Sunday, February 26, 2012

Pakistan v England Series: Controlled Chaos


In engineering, most students are taught Chaos Theory at some stage of their degree. My time came somewhere in the middle of my final year. Back then I was too rogue a student to get a grip on it, which to be fair, does not require much brains to fathom. Five years later, during my last month home trip, I was sitting with my father watching the highlights of the 4th day’s play of the second Test. When the highlights finished, my father-- who has been an academic for more than 45 years-- asked me what I knew about the theory and how the English capitulation of 72 all out could be related to it. Quizzed and being only able to tell the basic concept I knew of the theory, I gave in and requested him to surprise me. What transpired then is a gift I shall forever treasure.

The sensitivity to the conditions in which an orderly system finds itself in is an essential element to induce chaos. It is supplemented by the Butterfly Effect which represents the reliance of a minor change resulting in major disturbance in the system’s state; kind of what Saeed Ajmal did with his ‘Teesra’ – which to everyone, except the English XI, never seemed to exist; and which in reality is an innocuous change playing with their heads, the modern cricketing equivalent of Spacey’s greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.

Moreover, the sensitivity of seemingly orderly English batsmen to quality spin and the ineptitude to control the damage caused by it since the very first session till the 33rd session of the series, proved to be a fair example of Poincare recurrence-- the duration required to return to the initial state. Add to it the consistent pattern through which it happened makes a good case for the exemplification of chaos theory.
Control of chaos is another aspect of chaos theory. It involves applying a tiny perturbation in the system to obtain a desirable dynamical state. This control also helps in synchronization of the chaotic systems which becomes clear in any example where two different systems start from initial points and then end up being different exponentially. More like Ajmal with his usual variety psyching out the current best top seven of the world right from day one, along with the bamboozling by a till-then novel Rehman and the criminally underrated Hafeez. The end product was a camouflaged destruction of the powerhouse of the game.

Logical prognosis was defied through a methodological framework to madness, time and again during the series; whether it was running havoc in a batting line-up boasting matches and runs ten times their own or by setting up fields that would force the likes of Kevin Pietersen to play village cricket shots. Fractal repetition of planned out modes of targeting their preys were executed, typified by certain little things that had disproportionate effects; prompting the flapping of the butterfly wings. A colossal mindfuck, safe to say, was triggered. A mindfuck of sorts with which Gene Hackman and his paranoia in The Conversation could concur-- executed, in an alternate form, by a number one ranked English team.

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Expecting the historically spin-handicapped England to read Ajmal off the hand was always going to be a Herculean task, but the staggering aspect was their inability to read Rehman and Hafeez’s conventional finger spin and the indecision whether to play all three of them forward or back. The minimum of feet usage was another abject demeanour of the English top order culminating in a regular procession of wickets. The failure to develop counters against spin and the schooling of the top ranked batsmen through it, had enough material to produce a DVD enriched with comical errors.

The fact that Pakistan came back twice in the series from the brink of seemingly dead positions bears testimony to their character for which alone, they deserved to be the worthy victors. At 54/4 in the 2nd innings at Abu Dhabi with still 16 runs behind England’s lead, Strauss and co had them under the cosh with Monty and Swann on top of their game and with the top Pakistani batsmen back in the pavilion. At that point, came the grind that for many Pakistanis has to be the defining phase of this series and one which epitomizes all the goodness in this team. With a mere 30 Test caps between them, Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq sewed together a finely composed bond that, for the situation and the eventual outcome, brought Pakistan back in the game in a pretty enthralling fashion.

The second instance had even more promise and pride attached with it. Having been 44/7 in the first morning of the 3rd Test, few would have taken the stand against the betting market. But right then started a comeback of immense proportions which would ultimately end up joining the holy pantheon of Calcutta and Karachi. What unearthed there session after session was the naked exhibition of fortitude and mettle, a batting lesson in form of the contrasting hundreds of Younis and Azhar, a defence of the target by careful disintegration of the opposition which was already mentally shot to monstrous measure.

In retrospect, to call this clean sweep and all these numbers and records - which are Salvador Dali-esque in nature-- a product of the seminal metamorphosis Pakistan cricket went through in the last 30 months, won’t be an exaggeration. To have risen from the debris in which they would find themselves periodically, most of it due to their own doing, in such an overwhelming manner says a lot about the current crop and the men who have been in charge of them. To have shut the most venomous of critics and strongest of doubters through a constant wave of progress only instills and strengthens the faith that this is a side which believes in itself, does not only weave moments of inspirations together and knows the method to madness, something rarely associated with the ‘mercurial’ and ‘unpredictable’ tagged Pakistan of past years.

