Jun 23, 2009

Passion’s power

The skipper of the underdogs summed it up nicely after winning the semi-final. There is little to celebrate in Pakistan these days, said the man from Mardan, but the nation’s cricketers are determined to bring a smile to people’s faces. And that the Pakistan team certainly did with sterling back-to-back performances after a lacklustre start to the Twenty20 World Cup. For a while it seemed that the nation’s joy would be confined to seeing India exit the tournament at the Super Eights stage.

The clinically efficient South Africans lay ahead in the first of the two semi-finals, a contest Pakistan was tipped to lose. How could so mercurial a side prevail over a machine programmed to win? Never mind, Pakistan did it anyway. And on Sunday, it was Sri Lanka’s turn to be reminded that Pakistan can put in a crackerjack performance when it counts most.
An unpredictable side, of course, but also most sublimely, sweetly brilliant when it matters. As one commentator, former England player David Lloyd, put it: 'It’s Pakistan. And yes, you might say fittingly.'
Fittingly indeed. Pakistan’s victory in the T20 World Cup final sends a clear message that we will not be written off, come what may. Yes, it is perfectly understandable that foreign teams are unwilling to play in Pakistan. After all, the Sri Lankan side, which alone stood by us in our time of trial, came close to dying on Pakistani soil. We are now resigned to the fact that we will either have to play our ‘home series’ at offshore venues or not play at all. So how are things any different now? Pakistan’s victory tells the world that we can win wherever we might have to play.

Even in India, which with its deep pockets now virtually controls the ICC. It will take some doing to crush Pakistan’s spirit. We will not simply go away and sulk. We can triumph in the face of adversity.
Besides the cup, the best thing this slam-bang version of cricket delivered was a sense of self-belief. Also, this Pakistan side seems to enjoy itself on the field; it’s not just another day at the office for men who once liked playing cricket for its own sake. Gone too for the most part are those pumped up ‘I would be a serial killer if I weren’t a bowler’ celebrations that some subcontinental players had picked up in recent years from Caucasian teams. Why be angry when you take a wicket? That’s not our style. This team smiles and exults when it gets a batsman out, like the West Indians did in their heyday. If there is any friction behind closed doors — and it could well be that for a change there isn’t — it doesn’t show on the field and that’s what counts. This Pakistan side has done us proud.

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