Thank you PSL for bringing back the game I once loved

Published February 22, 2016
Quetta Gladiators after clinching a sensational one-run victory over Peshawar Zalmi on February 19, 2016. — Photo courtesy: PCB
Quetta Gladiators after clinching a sensational one-run victory over Peshawar Zalmi on February 19, 2016. — Photo courtesy: PCB

I don't have much recollection of the 1992 World Cup. I was giving my grade 7 exams at the time, and most of the matches I watched were in between the gaps offered during breaks.

Still, the final was something everyone took out time for.

In between my father's insistence to go back to my room and study, I managed to catch whatever I could of the moments leading to the proudest moment in Pakistan's sports history.

Also read: Imran Khan — The man who changed Pakistan cricket forever

The khabarnaama at 9 was postponed by PTV (a rare thing those days) and when it was aired, most of it was filled with moments celebrating the victory.

Over the next decade, I watched countless repeats of those matches and became a passionate follower of Pakistan cricket.

Then came the ignominious 1996 Bangalore defeat, the 1999 World Cup final disaster against Australia, the captaincy wars and the defeat against Ireland.

Watching scandal after scandal erupt on the national news-scape changed something inside me.

For me, cricket soon became that lost love of Urdu poetry that still evoked sorrowful yearning and a sense of loss. Admittedly, we did dance at the 2009 T20 victory, but I was certain, the kind of passion that was ignited after the 1992 victory could never come back.

See: The promise of Pakistan Super League

So when the Pakistan Cricket Board announced the launch of Pakistan Super League (PSL), I was pessimistic at best. Yet another frenzied build up to the event and a kind of detached commitment by international players that we have all seen in the IPL.

'Cricket Mercenaries,' I dismissed some of the players present in every game.

How can you fight for a team you have no affiliation for?

How can money make you believe in something you don't subconsciously attach to?

How would the PSL be any different?

Also read: IPL vs PSL: An open letter from an Indian cricket fan

When it was time to pick sides, I was a tad confused. Some of the players I love most, like Mohammad Amir, were in Karachi. I have lived my all life in Lahore so Qalandars remained close to my heart.

Shahid Afridi, Mohammad Hafeez and Wahab Riaz were the players that made me seriously consider Peshawar Zalmi. I was a PSL secular at most, respecting most teams, rooting for none.

Take a look: Loyalist, double-dealer and 5 other fans you will see this PSL

At first, I thought perhaps most of my PTI friends would support the Zalmis. I posed a question on Facebook too. And sure enough, many of them were, but some were hanging on to other teams too.

I thought perhaps regional loyalties might entice people in choosing sides. Wrong! Many from Punjab were cheering for Quetta and some Karachiites were supporting Quetta Gladiators.

Some from Karachi were up for Islamabad United, just because Misbah was in it. What was the world coming to!

In case you missed it: The thrilling Quetta-Peshawar finish

I thought it was extremely interesting that PSL was allowing us to ignore our parochial inclinations and go for something bigger.

It was a common consensus that Lahore, Karachi or Peshawar would lead the roster. No one gave Quetta any thought. Even the presence of Sir Vivian Richards was not enough to convince anyone.

Also read: PSL — The unique charm of the Quetta Gladiators

To my surprise and to the surprise of most pundits, Quetta did well, amazingly well!

And then the tide seemed to be shifting. More and more people became enamoured with Quetta Gladiators — a bunch of underdogs thrown into a party that no one expected to win.

There is something in our fabric about cheering for the underdog. Sympathy? Hope? Perhaps an identification with the fact that we are all individuals who experienced being the underdog at some stage of our lives. It's in our DNA. It's a kind of identification that comes at the most basic level.

The final is still a long shot off and only time will tell who will 'rule the world' tomorrow.

Pakistan Super League may not be financially equivalent to the IPL or other big bashes, but it has got one thing: passion for cricket. And seeing how that has largely been amiss in the country, this alone is enough for prodigal fans like myself.

More important than the Quetta Gladiators' winning streak or the songs surrounding various teams is the passion that these teams brought to the game.

It is as if until the PSL the whole nation had been an underdog.

Deprived of playing in the IPL, deprived of playing on home soil, denounced for various scandals from chucking to ball tampering to match-fixing. It is as if they were all saying,

Look at us. There is more to us than what you hear on the newsreel.

Forget the poor form that Chris Gayle was in or the mediocre fielding that Lahore displayed in their matches. When Ehsan Adil bowled, it reminded me of our tape ball days when one over could change the scope of the match.

Also read: Tape-balls and their love affair with Pakistan's streets

When Wahab Riaz bumped with his friend Ahmed Shehzad, many thought it unsportsmanlike-like, but it reminded me of all the days spent under the bright Lahore sun, fighting with our dear friends about whether a ball has nicked the bat or not.

When Kevin Pietersen jumped and hugged teammates, it shattered for me the Englishman image being aloof and haughty.

When Darren Sammy sat down, worried at a slipping game, I said to myself: Here is something different.

When I saw Sir Vivian Richard's tearful eyes after Quetta nearly squandered the lead, I thought this is not just business, there is something more here.

For those few minutes, we shared a bond of universal tear-hood: an ability to be united in happiness and sorrow.

An ability to be united by the common thread to sports.

Sir Vivian jumping on the ground has perhaps been the defining moment of the year for the game of cricket.

PSL may not be financially equivalent to the IPL or other big bashes, but it has got one thing: passion for cricket. And seeing how that has largely been amiss in the country, this passion alone is enough for prodigal fans like myself.

It has all the proportions of a Hollywood drama: an underdog rising from the bottom up, an unlikely coach uniting a team into a unit, a dance number at the most inopportune time (remember Ahmed Shehzad?), the fight between two bosses (Lahore and Karachi) and the triumph of the son of a channay wala (Bismillah Khan).

Thank you PSL, for bringing back the game I once loved.

To view’s coverage for Pakistan Super League 2017, click here



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