Everyone knows south Asians love cricket, they live it they breathe it and all that other cliche stuff. What is not cliche however is when Pakistan and India play a cricket match. Far from it, its not even a match by my qualifications, its some sort of quasi mental war which both countries populace goes into when their teams face each other on the field.
Take yesterdays champions trophy match, it was just a group game, no cup at the end but the atmosphere here in Karachi was like the whole country is on the stake. Right around 6pm it got really deserted on the roads. Yes more deserted then on the first day of eid which was celebrated here a few days ago. Not only that but everywhere in hotels and dhabas, in cars and homes people were either on the net or glued to their TVâ€™s or listening to radios. There was a huge screen put up on do talwar in Clifton and the throngs there sat in hushed silence as the match started.
Me and some friends got together for this affair as well and broke a record while doing so. For the last few years whenever we have watched an India vs Pak match, our nation has lost. Yes we were screaming and crying when Misbah played that fateful shot in the 20/20 world cup final. We could not believe it. Whatâ€™s weird though is that every time this event happens its like major memory lane. One of my strongest memories always comes back with me being at the beach when miandad hit that six, and dancing for hours after wards in the water with random strangers as we had just conquered Rome or something. Itâ€™s a very very strange thrill to beat India on that field indeed for us fans.
So as we sat in hushed silence yesterday at my place and watched Pakistan bat, obviously we broke a few things as Younis and Shoaib Malik dead batted every ball like they were playing a test match. We flung ourselves into some of the most ruthless analysis of what these guys were up to, but as they eased into the middle overâ€™s and Mohammad Yousuf replaced the beleaguered Pak captain it began making sense to us. This was the same old relic strategy that Pakistan was playing at; our gang calls it the turtle and the hare. Play like a turtle for 30 overs and then run like a hare for the next 20 ergo making a fighting score. We did make one hell of a score as well, an almost unfathomable one of 302 runs.
The break between the innings gave us just enough time to fill our plates with cold pizza and our glasses once more, one of us nervous enough to change sitting places three times for good luck as the Indian innings started.Â I think I would not be stretching it if I was to say that the first 12 overs of our bowling was worse than the torture one can get in Adiala Jail. The Indianâ€™s blasted our quickâ€™s to every corner of the park imaginable and the nervous friend literally had a breakdown as he ended huddled up in one corner clutching the walls and shouting guttural noooâ€™s with every no ball and free hit that our team gave. There were 33 extras last night and I thought â€œnervous guyâ€ wouldnâ€™t make it. At one point we even debated in hushed whispers to turn it all off as his sanity was more important but then it happened. Mohammad Aamir bowled a beauty and got Tendulkar caught behind on 8 runs, Mr nervous jumped up the wall he was clutching and from then on it was constant hooting and shouting till the end as Pakistan proved once more that when they have to do it they can muster it up for sure.
However I still thought there were areas our team could have improved upon, for instance the fielding was better than before and we did score two runs outs but we did miss a lot of chances as well. The point is we could have finished India off far earlier than letting them amble to within striking distance. With Indiaâ€™s batting lineup our captain should not be taking chances with inventive field placings or whatever those were. Plus the fact that he kept changing his bowlers as soon as they took a wicket suggested diversity but also the thought process of a scatter gun. Although as quite evident from the description of the viewing experience, pressure in this sort of a game is immense, but Yunis khan is a professional not a middle aged man like us hanging on by a thread.
In any case as mentioned earlier, the wickets continued to tumble and by the time we had succeeded in peeling â€œmr nervousâ€ off the wall Pakistan had won, the air outside soon became thick with the smoke of firing guns and youth dancing in the streets as 2:30am was welcomed by Karachi like a new dawn. All the channels went into patriotism overdrive and their logos changed colors to the familiar bandwagon as well. However I could not help but spare a thought for the Indian team, as last time a few of them lost a house or two in the vandalism following their routing at our hands. The sub continental crowds are not just as loyal as dogs they bite like them as well when on the wrong side of the result.
That being said, the mood of this city and the whole nation right now is one of invincibility, we beat the Taliban we won the 20 20 world cup and now we beat India in the champions trophy, keep that shining urn sonny boy we donâ€™t need it we already have our medals gleaming in our hearts!!!
As printed in “The Friday Times” Oct 9, 2009