The tall lanky fast bowler runs in and eases through the simplest of bowling actions to leave the batsmen with a freakish smile that makes him look like a second grader in front of a seasoned pro. From the other end, with his silky locks waving, comes in the left arm wiz kid who swings the ball thrice in one delivery and leaves batsmen looking as incapable as Chris Martin. An hour of intense embarrassment later, the batsmen finally smile when they smell a change in attack from either end. That their hearts sink further, at the sight of the yorker king, is another story.
This is what happened when Pakistan last toured England in 2010. The sight of Asif, Amir and Gul, making mockeries out of leading batsmen, took Pakistani fans back into the glory days of the early 90s. A new era had started, a new chapter had begun. Surely, this attack would dominate the world for years to come. But it all ended like a nightmare and left us as deeply wounded as any sports fan could be.
Fast forward 2011, and we’re alive again, celebrating new heroes, accomplishing new feats and cherishing new glories. This is Pakistan Cricket for you. Excitement is not a resource Pakistan Cricket lacks and thrill is never far away when the men in green take the ground. However, determination, maturity and mental strength are traits that we disowned in the 70s. In hindsight, it was perhaps fitting that someone as old fashioned and orthodox as Misbah ul Haq lead this revival of sorts. Misbah has been impressive, no two ways about it. The story of his revival has many similarities with that of Team Pakistan. Down & out an year ago only to fight back into a commanding position for the nth time. His methods may attract criticism, but his results are there for everybody to acknowledge.
Even more impressive and revealing, however, has been the depth of resources and the determination of character shown by this flawed system of Pakistan Cricket. No other nation would have been able to overcome the loss of Asif and Amir, a bowling pair made in heaven and destined for hell (in cricketing terms at least). The sheer magnitude of this loss was enough to make any sporting team crumble. Sure, the spirits were down in Pakistan as well. We all thought it was over and that there would be no more super stars from here. Fortunately, the countless Aamirs and Asifs playing in the alleys and streets of Shaikhupura, Gujranwala, Sialkot and many other small cities and villages were unaware of these bitter truths, focused only on the game that they had adopted as their way of life.
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The sight of Junaid Khan, Aizaz Cheema, Muhammad Talha and many others waiting in the wings strengthens my belief that if there’s one resource that this coal, gold and copper rich country will never run out of, its their brilliance with the bat and ball. With Afridi taking the center stage towards the latter half of his career, and senior pros like Younis and Abdul Razzaq playing their parts, Team Pakistan provides the perfect breeding ground for the younger players to nurture their talents and write their own stories. Here’s hoping that the craziest sporting outfit in the world achieves crazier feats under the level headed leadership of the Gentleman from Mianwali, Misbah Ul Haq.