Call it method to madness, even if there is a slightest of it in Misbah's men. Or call it controlled chaos. History's equilibrium has been disturbed.

- This post was first published at The Sight Screen.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Shahid Afridi, The Leg Spinner


Last Sunday, Sharjah hosted its first international game after 8 years. For most watching it, to have expected anything less than a maniacal Pakistani win was like deluding yourself of the legacy the venue possessed for Pakistan cricket. Yet, there were moments in both innings that suggested otherwise, but Shahid Afridi ended up being the prime difference between both sides, bossing an ODI like very few have in modern times – half of it on one knee – putting the match in a state of entropy, enabling a series win and eventually redeeming the Pakistani pride at Sharjah.

The fact that Afridi played an uncharacteristic, tail-farming and perfectly paced innings earlier in the day, to set up a modest total was legitimately surprising to many, since runs from his bat have been a rarity lately; and to have done it with such a methodological approach was heartening for his fans. However, turning the game on its head later on when Sri Lanka were cruising and taking a five-fer would not have quite amazed those who have been following his bowling progress since the past few years, he’s produced match winning spells regularly.

A quick stats check tells he has been the best spinner in ODIs this year, which includes being the joint highest wicket taker in the World Cup, and that tells a lot about his surge as a bowler considering he bowls often in tandem with Saeed Ajmal, someone who’s been equally impressive in the striking rate column.
Leading wicket takers (spin bowlers) in 2011


Overall, he’s the joint second leading wicket taker in the year, only bettered by Lasith Malinga.

Leading wicket takers in 2011

During the course of this study of Shahid Afridi, we shall extract other features of his renaissance as a match winning bowler, but there is a feeling that a question is bound to arise in the minds of many that did he really have it in him to be so effective?

Test Cricket

For someone who took a five wicket haul in the very first innings of his Test debut against the then-mighty Aussies, there always was an extent of promise hidden somewhere. But over the years, it never could be quite fulfilled. The almighty whammies, across-the-line hoicks and cow-corner slogs would dominate a career which initially started as a leg spin bowler selected to replace Mushtaq Ahmed; a selection that was as contrasting in the genre as it would be to listen to Cannibal Corpse after Phil Collins on your iPod.
It would be tough to argue that there weren’t patches in his bowling career that would be no less than awe-inducing. Glimpses of brilliance would be on show every once in a while, whether it be Bangalore, where a probing and artistic Test spell against the world’s best players of spin in their own backyard would puzzle Pakistanis of what could be achieved with that arm and fingers, or his longest spell (overs wise) at Faisalabad. But maybe, as was decided by his periodical retirements, the exhibition of his bowling aptitude was not meant for Test cricket, after all.

Twenty20
It may be a mere hypothesis here, supported by an odd interview of his, that with the birth of T20 on international stage, Afridi’s focus on bowling had a revamp. For a cricketer like him, who was destined to be the protagonist of the shortest playing format, this was perhaps the career crossroads where he hit the realization that his value to his team could increase manifold if he would return decent figures in the allotted quote of 4 overs.

And so he started doing exactly that. With an odd knock of 30 or 40, there were not many significant batting performances to boast about, but the consistent stints with the ball made sure he was a reliable bowling option for his team, often coming on as first change. Within just one year of the introduction of T20s, he ended up being the player of the first T20 World Cup, mainly for 12 wickets in 7 matches.

He’s had a number of match defining spells in the format already but perhaps the most crucial one came in the semi-final of the 2009 World Cup. Buoyed by an against-all-odd half century earlier and brought on as first change by Younis Khan, he sliced South Africa in half by going through the defences of Gibbs and De Villiers in consecutive overs with his top spin and slider. It was enough to take Pakistan to the final where he produced another clinical all-round performance. Those were two consecutive man-of-the-match gems and if it wasn’t for Dilshan’s dream run with the bat, Afridi would have been the player of the tournament once again.

As of now, he is the highest wicket taker in T20 internationals and the first one to get to 50 wickets. The economy is just a touch above 6 which, for this lunatic format, is nothing less than outstanding.  Though a 4-fer is not a regular occurrence in T20, yet he has bagged 3 of them.

