Time zones: Great test for Pakistani Fans

It was 4 am, and the blaring alarm startled everyone around the house up from their slumber. The head still whirling...
Published January 26, 2015

Time zones: Great test for Pakistani Fans

It was 4 am, and the blaring alarm startled everyone around the house up from their slumber. The head still whirling from being forced by the body into action, we trudged out of our beds.

It took a moment to find equilibrium, but soon we got into a rhythm.

Like millions of other households in Pakistan, in the home I grew up in, there were only two reasons for waking up at such an odd hour. First, the month of Ramazan. And the other, cricket down under.

Twenty three years ago, the alarm bells around the country served a dual purpose. The holy month had coincided with Pakistan cricket’s greatest triumph: The World Cup of 1992 in Australia and New Zealand. Needless to say, the struggle out of bed wasn't so much of a struggle that year

Apart from Ramazan, there were other things that made the 1992 World Cup special to begin with; it was the first time it was played in the land across the Pacific Ocean, in coloured kits, with white balls and under high towering floodlights. It was a spectacle.

It was also the first time Pakistani homes were receiving direct live coverage of the event from international sport channels; dish antennas had taken the country by storm. The nation had come to a standstill on the day of the final; no one went to work, offices were empty and almost my entire class was absent. I’m not sure if the teachers had showed up either. For some odd and inexplicable reason it was scheduled on a Wednesday, instead of a Sunday. The memories from March 25 are still fresh.

The greatest test for a Pakistani cricket viewer lies down under. — AFP
The greatest test for a Pakistani cricket viewer lies down under. — AFP

They say, watching cricket is either for the retired or the unemployed. Unlike other sports it takes up the entire day, a typical ODI game lasting about 8 hours. Following a complete cricket game takes not just a lot of passion and dedication, but also a lot of time; a resource that is becoming increasingly scarce in the fast moving modern world. However, the greatest test for a Pakistani cricket viewer lies down under.

Come February, we're set to undergo the 1992 routine once again.

This year the games will largely start at three different times. For viewers in Pakistan, the inaugural game between New Zealand and Sri Lanka will start at 03:00 am. Pakistan’s high-voltage first game against India starts at 8:30 am, while the first semi-final will commence at 06:00 in the morning.

Australasian timings mean different things for different people. Those who are in school will either be able to see the first half of the game and miss the second, or miss the first half and catch the end of the second. Most people will miss at least miss one innings of the game, unless they set their alarms 4 hours behind, are geared to wake up in the wee hours of the morning and then remain dedicated through the day.

The format is designed in a way that it should not hold any surprises in the first round, rendering the first month (42 games) largely insignificant to the outcome of the event. England, Australia, Sri Lanka and New Zealand are expected to go through to the quarter final from Pool A and Pakistan, South Africa, India and West Indies from Pool B. While UAE, Zimbabwe, Ireland, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Scotland are all capable to pulling of an odd upset, it is unlikely that they will have enough steam to take them past round one.

ICC has returned to the much criticised quarter-final formula after the 1996 edition of the event. After the top teams qualify for round two, it will be a matter of just three games, and anyone could be crowned champion. South Africa was favourite in 1996, but all it took was a couple of hours of Brian Lara’s genius in Karachi and the Proteas were knocked out before reaching the semifinals.

The quarter-final format effectively makes it similar to the ICC Champions trophy, where all teams have a good shot at silverware. Six out of the eight participating teams have won the Champions Trophy in seven competitions. This format though makes the World Cup 2015 an open field, especially given that all top teams are also equally matched.

Come the quarter-final, in Pakistan, three games will start at 8:30 AM and one at 6:00 AM. Each of the semifinals will also start at the same times. And the final will start at 8:30 AM, at least this time it will be on a Sunday morning thankfully!

Viewers in UK and Europe will have an even tougher schedule as the clock moves back another few hours and the matches can start at midnight, making it impossible for the working class to follow the tournament without compromising productivity. The dynamics between the employer and the employee will be interesting, for sure.

The fans in the United States and Canada will have reasonably well suited times; matches starting at 5:00 pm, 7:00 pm and 10:30 pm. They are usually on the receiving end when cricket is played in South Asia, what goes around, comes around, literally.

The Islamic (Lunar) calendar falls about 11 days short of the Gregorian (Solar) calendar, moving away from the orbit pattern by approximately 11 days each year. It takes around 33 years for a complete circle. So Sehri (meal that commences the fast) in Pakistan will not coincide with cricket in Australasia anytime soon.

Cricket fans in Pakistan will have to rise and shine to support their team. Given the format, Pakistan has a very good chance to win, just like all other top teams. Millions of alarm bells are expected to ring across the subcontinent on an exceptionally early Sunday morning, the 15th of February 2015.

While Indian and Pakistani cricket teams will face-off in a high pressure game, their fans back home will face their own challenge, one that will test their love and devotion for the beautiful game.

Shaan Agha tweets @shaanagha1 and can be found on Game On