By Arab News
WHEN the going gets tough, the tough get going. A clichéd expression of course. But nothing else could describe the phenomenal performance of Pakistan’s born-again squad in the ongoing Cricket World Cup.
By dismissing the world champions Australia on Saturday and emerging ahead of the pack in Group A, Pakistan have put a stop to the Kangaroos’ winning streak after 12 years. Saturday’s loss was Australia’s first in the World Cup since 1999. This wasn’t about Australia though. It was about Pakistan. Indeed, this World Cup may be all about the amazing comeback of a side that has been struggling for some time and going through one crisis after another since they cruised to victory under the inimitable Imran Khan in 1992. Pakistan have never quite been able to recreate the magic of the 1992 Cup.
Save some occasional flashes of brilliance, especially against archrival India, the Pakistani squad has largely been dogged by controversies and scandals, most recent of them being the alleged involvement of three of its players in spot fixing scam in the UK.
That appears to have changed under the brilliant leadership of another gutsy Pathan, Shahid Afridi. As Imran Khan proved two decades ago, Pakistan has got what it takes to rule the world of cricket. They never lacked brilliant, hungry-for-success players. All they needed was a leader with a vision and persistence to harness all that awesome talent.
This is what “Boom-Boom” Afridi appears to be doing right now. Taking a leaf out of the charismatic Khan’s book, the once mercurial batsman has evolved into a fine leader of men, spearheading a side that is now being compared to the greats who clinched the World Cup nearly two decades ago. Sending the formidable Aussies packing for just 176 runs isn’t a mean feat and is sure to whet Pakistan’s appetite for more. No matter who takes on it in the next couple of critical matches, they promise to be most exhilarating and thrilling.
Most cricket fans around the world would, however, be hoping for the final encounter to take place between India and Pakistan, the giants of subcontinent where cricket is like religion. The traditional rivals haven’t played in years, especially in each other’s territory for a host of reasons. An India-Pakistan encounter is the ultimate fantasy of cricket fanatics.
Above all else though, this fantastic victory, and the consistently brilliant performance of Afridi’s boys during the current World Cup, comes as a burst of fresh air and a harbinger of hope and pride for the Pakistanis at home and around the world. There have been scenes of all-round jubilation and celebration. The cricket win has brought cheer to a people who haven’t had much to celebrate of late.
Fighting for survival on numerous fronts, thanks to the opportunism of its political class and callousness of its so-called allies and friends, Pakistan is going through a difficult phase in its short history. Yet another US attack this week killing 46 people a day after American “diplomat” Raymond Davis was released has only deepened the Pakistanis’ sense of helplessness and despondency. Afridi’s boys pierced this sense of gloom with their stunning feat, rediscovering the fighting spirit and self-belief of a beleaguered people. A game of cricket has become a metaphor for the existential struggle of a nation. If only running Pakistan’s affairs had been as simple as a game of cricket!