Leading wicket takers in T20 Internationals

One Day Internationals

However, it’s his resurgence as an ODI bowler that has had more impact than any other bowler on Pakistan’s performance in the past four years. He is the only Pakistani bowler to have taken more than 100 wickets during that period (115, to be exact), at an average and economy which have been considerably lower than his career’s aggregate.

Furthermore, it is his role as a fulcrum on which ODIs won by Pakistan during this period have centered, which give way to some extremely impressive numbers.

Shahid Afridi in ODIs won by Pakistan since 01 January 2008

The significance of his bowling can also be judged by his numbers in the matches that Pakistan has won in his whole 15 year limited overs career. With an average and strike rates which are two-thirds of his overall career, it’s safe to say he’s been the cornerstone of Pakistan’s ODI victories in this period. 73% of his career wickets have come in matches Pakistan have won, with all of his 4-fers and 5-fers coming in these matches.

Shahid Afridi in ODIs won by Pakistan throughout his career

Another remarkable feature of Afridi’s bowling accomplishments is his presence in the top three ODI wicket takers in the last three and a half years.

Leading wicket takers in ODIs since 01 April 2008

To ascertain how crucial Afridi has been whenever Pakistan has defended a total successfully, his stats in this criterion, which are in stark contrast to his overall numbers, should be proof enough.

Shahid Afridi in ODIs Pakistan has won defending a target (fielding second)

Perhaps one of the best gauges of his bowling proficiency is his numbers in the following table, which classifies the stats of all leading spin bowlers since April 2009.

Leading spin bowlers in ODIs since 01 April 2009

The Craft

All these brilliant numbers aside, the variations in Afridi’s bowling are as fascinating and skilled as they come in the modern game. There is the conventional loopy leg spin, which though may not be Warnesque but does enough to create doubt in the batsman’s mind whether to play against the line or just play it safe by smothering its turn. It has become more his stock delivery with the skilful usage of the crease, going wide of it at times and closer-to-stumps occasionally. Then there is the cleverly disguised googly which, initially in his career, started with a visible off spin roll but now has been mastered into the back-of-the-hand wrong ‘un. An extension of his wrong ‘un is the quicker off spin which he drops in mostly for left-handers and to newly in batsmen, primarily to create doubt against his conventional fast leg breaks. Then the main weapon: the top spinner - capable of achieving different bouncing angles even after pitching on the same spot for separate deliveries – is so cunningly employed that even the best in the business have fallen prey to it. At times, it could be seen as a hybrid of a slider and a flipper, something you can figure he himself too is not sure about.

This assortment would make for quite a repertoire for any spinner but for Afridi, it doesn't end here. There is the globally famous faster one, also called ‘shooter’ by him and common in gully cricketing terms. The history of this weapon dates back to his initial spells in limited overs cricket, with the one cleaning up Gregg Blewett in the Carlton & United Series, 1996-97 making headlines. The speed gun usually measures this missile in a range of higher 120 kph to mid 130 kph, enough to check on the best fast medium bowlers in the game.

Moreover, alongside these variations the spin bowling basics are focused on constantly, with the speed as fluctuating as the English weather and the float often present. Add to it, the guile and the vicious in-drift which, when in full rhythm, make for a potentially mesmerizing art. The prodding and fiddling of the batsmen is often witnessed, tying them down with a set pattern of deliveries and making his field settings count with regularity. It would be injustice to him if no mention of his follow through is done, which is as aggressive as it gets to being a fast bowler of the current era.
There may always remains a mousy feeling among his fans that, with the precocious talent he possesses, he could have achieved so much more than what he has in his 15 years in the game, but for what he has accomplished so far and for what his aura circumscribes, he remains as the most loved sportsman of his country and a superstar capable of filling stadiums on his own anywhere the game is played.

Shahid Afridi feeds on the crowd and the adrenaline that is generated in the stands for him, epitomized by his x-man wicket celebration with both his arms aloft. With his bowling maturing and reshaping his career, we are well into the second coming of the mercurial pathan, this time as a bona fide leg spinner. Afridi, the bowler has made himself noticed in the recent years and there can be no denying that he is one of the main game-changers with the ball in hand in the game presently.

- This post was first published at The Sight Screen.

