rss
0

Hail the Unbelievables! How Pakistan found cricketing redemption

With their win over India at the Oval on Sunday, the Pakistan cricket team wrote another chapter in their long, twisting story

For a story to successfully attach itself to a sports team over a number of decades while players and personnel change, while the game itself changes, while the world changes, it has to be flexible as well as meaningful and distinct. In the case of cricket, no team has a more oft-invoked story than the Pakistan national side. In the three decades I’ve been pinning my emotional wellbeing to the fortunes of the Pakistan cricket team, they have always been a group of men about whom you say: “They can win this, but it’s quite likely they won’t,” and equally: “They can’t win this, but it’s possible they will.” The Unpredictables. The Mercurials. The Never-Count-Them-Outs. But although this story has been shaping itself since the 80s, it became cast in stone 25 years ago, when Imran Khan’s team started their World Cup campaign in the most startlingly dismal manner, relying on a win against cricket-minnows Zimbabwe and a rain-enforced draw with England to get them past the initial stages of the tournament, and then went on to win five matches in a row and lift the cup.

That victory has been much invoked since Pakistan won the Champions Trophy at the Oval on Sunday, after starting the tournament being so crushed by India that they walked off the field looking more like pulp than men. But parallels only go so far. The 1992 Pakistan team was expected to perform well; the real surprise was that they stumbled so badly before picking themselves up and showing their well-recognised worth, and then some. The Pakistan team of 2017 couldn’t have looked more dissimilar. They entered the tournament ranked eighth out of eight; the captain was newly appointed; most of the players young and unknown. And then there were the players who weren’t in the squad because they were being investigated for corruption; and the hugely talented bowler Mohammad Amir, who was trying to find redemption after having been found guilty of spot-fixing and banned for five years, but whose team-mates had been consistently dropping catches off his bowling since his return to the international game; and the largest and most heartbreaking story of all, which is the team’s inability to play any games in Pakistan since the 2009 terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team, which has deprived the players of the emotional and psychological strength that comes from playing on home ground. Things were so bad that all the Pakistan supporters I spoke to had lost faith in the story. Before the opening match, Pakistan supporters weren’t praying for victory; that was too outlandish a prospect. Instead, they were praying for rain.

Continue reading...

About the Author

Comments are closed.