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Pakistan’s Cricket Team: Rise and Fall

Only our childhood friends know that during our matriculation years, we were ardent lovers of cricket. Whenever we had free time, we would head to the cricket field and play until evening. Our expertise in cricket was multifaceted. We were the most important fast bowler, the most crucial batsman, and the most vital fielder in our team. Because of this, most of our friends and acquaintances believed that one day we would definitely play cricket at the national level. However, fate had other plans. During the same period, we developed a passion for reading and writing. This cricket player was drawn towards poetry, literature, and philosophy to the extent that he completely forgot about cricket. Reading and writing became his sole occupation. But here, one clarification is necessary. Our love for cricket was fueled by the Pakistani team. Imran Khan, Zaheer Abbas, Javed Miandad, Asif Iqbal, and Majid Khan were our heroes. We wanted to be like Imran Khan and Zaheer Abbas. The significant point was that we were not the only ones who believed in the greatness of the Pakistani cricket team. There was a time when the world was enamored with the Pakistan team. Imran Khan was revered not only in India but also in Britain and Australia as an ‘idol’ (devata). This was an era when India couldn’t win a Test match or a One Day match against Pakistan. Now, there’s a time when Pakistan can’t even think about winning against India. When we see the current deplorable state of the Pakistani team, we are reminded of Ahmed Shamim’s poem:
کبھی ہم خوبصورت تھے
کتابوں میں بسی
خوشبو کی مانند
سانس ساکن تھی
بہت سے ان کہے لفظوں سے
تصویریں بناتے تھے
پرندوں کے پروں پر نظم لکھ کر
دور کی جھیلوں میں بسنے والے
لوگوں کو سناتے تھے
جو ہم سے دور تھے لیکن
ہمارے پاس رہتے تھے
نئے دن کی مسافت
جب کرن کے ساتھ
آنگن میں اُترتی تھی
تو ہم کہتے تھے
امّی تتلیوں کے پَر
بہت ہی خوبصورت ہیں
ہمیں ماتھے پہ بوسہ دو
کہ ہم کو تتلیوں کے
جگنوئوں کے دیس جانا ہے
ہمیں رنگوں کے جگنو
روشنی کی تتلیاں آواز دیتی ہیں
نئے دن کی مسافت
رنگ میں ڈوبی ہوا کے ساتھ
کھڑکی سے بلاتی ہے
ہمیں ماتھے پہ بوسہ دو
ہمیں ماتھے پہ بوسہ دو


(Once we were beautiful,
Like the fragrance absorbed in books
Breath was still, We used to create pictures
With many unspoken words
We used to draw pictures
We used to write poems on birds’ wings,
And recited them to people living
In faraway lakes.
Those who were far from us,
Yet used to live close to us
When the journey of a new day
Descended into the courtyard with the rays,
We used to say, “Mother, the butterfly wings
Are so beautiful,
Kiss us on the forehead
For we have to go
To the land of butterflies and fireflies
The glow of colors of fireflies and the light of butterflies call us.
The journey of the new day
Drenched in color with the wind
Calls us from the window,
Kiss us on the forehead, Kiss us on the forehead.”)

India toured Pakistan after a long period of 17 years in 1978. Bishan Singh Bedi was leading the Indian team on this tour. The significance of this tour was that it revived cricket in both India and Pakistan, leading to widespread popularity and the game being played in every nook and corner of both countries. At the end of this tour, the Indian team captain Bishan Singh Bedi said that they could not win against Pakistan. When asked why, he said it was because the Pakistani team played with 22 players. One was the Pakistani team, and the other was Zaheer Abbas, who was like an entire team himself. When he came to the pitch, he wouldn’t get out without scoring a century or a double century. In the Karachi match, India’s position was quite stable, but in the evening, sea winds started blowing in Karachi, and Imran Khan’s bowling became destructive. He sent five Indian players back to the pavilion, giving away only five or seven runs. Imran Khan bowled a ball to India’s renowned opening batsman Sunil Gavaskar, which pitched outside the off-stump and passed through his middle stump. After the match, Gavaskar described Imran Khan’s bowling as unplayable. He said that no batsman in the world could play a ball spinning at 150 miles per hour. Imran Khan’s bowling was truly magical. His over felt like a six-line poem. In that over, one or two balls would be outswingers, one or two inswingers, and Imran Khan would definitely bowl one or two bouncers. This diversity in his bowling made it difficult for even the world’s best batsmen to play him. Imran Khan’s greatness was such that when Sunil Gavaskar asked his son what he wanted to become when he grew up, the son replied that he wanted to be either Gavaskar or Imran Khan. Gavaskar said he could become Gavaskar but not Imran Khan because he wasn’t a meat-eater like Imran Khan.

Imran Khan was not the only ‘idol’ (devata) of the Pakistani cricket team. Zaheer Abbas was also revered as an idol in India. He played consistently big innings, earning the title of ‘Asian Bradman’. When Pakistan toured India in 1979 in response to India’s tour, we were visiting our relatives. We watched the Pakistan-India match at the Feroz Shah Kotla Ground in Delhi, seated among 40,000 Indian spectators. During the match, Indian fans discussed each Pakistani player as if there was no match for them. One young man said, “How will Majid Khan get out?” Another replied, “Majid will somehow get out, but there is no cure for Zaheer Abbas. He thrashes Kapil Dev.” At one point, India’s position improved slightly, and the renowned Indian commentator Jasdev Singh said, “At this moment, Asif Iqbal is not playing cricket but fighting like a general on the battlefield.” Eventually, Asif Iqbal managed to save the Delhi Test. During that time, Javed Miandad was also famous. When he came to the wicket, he would stand firm for a long time, making it difficult for any team to get him out. Undoubtedly, this was the golden era of the Pakistani cricket team. That’s why, at the end of this golden era, Pakistan emerged as the world champion in One Day cricket. But today, the condition of the Pakistani cricket team is deplorable. Even if Pakistan dismisses India for 110, it still can’t win the match against India. The Indian team is the most balanced team in the world. Recently, Pakistan even lost to a team like the USA in T20 Worldcup. As a result, the Pakistani team looks like a team of dwarfs. Our batsmen are dwarfs. Our bowlers are dwarfs. They lack the spirit to fight. Their body language from the first moment shows they have already lost the match. People compare Babar Azam with Virat Kohli out of love, but Virat Kohli is a match-winning player, while Babar Azam has hardly ever won a match for Pakistan. The essence of life is that if a person thinks big, he becomes big. Unfortunately, there is no one in Pakistani cricket now who thinks big like Imran and Asif did.

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