It is Really the Tip of the Iceberg This Time

When Henry Blaxland narrated the mitigation plea of Mohammad Amir, who was sitting in the glass chamber approximately at 90 degrees angle and 3 metres in distance from me, every word of it felt like a knife being stabbed into one’s ribcage or like the scripting of an epitaph of someone you loved. Here, it was for a cricketing career that was arguably the most promising since a certain Tendulkar faced Imran and the Ws amidst a bloodied shirt in his debut series. From the disclosing of how Amir stood in front of the mirror wearing the Pakistan shirt given to him the night before his debut to his acquiescence of any punishment to be handed out by the court, the intensity of every phrase gave way to the feeling of something that had been irretrievably lost. It was agonizing watching him lower his head, periodically recoiling; it was just heartbreaking.

And yet, all of it was just words. Or so they ended up, as in the eventual scheme of the events for any hope, lying naked in the recesses of hearts feeling for the teenager, all but died the very next day.

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For starters, let there be no doubt whatsoever that the three of them cheated. And the price tag of their assorted sins was always going to be hefty in context of the brass tacks that eventually surfaced. Whether it was entrapment (by the Fake Sheikh) as suggested by Michael Atherton or the sheer ineptitude with which Butt and Majeed administered the fix, the fact of the matter is they did get involved in this villainy and defrauded millions of cricket fans and the game itself, along with shaming their families and a nation.

There should be no denying that these players were a product of a defective system which bred corruption in its various demeanours, and had grown up deifying players who dominated the glorious 90’s with such power that could only be collated with the army of that country. Add to it, the distorted legacy of the glitched up Qayyum report and its frailty, the susceptibility of them falling prey to a well orchestrated money-spitting net was supreme.

The unfolding of their wrongdoings was beyond an iota of doubt, well for most people who had followed the case intently. The guilty plea of Amir and the subsequent 4 weeks long trial of Asif and Butt, which was akin to thieves turning against each other, left little margin for them being exonerated by the jury in the criminal case. The custodial sentences were announced and they are said to act as deterrents for the game of cricket through the Judiciary of England and Wales.

Or are they as such?


Here was a judicial system which had acquitted the likes of Bruce GrobbelaarMatthew Le Tissier and John Higgins, in spite of possessing seemingly ample credential of corruption handed monetary fines. A justice system which had dwindled away in corruption cases related to sports in the recent past - like in the Grobbelaar’s case, the overturning of the initial libel jury’s verdict – would always force this question to be ascertained: “Do you really have a concrete belief in the system?”

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Then there is the curious case of Anti Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU). The Anti-Corruption Unit of the body had operating expenses for 2010 of 877, 000 USD and yet was unable to find a single maligned event in the game over the year when there's been smoke all over. From fearing about rogue elements in the game a few years back to being called a ‘toothless tiger’, it has yet to come up with a single implicative exposure.

Fair enough that ACSU is not a law enforcing body, but if sting operations such as these have to be effected by newspapers – in this case by one that no longer exists - where do we find the authority for such a body? How do we stop seeing it as an organization that alienates itself from methodologies that should be applied to investigate the corruption in the game, and have it not make a joke of its own integrity by reopening already run alleged match-rigging cases? Or starts taking seriously the recommendations from the likes of protagonists such as Rashid Latif, and just not be handing out cushy jobs for former policemen with zilch authority.

During the proceedings, Ravi Sawani amazed everyone when he revealed he did not even know what ‘brackets’ are, even on the Unit claiming it has had a fairly extensive reach in the betting world. It’s the same apathy, which enables Lord Condon to advise enforcing bans on countries involved in cricket corruption. If that were to be the case, then we might end up with Test nations that can be counted on fingers in one hand, for it simply is not a country-specific issue (Mervyn Westfield should agree).
It has been reported that the employment of cricket-savvy personnel has been recommended in the Unit, pretty much annulling the mindset of having police and military officers run its affairs meticulously. Along with the scrutinizing of cricketers with non-detailed monetary wealth, this sounds as a form of overhauling of ACSU. How much do these steps, once executed, cater to the exposure of corruption in the game is to be seen.

--

Pete Rose, in the 80s, bet thousands of dollars on the game which made him world famous. He was banished from baseball, but was not sent behind bars. There are other analogous examples of dismissed careers of rogue men in various sports over the years. In fact, this has been the first instance in the last 50 years when sportsmen have been sent to prison. For this specific scandal, rightfully christened as the grandest of its kind in cricketing history, those who are part of the lynch mob would always profess that justice was served and some of the antagonists may even want severer sentences, disregarding the fact that the already handed out ICC bans have potentially sealed their playing careers.

