This must surely go down in the country as one of the most unproductive weeks. In the sub-continent, where cricket is akin to a blood group, every match is analysed to oblivion. Step into the chai shop and they are talking of whether it should be Nehra or Ashwin. Step into the swankiest restaurant and see the well-heeled people acting like their true selves. Go to the saloon and you would think the barber could stand for chairman of selectors. And this is not even on match day.
So when the Indo-Pak clash became imminent, everyone went agog. Agog over where to watch the match. It isn’t about cricket anymore. It’s about the booze and the food and the venue and the crowd and the bets. As the match winded down, an inexplicable sadness descended upon us. The match everybody was waiting for was over. Never mind that India won. Who knows when this moment will appear in our lives again, throwing us into a collective tailspin? When offices declared a half day. When people stood up wherever they were when the national anthem was played. When there were no traffic snarls.
But when one saw the Pakistani side slowly ceding ground, one must feel for them. Of course, India should never lose a match to them, world cup or not, that is every fans dream. It is because Pakistan is no ordinary side. On many fronts, they reflect the state of the country. Which more often than not, is always in chaos.
In the last few years, Pakistan is a step away from becoming a banana republic. Natural disasters didn’t spare them either with earthquakes and floods that shook an already fragile foundation. Since Kargil and to the more recent 26/11 attack, Pakistan is enemy number one. Somewhere we seem to have forgotten that not everybody in that country is a suicide bomber or a gun trotting militant in the making. Somewhere in the country are a mother and her children hoping they make it alive through the day. Somewhere is a common man who wishes for a better existence and peace with his neighbours. To all these people, whose lives are held hostage by their government , sport is one of their few salvations, the last vestige of hope in what is otherwise an uncertain existence and future.
In Pakistan cricket, as in Pakistan, chaos is king. Senior players and legends are sacked at the drop of a hat, without explanation. A captain resigns and takes back his resignation just like that. Strike bowlers are accused of doping but are let off the hook. Just like that. And to think, this team has produced some of the finest exponents of pace bowling over the last two decades. They have given the Pakistani people some of the finest moments and over the last decade, some of the most befuddling ones.
Let’s start with their exit from the world cup and the controversial death of Bob Woolmer. Then came the 2007 t20 world cup final where they were a shot from victory and thankfully for us, made a mess of it. A few months later, Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif were accused of doping. Then came the Oval test where they caused a match to be forfeited for the first time in the history of the game. Then came a handful of forgettable series. Javed Miandad himself has had three stints as the Pakistani coach. Then came, possibly, one of the worse incidents where militants shot at the Sri Lankan team bus and caused all hopes of hosting any international cricket in the foreseeable future. Then came the 2009 t20 triumph.
At a time when the country was reeling from the floods, the victory suddenly reinstated a sense of hope. A sense of hope that they were still world beaters. A sense of normalcy and unity. They raised everyone’s hopes just for a little while. And then came the spot fixing scandal.
To see the future of pace bowling in Mohammad Aamer, who had so much promise, sell his soul for a few thousand rupees only reflects the situation they find themselves in. When in our country cricket stars are millionaires even before earning a test cap, these players operate on the whims of a hundred officials who circulate like a revolving door. However inexcusable, it reflects the uncertainty under which the game is functioning.
Over the years, the Pakistan cricket team has taken their fans on a roller coaster ride. From tears of joy to tears of despair, they’ve seen it all. Maybe it can’t be any other way. Maybe the country has to get itself in order before the game in the country can get itself in order. So you think back to all those moments when they embraced chaos. Misbah Ul Haq who played that suicidal shot and found Sreesanth in the deep. Shoaib Akthar, who could have retired a legend but rest assured all his antics that will definitely not earn him praise or accolades in the annals of the game. And finally, those 3 cricketers who gave their conscience a miss. They all had glory within reach.
But as it so often happens in Pakistani cricket, they turned it all to chaos.