Edgbaston, Birmingham: Consider this; you go to a chocolate shop with friends to give your taste buds a sweet treat. While everyone else is indulged in buying their favorite makes and the colorful goodies on display water your mouth. You hurriedly juggle you pockets and much to you horror, realize that all your bills have exhausted and you are left with just a single pound which is insufficient to fill any bag. Pakistan cricket team find themselves in an identical situation. Kicked out of the gold chase by the Caribbean’s and Protease, they have no further business left in the tournament. The pound in their wrist is the match against their neighbors. Win it and tempers back home might cool a bit.
To say that people are angry with Pakistan’s shabby performance would be an understatement. Green shirts enjoy a global following, so naturally when their act is scratchy it is bound to fetch global criticism. Things are no different in England. The sizeable Pakistani community here is dejected and the cricket fever somehow seems to have fizzled out.
People here have three hobbies, endless discussions on Pakistani politics, eating loads of food and chunking out their extensive knowledge on cricket. While they have little influence on the first, the remaining two are merged together to bring some excitement to an otherwise routine and mundane life.
No surprises in mentioning that the tickets for the hyped India-Pakistan match were sold within 30 minutes. The lucky ones are minting out a fortune from that piece of paper. I met a restaurant owner who bought a 35 pound ticket for a whopping 150. But the letdown has dented his enthusiasm, not sure if he still wants to attend the match he talked about shearing the ticket with a friend.
The question going around the town is how could Pakistan bow down to such an ebb? They can’t make school-children like excuses as they were the first team to arrive in UK and tasted the conditions for around three weeks. They also enjoyed a tailor made camp in Abbotabad, the legendary Miandad did fine tuning for their batsmen. And if someone thought that Miandad’s skills were pre-historic, Trent Woodhill was roped in to inject a few modern techniques.
With so much pampering, even your beloved Dadi Jan would manage a double figure score. Just watch the clips of the two matches and even your five year old would refuse to gift his wicket that effortlessly. So where lies the problem? Sadly, even the best of the best are unable to satisfy the nation.
Don’t give me the excuse that our boys need more knocking on English wickets. They all have a good idea of English conditions. If Nasif Jamshed can score on his first tour, if Saeed Ajmal can hit a few strokes, if Misbah himself can fight like Tipu Sultan, then what on Earth is the issue with the rest?
While nations love to build skyscrapers, we love to build conspiracy. With back to back heart-breaks, Green shirts are providing sufficient fodder for these conspiracies to mushroom.
The match against India would be a meaningless exercise with little on gain for anyone. India is through to the Semis and this match would value little more than a good practice for tasks ahead. That the broadcasters will pump up their promotional campaigns to put some spice back in the game is all together another story.
None the less, the second most famous rivalry in cricket’s history should lit up Edgbaston. Pakistan might opt to give the misfiring Imran Farhat a much deserved break (after all the poor fellow has worked hard to lose his place), replace him by Asad Shafiq and push Kamran Akmal to open with Nasir.
On the other side, the Indian camp is blossoming with confidence, two back to back victories lifting the spirits of the nation and half burying the ghost of IPL fixings. Their bowling is scruffy while batting seems iconic, but that doesn’t concern me. What horrifies me is their third dimension attack, their fielding.
The lethal run stopping quartet of Ravindra Jadeja, Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma shaved 30 runs from West Indies’ total in the previous game. With our batsmen struggling to chase modest targets, navigating the ball through their defenses would put every skill to test.
Whatever may be the result of this game, Pakistan have to ask themselves some very honest questions. Heads might roll, boots might hang, the utility of Whatmore and Woodhill would be put to sword. With no home cricket, Pakistan will soon have to come up with smart tricks to salvage their image on the big stage.
Read carefully into Misbahs words, while he is defensive and diplomatic in point fingers, het he has clearly signaled headquarters that a few things are wrong and need to be fixed. Question is, is anyone listening?