These prison sentences could be seen as deterrents only if uniformity in legislating legal cricket betting is adopted and jurisdictions which were utilized for trying the trio in court are replicated in other playing countries. Australia, for one, desires to make fixing illegal by next year through specialized legislation, which, undoubtedly, would have to be seen as a major step.

Perhaps the argument here intersperses more between condemning a justice system that doesn’t seem to function on level playing field and being dismayed over an organization whose productivity begs answers with not much to show on paper, advocating the view of custodial sentences in this case being seen as a mopping up affair rather than significant deterrents.

Even though our collective moral compasses may never be aligned to come to a consensus on whether putting the three players behind bars is impediment enough, but few people would disapprove the frightening scenario in which a teenager like Amir would have found himself in facing the underworld threats and then to come clean. If my visits to the Southwark Crown Court have forced any realization, it is that the vagaries of on-field betraying acts have less to do with the criminal courts and are more concerned with the actual fabric of the game, the principles it stands for and the authorities that are meant to be providing it the due protection.

"Tip of the iceberg" - you said it when Hansie did it, when Azhar was 'nailed' and now you have labelled this the same. “It’s not Cricket”, Justice Cooke remarked in the opening sentence of the verdicts, which I’m pretty sure we have heard before in the previous years.

Don’t let these clich├ęs fool you time and again, dare I say.

- This post was first published at The Sight Screen.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A sad day for the authentic man's game

This is not about raising your flags up for feminism, neither it is about women rights. It is not about putting it to the misogynists and anything that demeans the gentleman's game. This is about trampling every principle, every notion and every manly aesthetic that this beautiful game stands for. It is a sheer loss of a sizable faith in humanity and this game for many cricket payers, followers and enthusiasts.

Let's be honest, the very grace of this sports has been dented today. The appointment of Stuart Barbie Broad as England's T20 captain is an utter humiliation on immense levels. It is nothing less than picking George W. Bush as your Bentley's chauffeur, embracing Kamran Akmal as your butler or buying Asif Ali Zardari as your dog. Here is a serial petulant, a lunatic twat and a shameless absconder who has been chosen to take command of the men of the land from where the game originated. Above all, a human being who has been wanted for years for her crimes against masculinity has been handed the job. And with credible candidates like Bell, KP and others deserving the honor way before her, the very notions of merit and justice have been degraded. This is beyond sane human comprehension and exceeds many of the what-the-fuck moments in cricket.

And today it is for T20, God knows how much this game will suffer, how many mental and phsyical casualties occur and what exactly would transpire if this miscreant is tipped to be leading England in other formats sometime later. One can only pray that more dreadful days don't come.

The only sense one can make out of this diabolical decision is that ECB and Giles Clarke have started importing the C-grade ganja from Ijaz fucking Butt on cheap prices. Also, they may have given in to all the feminazis who never stopped moaning about how the men version of this game needs an incentive for them to have their voices and agendas heard. There is another school of thought which believes that this decision is a shining example for all those fucking wankers who have their faith in their daddies and their name taking them to places. Chris papa Broad has ultimately done it for his girl, after shielding him for years being as a shambolic and disgraceful match referee.


Moreover, few people have also termed it as an effect of the incessant pressure English men used to put on ECB about how their birds don't take interest in this game anymore. When there is a religious and maddening devotion to football in the country and overload of manly disguised cunts such as the Ferdinands, Rooneys and the Nevilles, cricket has been taking a grave battering for several years now and almost all the female folk has given in to footy. Hence, the tactic of having a vaginal scum and an allegedly promiscuous woman leading the present World Champions in T20 format should influence more viewing and work for the betterment of this aspect. We can only assume.

Having said that, 5th May 2011 is and will be embedded in history as an extremely sad day in English cricket, Notts county and the game. It's a damning day for all the sports in the world, honesty speaking. This day shall be remembered for the clamping down by one of cricket's central authorities on it's country's youth and their enthusiasm, for running out of inspirations to drag them in the game and to tarnish it's elegance. Those who are responsible for it will have to answer for this one day. They will be prosecuted for such a crime against the upcoming generations of English cricket and for the conscience of this game.

And this decision, been announced at the perennial home of cricket, that is Lord's is a shame in itself.

