On March 15, when Quetta Gladiators’ Azam Khan had paddled Karachi Kings’ Arshad Iqbal over square leg for a four, few had thought that it would be the final piece of cricket action involving national players for quite some time.
A virus, a pandemic and a lockdown later, we stand again on the cusp of seeing our Babars and our Shaheens play competitive cricket. And what a welcome relief it is.
The relief isn’t even just about getting live cricket back. It also has to do with the annoying habits cultivated over the past five months that can now take a back seat, or better yet, disappear completely.
No more of the greatest this eleven or the best that eleven we’d have to see. Those arbitrary collections of best-evers seemed fun at first but content creators kept at it for far too long than was necessary. The result of these xyz lists is that every publication and every cricketer and every mouth now has a whole list of such XIs under their belt. Sadly, a cool once-a-year feature was overdone to death.
Another prominent trend, if we can call it that, witnessed in Pakistani cricket circles was the mudslinging. Plenty of tainted characters from the past used the cricket inactivity to lobby their agendas, dig up their cases and turned hostile when their efforts did not bear fruit.
Now with live cricket back and no one bored out of their minds to pay those corruption cases of the yesteryear any heed, the back and forth allegations and counter-allegations should disappear — yet another good riddance.
Also part of the vanishing act should be the back-in-our-day tales of former cricketers. With no live cricket to report on, many from the cricket fraternity frequently harped on about what they did against such and such cricketer decades ago. As enthralling as Shoaib Akhtar’s battles with Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar were, they’ve been repeated and re-told so many times and with so many value additions that it makes for some of the most tedious media exercises at this point.
Those cannot disappear forever, thanks to the evergreen nature of Pakistan-India ties, but they should be put on the back-burner for a while because it is time for live cricket.
And now a thought about the actual game: Pakistan versus England. The national team, when not doing shady stuff (read 2010), actually does pretty well on their tours of England. In fact, speaking purely in cricketing terms, they rarely disappoint there.
This time though, things are different. The game has a slew of new rules regarding how to shine the ball and how to not. Having to bowl with the Duke ball they’re not used to and in conditions they are not used to, could be tricky for Pakistan, especially when you factor in the fact that England already have a series and a win under their belt.
The absence of crowd, in theory, should benefit Pakistan since they have more experience than anyone else of playing behind closed doors. However, English crowd was never known to be hostile enough to give any edge to the home side so it doesn’t count.
Truth be told, odds are stacked against this incredibly young Pakistan side but that’s unimportant. Even if they don’t win, it wouldn’t or shouldn’t matter. Right now, live cricket is all that matters. The finer details can wait another day.
The writer is a cricket aficionado based in Karachi. He sells cars by day and writes sports by night.