Monday, October 27, 2014

The plight of a Pakistani fan

Pakistan has just scripted a comprehensive victory over a resurgent Australian team. Arguably one of the best performances in recent memory by Pakistan, this win should rank alongside Pakistan’s clean sweep of the top-ranked England side. Pakistani fans around the world are delighted, with even higher expectations of the team for the rest of the series.

We have just witnessed a much underrated batsman become Pakistan’s most prolific century-maker. To outdo Javed Miandad and Inzimam-ul-Haq is no easy feat; yet the lack of flamboyance and substance-over-style mentality of Younis Khan may always leave him right below Pakistan’s league of legends.

We have also just seen Pakistan’s backup spin options rise up to the occasion in the absence of their premier twirler. The fact that they bowled left arm orthodox (Zulfiqar Babar) and right arm leg-spin (Yasir Shah) so beautifully in tandem is not lost on anyone.

Also just witnessed was a flurry of centuries. Ahmed Shahzad might have come a long way from the days of carefree strokeplay, but he has proved that his more sedate approach is working. Sarfraz Ahmed might be too raw on the international scene to be termed great, but he is certainly the next best thing. Any gloveman would’ve been better than a certain Akmal, but one who scores consistently against attacks as varied as Australia and Sri Lanka is certainly more than a blessing; he might just be a miracle!

That Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq and Misbah chipped in was the cherry on top for Pakistani fans. The two pacemen, Imran Khan and Rahat Ali, did what was expected of them. This was as good a team effort as possible, much better than the England whitewash, which was more of an Ajmal-Rehman show.

What does all this mean for a Pakistani fan? While rightly jubilant in their celebrations, they are also wary; never confident in their team, yet always behind them.

The average Pakistani fan of the ‘90s expected a win in every game; the average Pakistani fan now can only hope. A team with the two W’s, the two Y’s, Inzi, Shoaib and Saqi could beat the best in the world; you can’t expect that from a team whose captain divides opinion, whose best batsman has second thoughts about continuing to play, whose spinners have a total of two caps among them and whose opening combination is as steady as a camel ride during an earthquake.

The fan is wary of Pakistan’s tendency to self-combust. The same batsmen who piled on the runs in the recently concluded game against Australia can easily be knocked over for 110-odd by the same bowling lineup on the same surface in the following game.

The fan is also wary of Pakistan’s shoddy fielding. One dropped catch against a player of Warner’s caliber can turn a match on its head, and Pakistan’s fielding is extremely capable of letting a catch, and consequently a game, slip away.

The fan is also wary of the dirty politics that is synonymous with Pakistani cricket administration. The only position that has changed hands more often than our openers has been the chairmanship of the board. The whims of the Patron in Chief constantly clash with the supposed supremacy of the courts in the land of the pure, and who knows when the next clash of the egos will take place, and what or who that clash will bring in.

The fan is also wary of the captaincy merry-go-round that has become the norm in Pakistan cricket. We have involuntarily been trained to accept whoever shows up at the toss as our captain for that game, and no more.

The fan is also wary of the sudden retirements and consequent retractions that have been the result of changes in administration, captain, coaching staff, or the state of mind of the retiree in question.
And lastly, the fan is wary of corruption, namely the next fixing scandal, constantly doubting a player’s failure, a captain’s decision. Every time Pakistan loses from a position of parity if not dominance, whispers of match-fixing start doing the rounds. Every no-ball is looked at with skepticism, every dropped catch with suspicion of malice.

This is a brief period of celebration for the Pakistani cricket fan. Expectations are high, but we have learnt from the past. We might never be able to replicate the success of our past greats, but we will keep looking forward to the emergence of a new one. We will learn to make do with what we have and hope. The typical Pakistani fan will remain optimistic, but only cautiously so!

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