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The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones

In The Best Traditions Of Pakistan Cricket

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“Pakistan now moves ahead with the momentum that makes them so lethal by their side. It would be tempting to put your money on them but it would not be wise: Some things are best left uncertain.”

This last line of my previous post after Australia and Pakistan played a memorable match at the SuperSport Park, Centurion is just the right beginning that I needed for this post after New Zealand won the semi-final at the New Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg.

Pakistan, as many cricket writers say, is a dangerous team when it starts gaining momentum. Momentum largely is a constant that helps every team more or less. The traditional process-driven approach of gaining momentum by getting the balance of the team right and keeping the winning habit going works for everyone, including Pakistan.

That apart, the Pakistan team is the most ‘receptive and volatile’ to a different kind of momentum, the mechanism of which cannot be described perfectly. That they have gained this momentum can be seen and felt plainly, but what has triggered it is at best a good guess. The big moments of Pakistan cricket have come through this backdoor that is not of their making; their credit is only being open and vulnerable to ‘an unspecific trigger’ that gives them a non-traditional momentum.

Osman Samiuddin, Pakistan editor Cricinfo, wrote a piece like a raconteur that lends credence to my drift in this piece. The piece was done on Pakistani cricket two days before the T20 final on Sunday.
“A triumph it already is, come what may Sunday. Astrophysics may be easier to comprehend than this situation, even if it is unlikely astrophysics has ever brought as much joy as this.

It has been an uneven, uplifting ride, in the best traditions of Pakistan. Just to know that they are still capable of it is relief in itself; indeed the worst fear over the last two years was that Pakistan had succumbed to the curse of bland mediocrity. But to know that they are still capable of doing what they did to South Africa in the same fortnight as what they allowed England to do to them; is to know that the soul of all Pakistan sides is alive and well.”

Waqar Younis, in an informal chat with Harsha Bhogle for a show broadcast a few years ago, smilingly said that he’ll never forgive Jadeja for what he did; talking about the 1996 World Cup. Waqar then added that Pakistan had their best team in the 1996 World Cup; in my view as well that was a very strong team. Not the all-time best but the best of the last 18 years or so.

When Osman talked about the amazing run of Pakistan after it had reached the T20 final in 2009 he was hesitant in bracketing it with the inaugural T20 World Cup or with the 1999 World Cup where also Pakistan had made it to the finals; instead he saw this in the same vein as the 1992 World Cup.

“The T20 run has been of a piece with, as nobody in Pakistan has forgotten, the 1992 World Cup, where, for no obvious reason, Pakistan suddenly transformed from a mohalla second XI into the world’s best. Everything came together to some great, central magnetic pull, as if it inevitably had to, in a wonderfully calculated way even though almost none of it was calculated,” Osman wrote.

Two days later the comparison had one more thing in common, as they would become the two World Cup victories for Pakistan; a World Cup in 1992 and a T20 World Cup in 2009.

This is a part of the complex soul of Pakistan cricket. Pakistan’s best teams or even the relatively-better ones did not manage to win a big tournament on the World stage. All the other sides were better prepared and well on course compared to the two teams that looked like a mohalla second XI.

The 1992 team and the T20 one in 2009 sensed a ‘tiger coming from the backdoor’ and rode it, though not fully in control but riding it nonetheless—and things started to fall in place. Imran got the right batting order in time and the T20 team started looking confident and dangerous. There were some individual heroes on both the occasions but the essential element was that the force was with all of them.

Younis and his team in the Champions Trophy were openly courting certainty. He declared that the Champions Trophy is Pakistan’s after the first match, leave aside predictions for his own team he even said he would want an India and Pakistan final. They played well but on their own steam. The backdoor probably gets locked in certainty—or who can be sure of even that. One thing though is quite likely as Werner Heisenberg explained in 1927; that the more certain you are about one parameter the greater is the inaccuracy in knowing the other. That’s why in the best traditions of Pakistan to be uncertain is not such a bad thing.

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