Let the mourning begin.

p.s. Anyone reading this who is unsure of Barbie Broad's gender should know she has endorsed her sexual orientation many a times. Here's just one of the proofs: Barbie accepts he is a eunuch. (Click the link). Since it is in Punjabi, the literal translation is: "If you're not a girl, you are surely an eunuch." -- yeah mate I agree I think...

Late addition: Barbie's official statements in the morning presser:

1. "I vow to inspire eunuchs, females and castrated men into cricket. I do have a vagina."

2. "I'll make sure the very spirit of the gentleman's game is ripped apart. I shall live upto the stakes of me being the serial absconder."

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Welcome to the Cult, Chosen Ones - Post TGME

Before reading into this, please watch this first. Robin Williams wants to tell you something.


To put it as mildly as possible, the gist of his talk revolves around how you can't boast about certain things in life unless you have experienced them, you have lived those very moments and breathed in them. It is a speech that helps in preceding practicalities of life to its theories, assists in identifying walkers from the talkers and supports in the culmination of separating  men from the boys. It gives pointers to the two ends of life spectrum, the best moments and the worst. It tells you about how you can fall in and fall out of love with life. And many other things associated with it.

30th March 2011 was one such event in the aftermath of which Robin Williams's words to Pakistani cricket fans, especially the ones who had their hearts ripped apart due to their first major cricket heartache, would have connected. But possibly, the occasion was meant for a selective few, the already blessed ones - the ones who relived the pain of years and decades through this new generation of victims, the ones who would guide the new flock of loyalists to the world where they belong to and try to force the glory cashiers to get off the bandwagon.

And in the words of Frank Slade, "When the shit hits the fan, some guys run and some guys stay."

That exactly was the shit which broke loose on 30th March 2011, and the kind which provided a test.
Absorb this scene. It will either make or break you for your remaining lives.
It's been a good few days since TGME happened. I guess by this time most of the Pakistanis are done with at least 3 of the 5 stages of grief. Denial, anger and bargaining seem to be dealt with by the majority who was nuts about this match and was taken in by it's well-deserved hype. For all 5 phases to sink in together, let me be honest, was not and is no easy deal. Even for the die-hards and the serial masochists of Pakistan cricket, it hasn't been smooth going.

Let's face it, it's been a tough ride. A post-traumatic phase, which you would have dreaded after a humongous build up and a match of such magnitude, did transpire. To understate anything else would be insulting to those who have been shell-shocked, wept relentlessly, gone into week long depression, broken mobile phones, TV sets, overdid on their venting out mechanisms and everything that has to do with getting rid of the misery suffered at Mohali. And then to add to all of this, India took the trophy couple of days later. Bam!

But then, this agonizing journey means only for those who can absorb it all and will cross over to the other side of the fence. The end which makes a life of a Pakistani cricket fanatic - the holy cult.

As far as India is concerned, one would believe we have had it all. We have seen the self-inflicted mindfuck at Bangalore '96 happen, lived through the horror of Manchester '99 and survived the colossal torment at Centurion '03 (which for me personally, is right up there with the severest cricket heartbreaks).

But hey, it has not always been about India in World Cups. If it had been the case, it would be a crass evaluation of the traits of a Pakistan cricket nut.

Adversity teaches..
There have been many days when life has seemingly ceased to exist for the current crop. We have watched our greats implode at Faisalabad '97, the lifetime heart-breaker of  Lord's '99, the Aussie bigotry of Hobart '99, the injustice at Antigua '00, the finishing failure at Colombo '02, the Irish shocker of Kingston '07, the untimely choke at Galle '09 and few other major dents in between these two years.

Let's not dig deep into the past, maybe you would have lived through the agony of Sydney '10 or even the daylight robbery at St. Lucia '10. If you have, and you know what this bond is all about, the cost and hurt it comes with, the sardonic opposition you have to face, then you are definitely one of us.

Moreover, amidst all these unforgettable on-field clusterfuck of tragedies, we have lived through cricket's unfathomable episodes and events. The major part of our 90s was plagued with players factions and groupings, match fixing scandals, all of which was never rooted out and hence 2000s were inbred with them. We had players cheat, banned, fined and disgracefully retired; continual changes in administration giving our cricket the image of a neglected orphanage; coaches ending their tenures even before their first payslips were handed and have had one foreign coach (who had more Pakistaniat than many of us) die; politicians, ex-army generals interfere with the sports and leaving it paralyzed, terrorists attack on a visiting team thus ending any international cricket prospects in the country. And to the dismay of all of it, most of these things still haunt with their presence and their activities.
Food for your souls, dear believers
These are not your average causes of psychotherapeutic disorders. These are the ingredients for resistance and the bits that make you.

