ICC World Cup is on and last Sunday totally ruined it. Okay, not totally but somewhat. I mean it was only the sixth time we lost to India consecutively in a World Cup, and it’s not as though there won’t be any more face-offs between the two rivals that might end the same way, and – okay, it was bad. However, it wouldn’t have been so devastating were I not living in a country where there is no cricket whatsoever.
Yes, I live in such a country. Do you even know what that means?
When you live in such a country as mine, you buy a sports package that includes Cricket just to watch a World Cup happening halfway across the globe. You wait for nightfall, and stay awake through the night, even though you have work the next day, just to watch that game. And you watch! You watch your team lose ball by ball because the Skipper sent out the absolute wrong opener, because that butterfingers dropped a catch, because that infernal ball would just keep crossing the boundary or it just wouldn’t when it’s your team batting, and because all your bowlers are twits!
You want to cuss your head off.
But, instead, you take a deep breath, sleep it off and go to work on a Monday where nobody cares for what happened the night before. It’s like nothing happened. Like it wasn’t India that your team was battling against. Like you just hadn’t invited all your Desi friends over and almost had your neighbors call in the cops on you because you were exploding with expletives at four in the morning and scaring their Chihuahua. Like the dark blotchy traces of war paint under your insomniac eyes were invisible.
All this because you live in a country where:
- The only Cricket they know is either a bug or a phone company.
- Bouncer is either a doorman or an item on a baby registry.
- Googly is the kind of eyes you make at your crush.
- Yorker has no meaning unless you have the word ‘new’ preceding it.
- Swinger is a person you should stay away from if you’re monogamous.
- If you’re using the word Pitch, you better be talking about baseball, softball or advertising.
- Wicket is just wicked spelled wrong.
- There is no such thing as a Batsman but a batter makes total sense.
- Bowler is either a racing vehicle, a ten-pin player, a hat or something else that’s spelled wrong. (You no speak English?)
- Opener is a metal device you open a bottle/can/jar with.
- The only time you should be excited about a Duck in sports is when you have a permit and it’s the hunting season.
- Don’t try to find logic in why both teams must wear white in a Test.
- Don’t even think about explaining what a Test is and why it takes five days to complete.
- ODI sounds like an infection of the digestive tract.
- And Oval is either a shape or the most powerful office in the world.
It’s hard to see your team lose but it’s harder when you can’t rant about it in public. Adds so much more to the defeat!
Pakistan versus India is war. Always has been, always will be and it’s fun. We love it. They love it. We both want it. Sure, we have our love/hate moments off the field but when you’re living abroad, away from the home politics and closer to the struggle of keeping your roots from being totally severed, you get each other. Casual hellos turn to strong friendships and mutual interests turn into shared passions and you forget that there is a geographical divide between the two countries because hey – Shah Rukh and Fawad Khan rock on both sides of the border. You become pals – until it’s Cricket time.
Then, it’s war.
To explain to my American friends what Pakistan vs India in Cricket means, I’ll quote Arsalan Iftikhar:
India & Pakistan playing in 2015 Cricket World Cup is like Celtics-Lakers, Bears-Packers & Yankees-Red Sox rivalries combined…
The game of Cricket itself means the world to us and winning at it means we’re worth something. It’s a sport that’s larger than life in our neck of the woods. We plan our days/weeks/months around it. We make ads, compose songs, generate memes about it and worship its players. Winning a cricket title means that something in life has worked out. That today, that day when we win at the game, was a day not wasted. It uplifts the mood, rekindles the spirit, brightens the smile. The high of a clean stroke that sends the little red ball rolling off or flying into the pavilion, the fever that spikes as the bails fall off, the bliss of hearing the words, ‘it’s up in the air and he’s caught it’ – is unlike any other addiction.
Cricket is not just a game. It is a romance of a lifetime.
We still relive the glory days from World Cup 1992 when Imran Khan and his tigers brought home the crystal trophy. Oh yes, that golden moment! One may disagree with his politics today but there’s no argument about who ruled the world then. It is the same competition now but a lot has changed since then. At least for me.
For one thing, I don’t know the players. I haven’t seen the game for over a decade now. Plus, with all the shame of match-fixing, endless bans weighing in on Pakistan Cricket, our incapacity to host any series since God knows when, and plain unreliable performance of the team, I lost my interest. Then, it was so much easier to appreciate NBA and Super Bowl because everyone understood when I made a comment.
Last Sunday, however, changed all that a little.
I’m excited again. I know the team has very little to no chance of even making it through to the Quarter Finals but I know I will watch the matches. Then, as for winning, you never know – we weren’t that grand in 1992 either when we won the World Cup. In the Game of Chance, all odds are even.
For some insane reason, I’ve been watching Amir Khan’s Lagaan as well ever since Sunday. Yes, yes, the movie is more about British India and less about cricket itself but the passion is still all there: the game, the love, the blood, the thrill, the stakes, the honor in victory, the constant struggle against all odds, and the unity of a team that plays to win. I highly recommend this movie for anyone desiring to understand what cricket means to us. Watch it, and watch the game.
Cricket is an addiction that once you’re hooked to, it just doesn’t give up on you.
PS: This post first appeared in The Nation during Cricket World Cup 2015, which Australia deservedly took home for the 5th time on March 28 by beating New Zealand by 7 wickets.