May 3, 2010

Michael Jeh

The beauty of watching Pakistan play

Michael Jeh

"You never quite know what to expect with Pakistan but you expect to be entertained, frustrated or bewitched at every twist and turn of the game" © Associated Press

Cricket has this wonderful way of throwing up extraordinary events that sometimes teaches us to simply accept the beautiful unpredictability of sport without reading any sinister intentions into it. Struggling to stay awake at about 5 am this morning (Australia time), I was enthralled by a five-wicket maiden over at the end of Australia’s innings in the Twenty20 World Cup match in St Lucia. That an amazing finish to an innings that was rocketing along at breakneck speed just a few overs earlier when David Hussey collared Mohammad Sami.

When was the last time a team that lost 5 wickets for no runs in an over comfortably won a cricket match? That says a lot about how good this Australian team is. It also served as a sobering reminder that when such extraordinary events happen, we should sometimes dispense with our cynicism and appreciate the theatre and drama of sport for what it is. Watching that last over, there was no doubt in my mind that this was a bizarre but brilliant passage of play by Pakistan and an equally poor performance by Australia. Nothing more, nothing less. Just one of those things that can happen sometimes.

Very little else about Australia’s play was poor and Pakistan had little else to celebrate but for this single over. If the situation had been reversed, I wonder if there would have been the usual murmurings and suspicions about how Pakistan could possibly have lost five wickets for no runs in six balls. And that would have been most terribly unfair on Pakistan because as we’ve just seen, amazing things can happen sometimes without having to question the integrity of such events.

Like in Sydney a few months ago, Australia fought back brilliantly and Pakistan stumbled at the last hurdle to complete a memorable game of cricket. It was compelling cricket and Pakistan played their part in one of the most enjoyable Test matches in recent memory, only to have to defend themselves against some scurrilous suggestions that something was rotten in the camp. And sadly for Pakistan, they seem to unfairly have to put up with frequent innuendo of this nature, even when there is little evidence to point to anything but brilliant, poor, inspired, imaginative, freakish moments in a cricket match. It’s the beauty of the way they play cricket, richly talented, often unpredictable, capable of the brilliant and bizarre in the space of a few minutes. That’s one of the reasons I’ve always loved watching Pakistan play – you never quite know what to expect but you expect to be entertained, frustrated or bewitched at every twist and turn of the game. Sure, there have been some integrity issues with Pakistani cricket that have been well documented but we sometimes forget that just about every country has been implicated in the murky world of match-fixing and betting scandals.

Pakistan seem to be forever defending themselves against such accusations but that a roller-coaster ride is the very reason why they are such a watchable side. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve watched Pakistan chase a total and fall hopelessly behind the run rate, only to see the most amazing acceleration that defied the 40 overs that preceded it. Even this morning, despite feeling desperately sleepy and seeing Australia comfortably on top, I could not bring myself to switch off the TV in case Afridi, Misbah or Razzaq just exploded and pulled off a miracle. I only truly relaxed when Misbah was dismissed, despite the scoreboard willing me to call it quits and take an Aussie victory for granted.

There are not too many other sides in world cricket that make me that nervous, even when Australia are seemingly cruising towards victory. Perhaps South Africa with Boucher and Morkel still at the crease but theirs is a more clinical assault rather than the sheer unpredictability of a Pakistani cyclone. It’s Boom-boom or Bust! Whatever the criticisms of modern cricket, one cannot argue that it lacks for entertainment, sheer skill and firepower. I love watching Australia bat for that reason. I love watching Australia in the field for that reason. Even on their bad days, even when the eyelids are heavy from watching two consecutive games of cricket in the middle of the night and a warm bed is calling, when Pakistan are chasing down an impossible target, it’s easy to see why Bon Jovi said “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”.

Michael Jeh is an Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, and a Playing Member of the MCC. He lives in Brisbane

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by arthur on (May 28, 2010, 15:15 GMT)

Michael thanks alot for recognising the talent in the pakistani team, even though they have not won a series in some time.

Posted by umer on (May 11, 2010, 9:36 GMT)

LOL and again we have pakistan vs australia semi final and why i have this feeling no team but pakistan is gona send aussies home :p

Posted by pervez on (May 11, 2010, 4:32 GMT)

thanks bro. am sure u r pakistani. we love are team and would like them to BE what they are. Unpredictable, exciting . AND TODAY WE ARE IN SEMI FINAL. WE WILL BE CHAMP AGAIN

Posted by Inam on (May 7, 2010, 11:27 GMT)

I love Afridi. and I bet you dont leave your seat until Afridi is on crease.

Posted by Asif Abbas on (May 6, 2010, 23:48 GMT)

It is a well written article Michael and I think that is what appeals to every one about Pakistan cricket that is the unpredictability of the side on the other hand one can say that Australian cricket is the neatest specially when it comes to the power plays I think they would concede less runs during those overs than in the rest of the overs, it shows clearly they have a plan and they bowl according to the field set and place their shots according to the field set by their opponents and where as for Pakistan they would just do the least possible with ease and vice versa. It the team in green and yellow which entertains the world of cricket..;)

Posted by khan on (May 5, 2010, 17:44 GMT)

I might follow my team for the rest of the T20 after reading this positively portraited article about negative aspect of our team. I am tired of them but then again I cannot stop myself for not watching them in the field. Perhaps, you are right, its the uncertanity and drama this brings to the sport of cricket.

Posted by Omran on (May 5, 2010, 16:49 GMT)

pakistan w day in was poor that day in ground, i still feel there is still some politics in the team, afrdi has no sence of captincy, i still doing understand why he didnt use Razzaq or Fowad for bowling??? what was the point of giving 4 over to Sami or Hafeez or himself, sixes were going every where but still he didnt think to use other options..... i think he has no sence of captaincy..... but again if the board is like this then you can only expact this kind of perfarmance from the team...

Posted by arsalan on (May 5, 2010, 15:03 GMT)

im a pakistani. So you can imagine how many stress ulcers i must have had watching Pakistan play over the years. But you're right. They're unpredictable and play with a certain flare ( or pure natural naivity bordering on stupidity sometimes, call it whatever you like) but they do entertain. Its funny that I too, didn't turn off the tele till Misbah's dismissal, and then too, i was hoping for a miracle. No side in the world can hope to lift a trophy of a major event with a side that can play as poor as Pak do on quite a regular basis. But that is the funny thing about Pakistan. They somehow manage to deliver the unthinkable just when the whole nation is starting to think of a new sports to follow instead of Cricket, and that just leads to some more stress ulcers over the ensuing years till another Paki side comes along and does the unthinkable again.

Posted by Karthik on (May 5, 2010, 13:50 GMT)

This is the over the top article. Pakistan has been losing to Australia for eternity. For the love of god how will they be scared of Pakistan.

Posted by Kaiser on (May 5, 2010, 12:53 GMT)

Very nice article Michael. I agree, on their day Pakistan can pull off the amazing. I think they will do well under the leadership of Afridi.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Jeh
Born in Colombo, educated at Oxford and now living in Brisbane, Michael Jeh (Fox) is a cricket lover with a global perspective on the game. An Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, he is a Playing Member of the MCC and still plays grade cricket. Michael now works closely with elite athletes, and is passionate about youth intervention programmes. He still chases his boyhood dream of running a wildlife safari operation called Barefoot in Africa.

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