Take a look at Danyaal Hasan’s ‘contribution’ below and you can also check out his Blog @ http://writeofleft.wordpress.com/
God Must Love Cricket
History is often misleading when interpreted without the context of how it occurred. So shall be the case with the Australia v Pakistan cricket match, in the 2009 ICC Champions Trophy group stage. For once the dust settles on its result, context will once again be key to deciphering what transpired in Centurion on that day. The scorecard will indeed show Australia winning this encounter by 2 wickets, but the hearts and minds of those following it LIVE will know that Pakistan was the true winner, no matter how nauseatingly clichéd this may sound.
For Pakistan the game was a chance to qualify for the semi finals unbeaten. A loss however would still see them through but also ensure that India was knocked out – a moral hazard tailor made for Harvard case study. The equation was much simpler for Australia; win and go through, lose and go out. For Pakistanis and Indians, it was a conundrum unlike any seen before, quite possibly in any sport.
Ever since the partition of the sub-continent, Pakistan and India have existed in a state of perpetual distrust. Respective governments have tried their best to undermine the existence of the other, despite public posturing to the contrary. It is true that governments are hardly ever humane and humans are hardly ever one step away from turning into a rabid mob. Thus perpetuating a cycle of hate over 60 odd years has been fairly easy. Physical interaction has affected some to at least reconcile with each other’s sovereign existence. However the scars of partition and a number of wars fought thereafter still remain. A nuclear arsenal later, cricket has now become the default battle ground for the two archrivals.
Thus with a rivalry born in blood, a Pakistani loss here even if deliberate would certainly not have gone without a loud cheer from its countrymen. For India, it would have acted as a reaffirmation of its suspicions. And so the irony played out; the Indians cheered for Pakistan, the majority of Pakistan for Australia, and the minority for the sense that you don’t mess around with good form and risk tempting fate. However, unbeknown to any, fate had already decided to step in.
At 140 for 2 chasing 205 with 18 overs to go, an Australian walk over seemed an after thought. Then in the space of 5 overs, a wicket fell to a good catch followed by one to a faster ball that kept low. That left the equation at 49 runs needed from 80 balls with 6 wickets in hand. No sweat for Australia? In came Rana Naved and Mohammad Asif, and what followed thereon was a bowling master class nothing short of divine intervention. Naved dried up the runs with thunderous yorkers mixed in with shrewd variations in pace. The one that got Hussey was unplayable full stop. From the other end, the ball talked of the real Mohammad Asif’s return. Subtle wrist movements right before the point of delivery missed the outside edge a few times from an immaculate length. One confused Hopes to give a dolly to Younis while the other brought back memories of 2006. Ajmal’s doosra snared an 8th turning with it suspicions and outrage of some into hope, and for others happiness into disbelief.
By the time Australia crossed the line over the last two deliveries of the match, the result had been rendered insignificant by the manner in which the match was played and the result achieved. It was clear that Pakistan was not playing this game to satisfy the impulse of absurdity, but for pride and honour of country and victory – exactly how a game should be played.
Regardless of what happens in the tournament from here on in, the Pakistani cricket team will at least leave this tournament with the respect and adulation of many, something far more important to most than any Gold trophy. If captains need to be held responsible for team debacles then so they should be recognised for triumphs. Younis Khan led the side bravely displaying leadership not seen since the retirement of Imran Khan and for that he must be congratulated.
In 2004, it was the manner in which a Pakistan-India cricket series was hosted which served as an example for the way forward. Quite possibly, this was another.