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The Game

The Game

by Ali Khan on Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 1:08pm

Congrats to India for winning this crucial match and making it to the Final.

Pakistanis are understandably heartbroken and somewhat in shock. All I can say is it was a wonderful game and a reasonably close one. If one side had been crushed and the match had turned out to be a one-sided affair, I, too, would have been disappointed.

Being an irregular follower of cricket games (exceptions are important matches or tournaments such as this); I don’t know much about Pakistan’s players and their progression in the last few years. There was a time in the 90’s when I knew most players and their games. And they stayed for a while.  Wasim Akram, Saeed Anwar, Amir Sohail, Moin Khan, Waqar Younis etc were known names for years. Can we say the same for this current lot??

But some things are obvious. Pakistan relies too heavily on bowling, too little on batting and almost none on fielding.

Cricket is not all bowling and batting. Good fielding can win or lose a match for a team as evident in the semi-final. Sachin Tendulkar was first dropped at only 27 runs (his own). Had he been caught at that stage of the game, there is no reason to doubt an Indian total of less than 200. As Imran khan said today, ‘you don’t drop Sachin four times and win’.

Afridi seems to be the best fielder in the team. Others such as Younis or Misbah may be good fielders at times but they are probably unreliable with their unsafe hands in pressure situations. Kamran Akmal is a disaster and certainly does not deserve the place in top 11.

Pakistanis also do not seem to take pressure well. Other than panicky batting and fielding on ground, critical decisions by the Captain/Coach/Manager, which could have tipped the match, were not taken. The failure to opt for power-play earlier is an obvious example. The professionals such as the commentators of the match and others were screaming when Pakistan did not take power-play the moment Razzaq or Afridi came to bat. After they were gone, it was too late.

As a pure spectator of the game, I wanted Afridi to open batting for Pakistan and do the stuff he does best. It may be a technically unsound wish but without risk there is no return. Afridi is the man of the spotlight. He has the ability to destroy the other team and make a high score chase a piece of cake for others down the line. He has been an excellent Captain in this World Cup and bowled marvelously. But what a moment it would have been watching Afridi come out of the pavilion room to open!

You don’t get chances to make history too often.  On the night of the final (or semi-final??) of the 1992 World Cup, Inzamam-ul-haq was quite sick and vomited all night. He told Imran Khan in the morning of the match that he probably couldn’t play. Imran Khan made it very clear to him that even if he was passing out he would play. Now, that may have gone down as the most reckless decision had Pakistan lost the match and Inzamam got out sooner. But Inzamam’s innings was key to Pakistan’s victory that day. The point is, Boldness and risk can change a team’s fate from a historic defeat to glory forever.

None of this may bring consolation to my Pakistani friends. India played well, though not their best and their fielding and control on nerves was excellent. Perhaps it was the hopes (or fearJ) of a billion plus people they held dear, they fought hard and gave their best in the field. Conversely, Pakistanis took a similar pressure of millions of their supporters but panicked. Besides, the prayers of a billion people may have a better probability of being answered. The Almighty is just and fair!

Afridi apologized to ‘his nation’ for his team’s defeat. It is a shame that he has to apologize for this. He (and to a lesser degree his teammates) provided sufficient entertainment to ‘his nation’. He is a great player and had it not been for a lack of a little support from his mates, Shahid Khan Afridi would have joined the club of greats like Imran Khan. He will and should get another chance. As Imran Khan recently said, “jo haar naa mane usay koi nahi haraa sakta” (one who doesn’t give up cannot be defeated).

Let’s hope that the peace process initiated through this match comes to a logical end. We have been at each other’s throats too long. Let’s open our hearts and settle the issues once and for all. Our future generations will thank us for it.

As for cricket, We’ll see each other soon again.

Categories: Cricket
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