By the time this has been read, the pre-quarter final match of the ICC World Cup 2015 would have started. Many of us would like to believe that the organisers have been counting on Ireland’s predictability, and Pakistan’s unpredictability, to produce upsets (remember 2007?), so that the match is a de-facto final. The winner is sure to move up the chart, and the position of the loser, if it be Pakistan, will depend on the West Indies’ run-rate.
And so, from being 1 for 4 against West Indies in its second match, and bowled out 4 times out of 5 in this World Cup so far, the Pakistan cricket team finds itself in a not-so-unfamiliar, back-to-the-wall, do-or-die situation to keep its campaign afloat. A team, easily 10 of whose players wouldn’t have made the international grade 10 years ago, is, expectedly, struggling. Such is the dearth of talent that many in the squad are a re-hashed and recycled version of themselves, and a shade worse than before, having learnt nothing from their past experience – a far cry from the Pakistani cricket of old, where fast bowlers came a dime-a-dozen, and swashbuckling batsmen at the rate of one every month.
And yet, die-hard Pakistan fans think that this team can win. Well, miracles happen. Beauty and the Beast, and Cinderella, are true stories, Hitler is a figment of the Jewish imagination, and Islam the most-loved and most-admired religion in the world.
But somewhere, deep inside of me, I want this Pakistan team to win, if not the Cup, but something, something. For a lot of good reasons.
Pakistan needs a catharsis and an enema. There are too many pent-up emotions, too many divisive forces, and far too much pain for a whole generation. This was a generation living in the after-glow of the 1980s – hunger was supposed to have become a thing of the past, education a fundamental right, clothing and housing affordable, and freedom a birthright.
The GDP refuses to grow fast enough to accommodate the burgeoning ranks of the youth, violence refuses to die despite the slaughter of thousands, and literacy and healthcare are just not important enough for the country’s politics.
Oblivious of the challenges. Devoid of inspiration. Bereft of great leaders, who would seek to unite, not divide. Seeking out that one unifying factor – that one bit of inspiration…
The Pakistan cricket team symbolizes the nation – dysfunctional, disparate, divided, and yet capable of extra-ordinary feats – when it gets its act together, when it plays like a team worthy of representing 185 million people.
Perhaps there lies the spark of inspiration the nation so badly needs.
Led by someone who may not match up to Imran Khan, the team, not necessarily made up of Javed Miandads, Inzamam-ul-Haqs, Wasim Akrams, and Aamer Sohails, is yet capable to go far.
Misbah-ul-Haq, represents the ‘other’ Pakistan – hard-working, educated, feet on the ground, yet dreams sky high, patient, persevering. Not brash like Mohammed Aamir or Mohammed Asif, whose quest to get rich fast brought disgrace to their nation.
If he carries the day, it will do the ‘other’ Pakistan a whale of good. If a tall, giant of a man who worked in a pipe factory can make it to the Pakistan team, so can the son of a poor truck driver from Peshawar. If a boy became a paceman by hurling heavy rocks from mountainsides near his home, so can the son of a poor tailor from Lahore. It can happen. It must happen. For the sake of Pakistan’s future.
The sporting world needs a fairy-tale. Cricket needs a fairy-tale. Pakistan needs a winning team, a unifying team, a goodbye to its years of isolation in the world, a salute to its future.
But alas, possibly, and may Allah forbid that, you will read this after the game is over, and after tickets to Karachi and Lahore have been booked – for an early exit. Never fear, because if Pakistan can still play cricket after the ‘storms’ it has been through, a time will come when the fans of its cricket will be cheering again – sooner, rather than later.
For cricket’s sake.