For Bashir, the average Pakistani fan, the last decade and a half has been a tough one; a journey on a bed of thorns with a glimpse of a rose every now and then, hardly enough. Bashir blames the decline of the sport predominantly on the overall situation the country finds itself in – politically, economically, and just about any –ally one can deem to think of. Since the 1999 WC Final loss to Australia, there have been innumerable incidents, the details of which Bashir hates to indulge in like a true patriot, to put off the staunchest and most steadfast of fans. But If you’re like Bashir who has stuck by his team where the players are as often proclaimed legendary as thought of as complete nincompoops with as much surety as Amir getting Sharma out every time they face-off, and all of this within a span of a fly batting its wings and Bashir letting out an insignificant post-Iftar fart – take a bow and feel proud, it’s a privileged state to be in. The one key factor that keeps Bashir intact is Pakistan’s team statistical dominance over arch-rivals India, and the fact that our players have always found themselves cooler and more dashing than our cousins from across the border. But this emotion too had started to wane and has been teetering on the brink of being completely vanquished. Until now!
Bashir remembers when Pakistan lost to India at Bengaluru in 1996. The feeling of dread as the wickets tumbled, after Anwar and Sohail had given his team the best of chances to chase down the total, is still fresh. It hurts. Bashir also remembers the 2003 WC bout against India when his team’s star studded line-up succumbed to the weirdest of all defeats. It hurts. And how can Bashir not remember the “The Scoop”. It hurts and burns. All in all, there’s a lot of hurt Bashir remembers that had started to emerge more often than not like a pinching, itching haemorrhoid courtesy India’s precipitous rise in World Cricket. Until now!
Bashir is a cricketer himself; a name to fear among the galli mohalla tape-ball fraternity. Favourite shot: jharhoo, favourite ball: anywhere. But now Bashir has gone overseas and has had the fortune of playing the real shit – cricket with a cock-ball, as it’s known back home, or hard-ball for the bores. To his delightful pleasure, the jharhoo still works as effectively as it did in tape-ball cricket. The only difference is the height he has to bring the jharhoo in fruition at – a Younis-esque annoying sweep to a swash-buckling Lara-esque flick off the hip to a dashing Ponting-esque pull; just revisions of basically the same shot – the jharhoo. But the trips to the cricket grounds on match days had been becoming a bit of an annoyance with Indians prevalent in opposing teams and ones never to shy away from throwing a jibe every now and then on how suffering Pakistan’s performance has been of late. Until now!
Bashir suddenly finds himself in the all-so-familiar scenario of looking at his Indian compatriots, inwardly sniggering and sympathetically agreeing with them as they lament India’s performance at the CT2017 Final. Even though this win comes after quite a bit of time, Bashir has a feeling that scores have been settled, nerves have been calmed, the old dread has been kindled in Indian hearts, dominance recommenced and the Indians taught the lesson to never ever write Pakistan off. The only issue is that the Indian team is nowhere to be seen. India still hides behind political alibis and categorically refuses to play Pakistan; home or at neutral venues. Bashir knows this for a fact that if cricketing ties were to be resumed, it’d only be a matter of time (a series or two tops) until Pakistan would confirm its utter dominance over India once again. Bashir reached the conclusion a while ago that no matter how strong the Indian team becomes, mental fortitude will always upstage skill in all encounters. Not having played a full series against them since India’s 2007 tour to Pakistan, and practically no bilateral series whatsoever in front of large crowds since, the Boys in Green have suffered in confidence and lost the panache that had come to be associated as closely with Pakistanis as the colour green. But now, after years of being written-off and ridiculed, Bashir knows that everything seems to be garnering a semblance of normalcy; Pakistani bowlers are best in the world, and Indian batters are best in the world…just not for Pakistanis.
Prior to the Final the Indian media, ex-players and general public were so confident that it’d give Ali a stomach ache. The difference being that the latter actually delivered on his promises. Funnily enough most times the Indians have gone down the path of being pompous (Amir is an ordinary bowler), mouthing off grandiose claims (aanay do), and making vows as if Helen of Troy was actually Bhagmati of Hyderabad who’d eloped with our Bashir, fate has served them a much deserving dose of humble chai that is obviously much too difficult to gobble down. In spite of this natural phenomenon they continue to indulge in this vile practice. Bashir is as confused as the rest of us Pakistanis - 'insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result." The post-defeat backlash of the Indians is what classic comedy is made of, and they seem to be so good at churning out this stuff that even Fox News would bow down to their greatness, Pratchett would steal notes from their script, Vonnegut would do a Sylar on their producers.
Bashir’s advice to India is simple: Quit. Just hang your bats ‘n balls.
If even after attempting to sabotage Pakistan cricket at every available opportunity, Pakistanis not only make it to the Final but also thrash the bejesus out of the richest, most passionate and, as claimed by a lot of gurus, without a doubt the best team in the world, then there’s no point whatsoever for India to take part in global competitions. This defeat is not just a defeat. India hasn’t been just outplayed by the better team. They've been decimated like they used to be at the hands of Imran, Wasim, Waqar, Anwar, Inzi, Yousuf - ugh, it's a never-ending list. The fear of Indian Cricket Board and their nonsensical political stance has been exposed. And it has surfaced when it mattered the most, and at a time when they least expected it themselves. Rest assured this win was not due to Pakistanis being unpredictable; the tag of being unpredictable is irrelevant in matches against India. As Bashir said earlier – it’s the psychological strength that ensures wins in these encounters, skill to a large degree takes a seat and watches the show. Bashir can sense that the mental hold India was just starting to relish over Pakistan may have just been broken. But of course, it’d be difficult to tell courtesy India not willing to play against his team outside global tournaments – don’t get Bashir started on the hypocrisy of that. Keep calm, Bashir, they’ll succumb eventually. And when they do, it shall be Amir steam-rolling them as ordinarily as Sharma plays him, Hasan Ali busy in his generator celebratory acts, Fakhar top-edging quickies and slog-sweeping spinners like nobody’s business and that too with a smile on his face, Azhar making sure he keeps Pakistan’s tag of unpredictability intact, and Sarfaraz doing what he does best – lead fearlessly.
Tonight Bashir is a happy Pakistani and is generous enough to offer it back to his dear cousins a curse that’s been dogging him since the 2015 World Cup – “Mauka Mauka”, no…”Thoka Thoka”. Toodles :).