Ours is no Liverpool or Arsenal Football Club where if you don't win silverwares, you can fall back on history and say, hey we can bitch about you on basis of our past glories. Yes we do have a glorious past, have won almost everything in the game and have had almost every record accomplished, yet ours is not the way to fall back on yesteryear splendors. Among all the madness and sadness, we have learnt to live in the moment and that is where we get our strength from and one of the modes of how we feed our demented souls.

Life beckons, bleed green
This is a mosh-pit where believers learn to cope with sadism after being put through incessant tests of callous and maddeningly inconsistent on-field acts.

This is a congregation of habitual masochists who have taken the brunt of backing the only assembled lunatics of this game and never to subside easily.

This is a deranged mob of omnipotent vertebrates who have seen miracles transpire on a cricket field and have manifested in bleeding green only.

And once you have become the part of this cult..

You will come out of heartbreaks stronger, knowing that amidst all the perennial joys that Pakistan cricket provides you'll be able to live through the rugged of moments. You will know that you are a class apart from the glory hunters, fair weather folks, World Cup specialists and cricket cocktails who rode with you at some point of your evolution. You will realize that there is an unnerving self belief in you that is instilled only because you worship this cricket team and it will replicate in many things in life that you do.

Once there, times will come when you will feel being amputated, psyched out, mentally incapacitated and still being able to physically function. There will be stages when you will be staring in the mirror for hours and still be able to laugh if off. There will be times when it will occur to you that you are unable to cry anymore and the tears won't come out. And then there will be times when you will be lending the fresh jingoists your shoulder to cry on because yours has become strong enough to sustain their weight, and you'll be telling them "This too shall pass."

These will be few of the symptoms through which you will know you have become a Pakistani cricket masochist and have converted into a specie so unique that the world gets fascinated by you and finds pacification of sorts by watching you. You will be the embodiment of Rudyard Kipling's If..

Welcome to the holy cult, chosen ones. Welcome to the greener side.

Abhi ishq ke imtihaan aur bhi hain.. (More tests of your love await you..)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Well done Senator Rehman Malik

Dear Senator,

I wonder what have you been smoking lately or have been in rehab (I wouldn't know) but going by your today's morning media stunt related to Pakistan cricket team, you surely have lost a bit of respect you had in my eyes and of many Pakistanis. I won't take long, since this is a quick one and pretty random but an important rant, and now I firmly believe you are not the best man to be wasted time on while writing anything. But hey, I won't be hard, I'll try to refrain from going crude (which is a mighty tough job for me).

Right then sir. We all know of your credibility and stature as a politician, interior minister and a man responsible for public service. We all know how you keep running with your panty in a twist on alleged corruption charges, court summons and every bit of hideous heroics that can be committed by a national public office bearer. We all know you fulfill the definition of being an attention seeking whore and an utter fool. Exhibits: your apparent dramatization in internal affairs of country, be it going to Karachi after days of bloodshed to mediate with the clashing parties or your immature stance on blasphemy issue.

A lot can be written on your own shenanigans, the watchdogs that should be kept on your head, but then all this isn't a political rant nor a senile anti-PPP post. All this should just be a basis of what you did today morning.

You literally inflicted pain and headache, in simple terms. To Pakistan, its cricket crazy people and above all, the team.

Didn't you like your team doing a near-perfect World Cup campaign and now just 40 odd hours away from what is being bid as the greatest game of this decade, tournament, lives and what not? Why then such a "warning" to your players amidst such intense period? Where do you yourself stand in honesty?

Didn't you know when you talk about certain sensitive issues, you keep your head and not behave as an utter nutjob? Ever heard of exercising discretion? Spying on our team, fair enough but to let it out in open? Heaven's sake.

Didn't you know when the last time a politician who had no concern with cricket spoke and pointed fingers, what hell transpired? You forgot how your buddy Jamshed Dasti sparked off that worst phase in our history? Starting from one of the best captains resigning on his accusations on the team performance and the rest is history.








