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Gatecrashing the party

May 12, 2010

Many critics and fans alike may term Pakistan’s backdoor route into the semifinals of the Twenty20 World Cup as a travesty of justice, a lucky break, a gross coincidence of errors, maybe even a cardinal sin. I wouldn’t begrudge anyone who is of that opinion. In fact, I’d nod my head in solemn agreement if an incensed non-Pakistani cricket follower got in my face and spluttered his discontent about how we hadn’t even earned our place in the second round, let alone the semis.

Pakistan’s ascension to the semifinal has been a story of failure, desperation, kismet, and fortuitousness. In getting this far, we have defied the bookmakers’ odds, as well as our own meagre form, and confounded most analysts. By refusing to go away despite several attempts to slam the door in our faces we have probably irritated and upset a lot of people.

And you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Let me tell you something: merit is way overrated. “You get what you deserve,” “you reap what you sow.” Whatever. We won the last Twenty20 World Cup on merit and where did that get us? I’ll tell you where.

For one thing, we were publicly humiliated by being excluded from the Indian Premier League. I mean, couldn’t the franchises have just told us that we were too much of a security and political risk to invest in? Why make us go through a farcical auction process. They had to embarrass the Twenty20 champs by laughing them out of the auction house and telling them that none of their franchises had a place in their squad for the men who mastered the format.

“No Shahid bhai, Rajasthan would rather bank on the explosive talent of Aaron Finch.” “Sorry Razzaq, Delhi feel that Andrew McDonald is the next Richard Hadlee.” “Can't help you, Umar Gul. Kolkata would rather spend its vast reserves of cash on keeping the redoubtable talent of Ajit Agarkar in the team.” By the way, how did the season turn out for you guys, then?

So if you’re looking for a travesty of justice, look no further than our snubbing at the hands of Lalit Modi’s circus. Which is why I’m quite pleased at the manner we’ve stumbled into the semi-finals. It’s like our team collectively slapped the rest of the cricketing world in their faces. Earn ICC silverware? Not on your life. We’ll play club cricket and still manage to outlast the better teams.

Secondly, you know another problem with success based on merit? Once you achieve it, you start to expect more of it. You begin to think that the momentum earned through hard work is going to pay off in this future. You’re on cloud nine and brimming with confidence. And then Australia happens and you get smacked back down to the bowels of the earth. It still hurts to reflect on what the country expected from the team in that series in Australia and what we ended up getting. Our massacre down under will leave a scar on the national psyche so deep it will take years to erase.

Or perhaps just a potential final or semi-final victory.

Does anyone still believe that to be unlikely? Unlikely is our middle name, apparently. And now that fate has conspired to put us in a position we don’t deserve to be in, it is only fair that we return the favour by eliminating a team that is rightfully entitled to be in a similar position. It’s not like we haven’t done it before.

You’ll hear a lot of 1992 World Cup references over the next few days, a tournament in which we weren’t the masters of our own destiny and were counting on various permutations to progress to the semi-finals. We also weren’t a good team by any stretch of the imagination over the first three quarters of that tournament, but managed to pull it all together when it really mattered.

Things have come full circle since then. Now, we’re coming off a string of three successive losses and our most recent victory was against a puzzlingly uninspired South African side. Umar Akmal and Afridi may have impressed with the bat, but 140 odd wasn’t a competitive total by any means. Yet, against all reason, it proved adequate. There was a point when AB DeVilliers threatened to make a game out of it in the space of one over and the Pakistan team’s hearts were in their mouths. However, AB played a needlessly cute ramp shot into Kamran’s flimsy hands and suddenly we had toppled a giant.

Then came the waiting and praying game. The freedom fighters who gave their lives for liberation from British imperialist hegemony in 1947 must have turned over in their graves upon feeling the aura of pro-English sentiment emanating from Pakistan. Luckily for us, our prayers were answered and we managed to sneak into the semi-finals like a bunch of thieves.

So I say merit, justice, and logic can go to hell. Been there, done that, don’t want to go through the repercussions again. It's time we turned back the clocks and attempted to win a tournament like the good old days of 1992. Back in those days, no one had high expectations and yet we ended up winning the whole tournament. Face it, unpredictability is in our blood. We have madness down to a science. If our players are going to be accused of being 'retards', might as well win the trophy in as retarded a fashion as possible. Here’s to a Duckworth-Lewis technicality taking us to the final.

Farooq Nomani is a Karachi-based lawyer who is willing to represent the PCB for free. He blogs at

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.