked in Japanese restaurants as a delicacy. Sure, we stood by you when you were giving it back to the goras, but enough is enough — your arrogance has become farcical . Should we start with your refusal to accept the DRS? Or your idiocy in banning Cricinfo’ from the press boxes and crowbarring press agencies to your will? Or your hired cheerleaders in the commentary box, who were so odious in their sycophancy that they would go entire periods of play without mentioning what was happening on the field simply because the other guys were winning. If all this doesn’t shame you, consider that a Pakistani has been driven to despair by a cricket board other than the perennial basket-case which is the PCB. There’s no lower low, BCCI.
Thank you to the “Aane Do” advertisement producers. Thank you for the laughs I got at your Freudian slip of leading a supposedly intimidating advert with the petrified plea of ‘inn se mat harna’. And thank you for coming up with such a jinx-laden tagline which was made to be cruelly parodied if your team lost. The vicious delight with which we Facebook liked the viral videos that inevitably emerged mocking you afterwards was unparalleled — the greatest feeling of schadenfreude since the Amir Liaquat ‘nazuk surat-e-hal’ video. Maybe the next time we play, you could try to ease the tension and try the slogan “Jaanay Do” instead.
Thank you, Indo-Pak cricket. Thank you for being a sporting contest that is one of the most visceral in human existence. Thank you for letting us vent our emotions and shedding our inhibitions, thank you for mentally scarring us and scarcely but memorably rewarding us. Thank you for being a grand spectacle of intense competition between two prone-to-war countries where not a single person was killed or kidnapped or maimed. Thank you for showing us that our encounters don’t need to be the fantasy narratives of either the genocide-craving war-mongerers, nor the politically correct, poorly imagined utopias of the PR hungry peaceniks. Thank you for reminding us that we can have human encounters, encompassing a range of emotions noble and blase, that end with symbolic victories and defeats rather than body counts and blowbacks. Thank you for a wonderful series.
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, January 20th, 2013.
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