I am not a cricket analyst and will never claim to be one but what I am, is a fan of the game itself. As a fan of the Pakistan team I have had the pleasure of witnessing our victories in some unusual circumstances. For instance the match against India in Sharjah where Javed Miandad hit a smashing six on the very last ball; I was at the beach with my family at that time, we were all glued to the radio and so was everyone else around us. When he hit that last ball out of the park, cheers were heard from all the huts, people ran out celebrating – singing and dancing along the beach. That is one cricket memory I will never forget.
I witnessed our last victory (amazingly) through social media in 2009. I was in the lobby of the Equatorial Hotel in Shanghai but the Wi-Fi connection was a little temperamental. So I ran around the lobby, laptop in hand trying to find a constant connection. I did not have access to TV or radio in China so had to rely on Cricinfo’s live feed and my own Twitter feed. Through spurts of internet connection, I realised that my Twitter feed was overwhelmed with songs, chants and cries of victory and we had succeeded in making #Pakistan trend that day. Even via social media the atmosphere was so electric that it felt like we were all together in one room from across the globe watching the T20 final.
The 1992 Pakistan team was missing an incredible bowler and a legend – our current coach Waqar Younis – but even so, they managed the impossible and brought home the cup. I do not know a single Pakistani who will not feel pride and nostalgia each time they hear the 1992 World Cup song.
No one, except Pakistan cricket fans know what it feels like to have our hearts torn and trampled upon. No one has hurt more than us in the last couple of years as we have been dragged through the muck of despair. We witnessed anything and everything that could have gone wrong. But you know what? I was watching a sports show with Moin Khan and Imran Khan as guests. where Imran stated that our current team has the worst preparation he has ever seen at the onset of a World Cup. But he also said, and there was a glint in his eye as he said this, “If we click, who knows?”
This is the “if” we dare not speak of in case we jinx the team where our fate would be similar to that in a match against Ireland in 2007. This is the “if” that will always remain with our team. I know our unpredictability has been spoken about to death, but if we look at our team we do seem to have a good balance of the old and young. Between Shahid Afridi, Misbah-ul Haq, Younis Khan, Abdul Razzaq and Shoaib Akhtar, we have the experience of more than a 1,000 ODI’s. Like the 1992 World Cup we again lack one of our main strike bowlers in Mohammed Aamer, but we do have the new left arm pace bowler, Junaid Khan and there is always the fast medium pace of Wahab Riaz and Umar Gul. And we should definitely not dismiss the weathered prowler Akhtar; a few overs of crazy pace here and there, and who knows? Then there is the batting of Umar Akmal and the hushed prowess of Ahmed Shehzad. The only thing we lack in my opinion, is a quality specialist spinner and a good consistent wicketkeeper, both of which India have shown off to a maximum in their opening route of the Aussies.
Our captain Afridi, Lala as we fondly call him, has been the most carefree athlete I have seen in a lifetime of watching this sport. Hearing him state that the Pakistan team is the “most dangerous team” in the world makes one hope … makes one dream.
Come on team Pakistan, there is no place left to go but up!
As published in “The Dawn Blog” on 14/2/2011