No fun being a fan of Pakistani cricket lately. Of course, I have risen above such petty nationalisms a long time ago. I am now an objective connoisseur of the tao of cricket. But for those that care, Pakistan has taken a beating far surpassing their usual flameouts. Consider this: First Test – Australia wins by 491 runs after Pakistan is bowled out in the second inning for 72 runs. S-E-V-E-N-T-Y-T-W-O. Second Test – Australia wins by nine wickets after Pakistan scuttles for 163 in the second inning. Third Test – Australia wins by nine wickets after hammering Pakistan for 568 in the first inning.
Sweet Holy Baba Farid! What went on Down Under? The batting collapse is obvious. But, even the pacemen couldn’t get anything? Next came the humiliation in the one format that should favor Pakistanis -the Twenty20. Aussie “A” kicked their ass. The trend continued in the ODIs where Australia won by 6 and 9 wickets in their two meetings. As if all that was not enough, rape allegations against an unnamed player surfaced. Though the PCB says the claims are baseless, there is much bad vibe in the air. PCB is publicly angry. Not that that means anything. If there is one kafkaesque bureaucracy in Pakistan, it is the Pakistan Cricket Board.
The team can only pray that all this is a bad dream and plead for a stress-free tour of Bangladesh or maybe a casual series in Srilanka. But, next up is India. And The General is pissed and, in his eagerness to become Zia II, has issued “guidelines” to the team.
The India tour, slated for next month, is indeed big news. Big in every respect. Most significantly, will the Pakistani players party as hard as the Indians did in Lahore? But seriously, this series is another milestone CBM (not Continental Ballistic Missiles but Confidence Building Measure). There is a book on Cricket Nationalism that someday I won’t write. Starting with Zia’s famous “cricket diplomacy”, but really going back to Ayub, India and Pakistan have pushed their cricketers to be their proxy warriors, diplomats, heroes and villains. Perhaps a little unfair that such a burden should fall on the shoulders of men trying to figure out their sweep shots but such are the vagaries of life in South Asia.
With Pakistan’s current state of affairs, I don’t hold much hope for them in India. Still, I will be covering the series as your political correspondent (from my comfortable couch).