Mid-rant conclusion: You should not monkey with a monkey's monkey when it's not your field of expertise.










Here was a  bunch of your own players who were battered emotionally, psychologically and in cricket's physical terms through loss of players, credibility and non-favorable results, more than any other team in the game in the past 7 months and beyond. These months formed the worst period in Pakistan's cricket history filled with relentless screw ups and lunatic phases. How more can they take and still keep pulling off massive feats in the middle?

They themselves had clearly put it before entering this tournement that they were a hurt side and will be using all the criticism and the sporting underdog tag as motivation to perform well here. And sure they have. Lead by a man who had matured beyond his mental capacity in a matter of weeks and had successfully shut his critics with his performance and his captaincy, they have done their fans proud by getting to the last four and now seeing eye-to-eye with the favorites.

You betrayed all of them. You ignited the fire that had so gradually puffed out. You talked on something, which you just should not have.

Who needs a Shiv Sena or a fascist party in a country where your players are supposed to be tensed about their security and are psychologically downplayed, when your own country's topnotch government official screws your brain for it?

Who needs an utterly biased media who's bent on producing nonsensical bullcrap of the grandest class on daily basis, whether it be to get TRPs, demean the opposition country and team or for other motives, when we have you to degrade our national representatives. We all won't be stunned anymore in watching all the news channels cashing on this, be it an Indian channel or Pakistani.

Umar Gul is said to be bemused and quizzed when he was questioned on it during today morning's presser. We all know for a fact your words have gone through. But hey, I have belief in the boys. We have belief in them. They shouldn't and won't be shaken up by your air-headedness. And now just for the sake of all the build up of the game, it's value and for your bastardization, we pray they win this contest bigtime.



On a side note, even Ijaz Butt is proud of you today. And made the remaining hours leading upto this titanic clash more restless.




Oh between, apart from Indians and non-Pakistanis making fun of you on Twitter and cyber networking sites, deservedly, your bemused countrymen have been fittingly attributing you with phrases and labels for your poisoning today. Here's one of the best ones: Heard the Mazhar Majeed Memorial Asshole of the Year Award goes to @SenRehmanMalik. Well deserved.

So, that's about it for the time being. Trust me, I've not vented out in the best manner I know while writing, so term yourself lucky here. But then again, I really feel the need of something for you. Have a listen here.

God bless you with some sense. Amen.

Prescribed Ettiquettes and Attitudes for TGME (The Greatest Match Ever)


# 1: Please don't make tiresome bullshit political analogies. Lazy bloggers, opportunistic Aman Ki Asha-ists and op-ed writers, we are looking at you. It takes the gist away from this mighty cricket match.

#2: This match will NOT defeat terrorism, nor it will root out any extremists on either side of the border. Also, keep away any lunatic thoughts of intelligence agencies cashing on it as a strategic asset.

#3: This match is not about fucking peace or Kashmir or Hindus or Muslims. Its the most important game, this sport ever conceived. Take it in that vein.

#4: Dear fair weather fans, welcome to your brief stay in our cauldron of madness. Please stop making references to the 2000 World Cup and other things that never happened, and we promise not to kill you during the first drinks break.

#5: Loser desi footie fans, if you're going to compare this to ManU v Liverpool, El Classico or some shit, please piss off right now, you won't be spared.

#6: Cricket will NOT be the winner. Stop even thinking of fucking saying anything related to that notion without the NOT in that statement. It really does tick us off.

#7: To all those who are bemoaning how cricket obfuscates the region's real problems and this how match will be the proof, we are sorry your mommy never loved you..

#8: If you read about complaints of cyber orgasms, squirting, constipation, illnesses et al. on social networks in the remaining hours leading up to the match starts, don't fucking complain. Live with it.

#9: For all those who are terming this as the cricket's holiest war, End of Times, Judgement Day et al. we fucking love you. It is going to be just that, in that Colosseum.

#10: For Indian and Pakistani expats and homegrown fans now living abroad, we empathize with you the most. It's genuinely tough being a hypocrite on face to each other while watching a Pak-Ind match together, so let's stay like that not bring each other women in verbal ways discreetly.

#11: A cricket match was never won through Facebook polls and never will be. Especially, when it is the Grand Daddy of 'em all on Wednesday. So, take our advice and avoid these kinky heroics.

- This post was co-authored by Ahmer Naqvi who blogs at Karachi Khatmal. It was first published here at Clear Cricket.