A TOAST to the Pakistan cricket team who has spared us from the ordeal of supporting a team which is almost always at sixes and sevens. Watching Pakistan play is nothing less than watching a horror movie where the blood stained axe is always trained at your nervously pulsating neck. Erratic heart rate, rising blood pressure, maniacal rage, knotted hands, jerking nerves are the easily diagnosed symptoms of a Pakistan cricket fan.

Read: 5 takeaways from Pakistan’s luckless World Cup campaign

Time to stop hiding behind the ubiquitous fig leaf of being unpredictable, mercurial, inexplicable, quicksilver, shambolic, impulsive, capricious, and volatile and take a long hard look at the Pakistan cricket team

Too many cooks spoil the broth. Talking heads, ergo conflict and lobbying. Changes in the hierarchy at the PCB just before the World Cup was really a master stroke; like cutting off your nose to spite your face. Then the chief selector was bundled off to England to inspect the pitch and decide team selection because the management was unqualified to do the same. Next, the wives and children of players were allowed on this joyride presumably so that the players could focus better on the championship.

Despite playing a series in England, when the players stepped on the ground for the World Cup, it was as if they had stepped into La La Land. According to Albert Einstein, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. No one told the PCB so despite horrendous performances, Shoaib Malik, Mohammed Hafeez, Asif Ali and Mohammed Hafeez kept playing the vitally important matches with the latter twirling his waxed moustache.

Losing became a habit, but no one blinked in the Pakistan camp. At one stage, the helpless coach Mickey Arthur looked suicidal. In case you think of that as an exaggeration, Arthur said after the devastating loss to India that he felt like committing suicide. It was only after this match that Shoaib Malik was finally dropped in favour of Haris Sohail who went on to score half-centuries against South Africa and New Zealand. Since being graceless comes naturally to many of us, Malik said, “You don’t judge a player on two or three matches, but still I am happy that the player who replaced me performed well.”

It is said with great authority that Pakistan has a fielding coach but during the World Cup it seemed as if he was a figment of the imagination. There were dives but usually in the wrong direction by butterfingers who let go of catches at whim. Mohammad Amir was often seen grimacing at yet another dropped catch off his bowling.

Before the match against Bangladesh, Sarfraz Ahmed said we should pray for a miracle so that we can win. Miracles win matches is the new mantra; training and working hard have to take a back seat. The match was deemed impossible to win, so of course sources said that the team was practising with new vigour. Quite a change from smoking the odd sheesha and hanging out at shopping malls. The result was obvious when the team appeared reenergised and Imam-ul-Haq slammed a century. Except that it was too little too late.

After Pakistan’s exit from the World Cup, questions came fast and furious about the unfairness of the rules and the pitches which were weighted against Pakistan. NRR was termed a medieval way of judging who should qualify; why did England get flat tracks in last two matches and Pakistan getting a green strip in this crucial match cannot be a coincidence now, can it? Why did India deliberately lose that match so that we could be kicked out? Why didn’t New Zealand defeat England so we could have reached the semi-finals because after all we are a better team than New Zealand.

This victimhood complex allows myriad reasons and conspiracies for the defeat except the most obvious one. We are not in the semi-finals because we don’t deserve to be there. Why expect other teams to win matches for us when our own performance is in the doldrums; it is like not studying for your exams and telling your super smart friend to take the exam on your behalf. Why would your opponent not take advantage of your weakness and maximise it to their advantage?

As Arthur said, “It’s been a campaign of ifs and buts.”

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2019