We, the Pakistani fans

Cricket is very close to every Pakistani’s heart. When the country is going through a period of great upheaval, cricket has given us some kind of hope. After losing a T20 match and the ODI series, Pakistan beat Australia 2-0 in the Test series. On a high from the Australian series, Pakistan went on to defeat New Zealand in the first of the three Test match series. The second Test will conclude today (Friday); whether we manage to win it or end it in a draw remains to be seen.

The victory against Australia was all the more sweeter because the series saw skipper Misbah-ul-Haq equalling Sir Viv Richards’ record of fastest Test century and Younis Khan becoming the first Pakistani player to score a century against all 9 Test nations. The only things, albeit the most important ones, missing were actual home grounds and home crowds.

Terrorists attacked the visiting Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore back in 2009. Since then, Pakistan has not played international cricket at home. It is not only a loss for Pakistani cricket fans but a huge setback for Pakistani cricketers as well. As Peter Oborne and Richard Heller noted in their article: “Their (Pakistan’s) teams shuttle for eleven months a year between foreign hotel rooms, cut off from the family and extended local networks that are so important to Pakistanis’ in any walk of life” (‘Let’s salute Misbah-ul-Haq and his exiled Pakistan cricket team for restoring national pride’, The Telegraph).

Roger Alton part of the first team to tour Pakistan since the 2009 attack, which was, as he puts it: “made up, largely, of elderly white blokes from London” wrote a touching piece in The Spectator on the return of international cricket in Pakistan recently. No one is sure when international cricket will make a comeback in Pakistan but return it must for we the fans feel sad even when we are elated, we feel a sense of loss even when we are on top of the world.

We celebrate when the Boys in Green win their matches but at the same time we are wistful because we would have liked to see and cheer Misbah-ul-Haq when he equalled Sir Viv’s record, when Younis Khan scored three consecutive Test hundreds against Australia, when Yasir Khan bowled those beautiful leggies, when our cricketers played superb cricket. Alas, we are only able to see it all on our television screens and not live in a stadium in Pakistan. When Rohit Sharma scored his magnificent 264 in front of his home crowd just recently, the high he felt must have been unmatchable not just because of his brilliant innings but also because his own countrymen could cheer him on their soil.

Pakistani cricket fans are an emotional lot, maybe more so than their Indian counterparts, so we get angry when we lose cricket matches but maybe we should give our cricketers a break; we cannot understand the pressure they go through of being away from their families and still performing under stressful conditions. Here’s to hoping that Pakistan keeps performing the way it is now and that international cricket returns to our soil sooner rather than later.

(Originally published in Mid-Day)


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