Bye-bye, T-20

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It had been a fantastic (read, unbelievable) couple of weeks for cricket fans in Pakistan but like all good things, the burst of joy had to come to an end. A semi-final the whole country was so convinced to have in its pocket went the other way. Call it the stress of locking horns with old nemesis or fear of running out of lady luck, Green Men lost their chance at the World Cup trophy to the new bogey team in town.
Pakistan started the innings on a shaky foot, leaving too much till the very end. The tide might have turned for the better had Hasan Ali not dropped a crucial catch. Like it or not, it would be a grave injustice to discredit the stunning thumping of Matthew Wade. Hitting sixes one after another off deliveries from Shaheen Afridi–who had shot to fame for taking early wickets–is no small feat. Australia definitely owes its happy ending to Wade’s unbeaten batting, supported splendidly by Marcus Stoinis.
Sadly, the gentleman’s game always ends with one loser. Thursday’s defeat broke Pakistan’s clean sweep streak in the UAE, where it has been unbeaten in all 16 games. After having several mediocre seasons, Team Green was finally coming through. With run-scorers like Babar Azam sailing through, the team seemed to have figured out the secret formula to scythe through the opposing bowling attack. Ours is a country where cricket is revered almost like a religion. And for the first time since the 92 World Cup, the whole nation had joined hands in cheering for their favourite team; their much-needed high to brave through the economic woes. A 10-wicket perfect thumping of India had made Pakistan the black stallion overnight. The stinging defeat is hard to swallow. But as the team heads back home, there is a greater than ever need to exercise restraint. The high-voltage performance might have ended but we are left with renewed hope. Despite Azam’s captaincy not pulling the rabbit the one time, we needed magic more than ever, Pakistan riding roughshod over the Big Brothers would be hard to forget. The new boys have been a splendid deja vu of a bygone era where our heroics added to the lustre of the cricketing world.
Now that the team heads back home, tainting the enthusiasm with toxic hyper-nationalism is a silly route Pakistan would be ill-advised to take. This is not the time to dig out controversial videos of players who were unable to put their best foot forward. Only recently, people around the world were censuring India for letting the communal angle dominate its public discourse. Let’s stand behind our boys and cheer them on for a better game tomorrow.