Time to turn back the clock
“Lekin ek baat hai bhai, if Pakistan somehow come to face New Zealand in the quarterfinal or semifinal na, mazaa aa jayega. Idhar ki logon ko toh already f*t rahi hai!” Zahid, an Auckland cabbie, originally hailing from Lahore, laughs outrageously as he talks about how his colleagues and friends still fear a repeat of the ‘92 semi-final. Zahid says he was there at the semifinal of ‘92 at the stadium. “When Inzy had started to hit those fours, my friends and I would just turn back and look at the faces of these New Zealanders. Kya mazedaar din tha (what a fun day)!”
And so I decide to check it by asking seven New Zealanders I see next and decide to come at a conclusion. Surprise surprise. For Pakistan. Zahid’s expression was perfect. Now please don’t rant that it’s not a scientific poll as if you didn’t take the Indian election polls in good humour. Close contest in Dilli between BJP and AAP it seems, bah!
But can this Pakistan team somehow manage to come through knockouts and then depend only on ‘on their day’ stuff? Thus far, they have been eerily dull, soul-less and lacking chutzpah.
A wonderful question was put across to Waqar Younis in Napier on Wednesday night. “Waqar bhai, our batting seems to be so behind the times. You see batsmen like AB de Villiers and others play the paddle-scoop, lap shot, this and that, and our batsmen still seem to play like the old ways”. Strictly speaking, it’s incorrect as not only was the birth of IPL due to one such silly shot by Misbah-ul-Haq in Johannesburg but also because the old Pakistan was full of dare and innovation. No one who has seen cricket in ’80s can forget their batsmen, led by Salim Malik, leave the stumps and have a slash like there was no tomorrow.
But you get the sense of what he was asking. And Waqar nodded sagely and said “yeah AB and co do it, perhaps it’s because we don’t play in T20 competitions like IPL and they have learnt and perfected all this shots under pressure there”.
Interesting point, but it triggered an Indian journalist to jump into this follow-up question. “Do you think not playing IPL is proving detrimental to Pakistan cricket”? Nice try but Waqar was quick on the act this time and played kill joy. “No, Pakistan cricket is set back by lack of cricket in Pakistan and not because of IPL”. Ah!
But let’s return to the soul-sapping cricket of the Pakistan team. The bowling is actually pretty decent. Sohail Khan might look like someone thulping butter chicken before doing push-ups but has a lovely release and does hit the seam more often than not.
Wahab Riaz seems earnest, too earnest at times, but again shows a cool head under pressure and Irfan Khan might not be as imposing as his height warrants but is pretty decent. It’s the batting that is so lacklustre that it makes one yearn for Shitanshu Kotak.
In many ways, Misbah-ul-Haq’s Jekyll-and-Hyde approach of either tuk-tuk defence or heaving away seems to have formed the template for modern-day Pakistan batting. And unlike him, some of the defensive technique of the others is pretty bad.
The Napier game — versus UAE — was quite painful to watch. About 2,400 people had turned up and by the time 20 overs were done, more than half of them had moved out to the periphery of the stadium and had their own fun. Hot dogs, cricket, silly games, face painting, drinks, more drinks, and then some more drinks were had. Not many could bother with the cricket and who can blame them.
They returned in time to see Shahid Afridi bat a few deliveries. That was the only time when there was some noise and passion in the stadium, and a sign that a World Cup game was on. And as Afridi heaved and drove — he seems to love those hits over extra cover these days — some in the crowd (if that word can be used to describe a group of people possibly fewer in number than those outside a Durga Pujo pandal in a small apartment complex in CR Park in New Delhi), chanted and got frenetic with hand-claps and all.
Suddenly, there was some life. It felt good. Somehow, if the batsmen can find some inspiration, some junoon, against South Africa, some fun can be had. As Waqar himself said, this team needs a good performance against a big team; only then the turnaround can begin. And then the likes of Zahid can laugh more and have some fun with their colleagues.
Source:: Indian Express