World Cup 2011 March 24, 2011

The joy of discipline

Load shedding has been put on hold -- for a day. Pakistan simply won a World Cup quarter-final, what's the fuss?

"Keep your feet on the ground," pleads Imran Khan, "we haven't won anything yet." Celebratory gunshots are ringing out across Pakistan, fireworks and firecrackers are exploding into the night air. Load shedding has been put on hold -- for a day. Pakistan simply won a World Cup quarter-final, what's the fuss?

Cricket has a special power in South Asia. We see it in the exuberance of Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans, in the passion of Indians and Pakistanis. Cricket, a mere sport, has the magic ingredients to make hundreds of millions of people happy, bring a little joy to harsh and unforgiving lives, unite rich and poor, and rip asunder the walls between castes and religions.

And so it is in Pakistan, and among Pakistan fans, that the illness of expectant hysteria has taken hold. A World Cup win is elevated from possibility to formality. Shahid Afridi, the 'Idiot' King, reincarnated as a lightning rod for two hundred million expectant hearts, a captain of ambitions; Pakistan's downward spiral of gloom broken by the uplifting derring-do of Afridi and his foreign legion.

Pakistan are fortunate that West Indies proved such inept defenders against spin. But that was the extent of any luck. Afridi's team played with impeccable discipline, each bowler adhering strictly to a wicket-to-wicket line. When Umar Gul, whose accuracy is almost laser guided, offered Australia a little width, Afridi was straight at him, making a narrow tramline gesture with his hands. No need for Afridi's strictures at Mirpur, all bowlers were slaves to disciplined lines, and West Indies wilted against such relentless pummeling.

Perhaps DRS has changed the dynamics of this sport? Perhaps Pakistan are back to trusting hitting stumps and pads ahead of fielders clinging on to schoolboy chances? Perhaps the timeless virtue of bowling straight has come as a shock to modern batsmen? Whatever the reason, Pakistan's bowlers are executing their plans to precision, a blip against New Zealand excepted.

This country has always produced wicket-takers, wizards of speed, guile, and movement, but rarely in recent times have those mesmeric talents pulled together in harmony or applied discipline to their art. Banished from hosting this World Cup or any international cricket, purged of demon spirits, the Pakistan of Waqar Younis and Shahid Afridi have discovered harmony and discipline especially in their bowling. It has been a thrill to watch, a horror to face.

Surprised by such excellence, no wonder Imran's pleas to keep our feet on the ground are difficult to heed. Indeed, nothing has been won yet except the battles to convert us from cynics to believers and return a sense of joy to Pakistan cricket. But these are no small triumphs.

Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on March 29, 2011, 4:58 GMT

    @Salma and all Pak fans: I don't understand how Shoib's inclusion is going to help you guys! If you have forgotten his very recent embarrassing performance against New Zealand, I am sure, you can't remember Sachin/Sehwag onslaught in the South Africa world cup! Shoib is a history now...

  • testli5504537 on March 28, 2011, 10:47 GMT

    please get rid of Wahab Riaz and bring back the Express. Shoaib deserves one last opportunity. Against India he would be even more pumped up. Think about the fear he induces in batsmen's mind. Regardless of wheter Wahab takes wickets or not, he is not capable of creating the fear that shoaib does. Thats why players like Sehwag and Yuv would take it as a challenge to face shoaib. Please include Shoaib...

  • testli5504537 on March 28, 2011, 5:20 GMT

    if soaibAkter 100%fit I hope pakistan must play soaibAkter.

  • testli5504537 on March 28, 2011, 2:04 GMT

    Sohaib Akhtar is a must-have for the semi-final against IN for the following reasons: (1) Historically, it is clear Mohali wicket will favor batsmen for sides batting first; and fast bowlers of sides fielding second esp. due to evening due factor; (2) Sohaib was best bowler of the 1 day match played against IN in Mohali in 2007 both in terms of economy (4.0/over) and wickets (3); (3) Pakistan spinners includig Afridi were whipped by IN batsmen to the tune of 7-9 runs/over in the 2007 Mohali 1 day match; (4) U. Gul will not be as effective as a swing bowler except for reverse swing in final few overs of the innings, and we must have a strike bowler who can take wickets of IN's top batsmen within first 25 overs. Pakistan team must manage the differences between Sohaib and Kamran Akmal due to the eruptions that understandably occured after the mistakes Kamran made in the NZ match. We can not afford the absence of Sohaib to mitigate Kamran's blunders.

  • testli5504537 on March 27, 2011, 13:37 GMT are wrong,if i remember correctly before the india australia match he said he hoped to get a big score and keeping sachi at 99.His both the wishes were granted and his next two wishes that india will defeat pak and also will win the cup ,hopefuly will be granted.

  • testli5504537 on March 27, 2011, 4:12 GMT

    If Pakistan wins the cup, expect a statue of Afridi somewhere, celebrating like an idiot.

  • testli5504537 on March 26, 2011, 22:17 GMT

    Shoib Akhtar should play. Inshallah this would be semi final game of his career, as well. Best of luck Pakistan. Only very good and disciplined bowling and sharp fielding can restrich masterblaster Tendulkar, Sehwag and Yuraj.

  • testli5504537 on March 26, 2011, 20:09 GMT

    it seems both pak team n pak fans haf already won d W.C, by reaching semi,even pak team manager says we will lose gracefully THE KINGS SPEECH by IMRAN KHAN is so true= "U HAVENT ACHIEVED ANYTHING YET"

  • testli5504537 on March 26, 2011, 19:49 GMT

    My suggestions to Pak team: 1. India play spinners well. Compare their off spin v leg spin performance. Off spin would serve better. So keep Ajmal. 2. Indian stars treat underrated fast with less will. So bring underrated fast... have Razzaq and Afridi open. (Afridi should bowl first few overs at medium pace) 3. Sehwag (if he plays) is prone to falling early. Make sure that traps are laid well. Attck is rib cage. 4. Razzaq will get Tendulkar.. Always has.. watch it. 5. Don't put spin in front of Yuvraj or his boy friend, Raina. Have Gul and Wahab(or Shoaib, if in the team)bowl at them. 6.Indin strength is top order batting. Get them before they settle. 7. Designate a player for non stop seldging. Make sure the player does not have to bowl or bat. I suggest, give plenty of fielding time near by to 12 th man. He should get under their skins. Kamran needs to pitch in. I recommend Junaid get lot of fielding time. 8. Rest of the Pakistan player behave professionally.

  • testli5504537 on March 26, 2011, 16:49 GMT

    Mr. Abbasi, the fuss is not about winning a World Cup quarter-final – IT’S THE MANNER OF “DEMOLITION JOBS” which have suddenly raised the bar from ‘rare possibility’ to “distinct possibility” ! Pakistan’s lethal bowling has been instrumental /decisive, the batting is peaking at the right time also. Very well said abt bowling “ thrill to watch, a horror to face”. But make no mistake, it’s the SHAHID “KING” AFRIDI’s presence and captaincy which is pivotal to resurgence of TEAM PAKISTAN. “KING” AFRIDI have crystallized and transformed the team into “GIANT- KILLERS” !

    India - Apocalpyse Now !!! I anticipate another “OH SO EASY” victory in SEMIs against “over-hyped INDIA”. Red-Hot PAKISTAN will be TOO-HOT to handle !

    And they are doing it without Aamir & Asif !!!!!!

    Jawed, Karachi

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