Whether it be in claiming in their history books that they whipped the asses of India in all the wars that they fought against us ( including 1971 and Kargil) or whether it be in not giving up a match even when logic dictates otherwise, there is one thing that has characterized Pakistan—-their stubborn refusal to accept defeat.
If their pale surrender in the 2007 ODI World Cup and their final choking act in the 2007 T20 World Cup in front of the perennial losers India had tarnished this reputation, the 2009 T20 World Cup victory has asserted it once again.
With this victory, I hope, that the old Pakistan is back once again—-temperamental, nasty, supremely talented, the guys I grew up hating, loving and feeling jealous of.
Because with the colorless Kiwis and South Africans around and Australia looking a pale shadow of its old self, the cricket world needs some drama, some brilliance. The kind that only the men in green can provide.
Unlike most of the “politically correct” people in the press, I am not going to say that Pakistan deserved the trophy due to a cosmic scheme of fairness, a kind of compensation by fate for how their country has been at the receiving end of terrorism for the past few years and how its cricketing infrastructure has been ruined as a result. Frankly, terror is like perfume. One cannot spread it around without getting a few drops on oneself. So Pakistan’s present travails in the political sense are totally due to its policies and I have no desire to link their murderous politics with the fortunes of the cricket team. In any case, Pakistan is being well-rewarded for their bogus war on/of terror by a tripling of US aid and so no tears for them there.
No I am happy because of the potential revival of the old Pakistani spirit, their unique ability that made them be at their most dangerous when all looked lost.In the 80s, time and again, they would demonstrate this power of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, throwing up one hero after another at times of crises. Even men of moderate talent like Salim Yousuf, Manzoor Elahi, Zahid Fazal would be able to do a “carpe diem” in a way that left us Indian fans breathless and green with envy with the culmination of their Houdini act being the World Cup of 1992 when facing elimination, a sprightly lean man noone had ever heard of entered the pantheon of legends with a couple of the most spectacular “burning rubber” innings you would ever see, a man who would subsequently be known as Mr. Potato-head, who would lose his sprightliness but never his ability to entertain. It was a trait that one saw less and less off from Pakistan as the years went by as the men who stepped into the shoes of the Pakistani giants (and I am not just referring to Inzamam) never quite filled them up.
Well perhaps they now have. At least in spirit even if not so much in raw talent.
And yes I am happy for another reason. Or more precisely I am happy for another person. Shahid Peter Pan Afridi. The fact that he finally “came off age”, perhaps many years too late but better late than never. Doing justice to his enormous talent, he was finally able to see Pakistan home, something he was never able to do ever, with his most tragic failure being in the finals of the T20 World Cup where at the height of his form he dropped the ball for his team, and not for the first time in his life. In 2009, his personal battle was a microcosm of the larger struggle of Pakistan as a team as Afridi overcame a horrible slump in batting (he looked like he had gone totally blind) and a possible end to his career as an all-rounder to emerge as not only the single biggest star of the team but also the front runner as a future T20 captain.
Afridi is an old favorite of mine simply because he is the last representative of the archetypal Pakistani cricketer—supremely talented and totally in-your-face “I rule and you suck, you puny Indian”, the kind you loved to hate. Like Imran Khan who when he got hit for a four would stand and look at the batsman with an arrogant smirk on his face as if to say “I bet your wife makes love to you at night thinking it is me”. Like Javed Miandad who made every performance personal and derived so much unalloyed joy from rubbing India’s face in the ground that for many years he was a greater threat to the nation’s sanity than his samdhiji. Like Saeed Anwar, Ijaz the Kasai, Slimy Malik and Awesome Akram. This is a breed that has died out over the years with the Pakistani team consisting of nice guys like amiable Paddington bear Inzamam and smilingly benign Younis Khan (a true gentleman), non-entities like Shoaib Malik who get caught in an Indian marriage con and the “is he Yousuf Yohanna or is he Mohammed Yousuf or does he play for ICL or does he play for IPL” dude who is so lame that he allows himself to be pyschologically intimidated by,of all people, Anil Kumble.
Of the old school, there are just two left. Mr. “Thunder Down Under” is one. But he is still scratching his wounds and will be for some time. Which leaves us with “bad boy” Afridi from the devilish class of the 90s, the kind who is likely to say “Pahele tujhe six maroonga phir teri g*****” as he takes guard.
This T20 victory has given this charming man a fresh lease of life. As also to the team of Pakistan who with the return of Popeye the Sailor Man “spinach-eating“Razzaq and Imran Nazir from ICL and the emergence of Gul as a top notch bowler for the shorter versions of the game are beginning to look formidable again. Perhaps not 1990s strong but hopefully getting there.
And I am happy for that.