It’s easy to see why sports-lovers like to watch Pakistan play cricket: It has spontaneity, feverish passion, great skills, and yet, there is always the knowledge that things can spiral out of control anytime. They are the most human of the hardnosed international sportsmen, and that tingles our spines and keeps us hooked to the next episode in the saga of Pakistan cricket.
Over the years, there have been outstanding teams like West Indies and Australia who have annihilated their opponents when they sniffed weakness. Pakistan have never quite achieved that trait with consistency but they are capable of something more spectacular. On their day, they can make really strong teams go weak in their knees. Like India and England found out at the Champions Trophy. No other bowler, from any team, got the white kookaburra ball to swing an inch in England. The nature of the ball was blamed, some even dissed the rain — whatever the reason, no one was swinging it. Except Pakistan. Rohit Sharma got to great starts in the tournament but was stunned by the inswinger from Mohammad Amir. English batsmen thought they had the ODI cricket sorted out but were foxed by the reverse-swinging deliveries from Hasan Ali.
Ultimately, Pakistan’s cricket team is celebrated not just because it triumphs against the odds. The unstable conditions back home, the lack of international cricket there, the apathy of its board and the absence of a proper system in place stack up the adversities faced by them and earns others’ respect. But the team is celebrated essentially because its players raise the sport to dizzying levels — leaving us with a lingering feeling of having witnessed something really special. Sport often panders to the parochial, but Pakistan is a team that can elevate those who watch it. Ultimately, that’s why sport matters.