World Cup 2011 March 30, 2011

Crushed but not broken

Defeat hurts. You feel hollow and broken. You have been let down, misled. Your expectations falsely raised, your dreams dashed

Defeat hurts. You feel hollow and broken. You have been let down, misled. Your expectations falsely raised, your dreams dashed. It might be your favourite cricket team, your beloved football club, or your star tennis player. It doesn't matter how many times it happens. A true supporter is crushed, snapped in two. Today it is Pakistan cricket fans. By Saturday night we will be joined by Indians or Sri Lankans. You anticipate that this time you will be better prepared, more resilient. When defeat strikes, you realise you are just as devastated as the first time.

The immediate aftermath, those dark moments, are no time for analysis. No time to relive those pantomime dropped catches or your star bowler's transformation into a gibbering wreck. No time to reconcile the number of lives your team gifted the greatest batsman of his age as he played as woefully as anybody can remember.

No time to consider what makes a man lash a wide half volley to cover point for catching practice or swish a stupid Dilscoop when the bowlers were at his mercy. No time either to understand why a gifted young player would square cut a straight ball from a part-time bowler only to miss it. You probably wouldn't want to dwell on two ex-captains, your most experienced players, batting like debutants -- in the wrong format.

No, I'd forget all that. Instead, remember the coltish left-armer whose place was begrudged yet he turned the match on its head, placing you in a winning position. Remember your spin trio, weaving a spell of magic over the greatest players of slow bowling on the planet. Remember the flash of resistance from the young guns in your batting order. Remember, too, the defiance and the passion of your captain in the face of ridicule, much of it malicious and personal.

If you go down that route, you might remember that your team was indeed broken, perhaps to the point of destruction, only a few weeks ago, brought to its knees by unending scandal and inept administration. You might recall that your cricketers are in exile, on the verge of international isolation. You might not forget that your country has wars to fight on its borders and within them. You might remember that nobody gave your cricketers a prayer in this tournament and relished the prospect of their collapse.

By doing that you might wrench back some nascent memories from the pit of your soul. The horrors of 1987, 1996, 1999, and 2007 will engulf you once more, not just of the World Cups but the destructive inquisitions that followed. In those days you expected success, here, if you are honest, you can't have expected any more than was delivered. That was real pain, high expectations ripped asunder. This isn't.

Your journey will help you wait a while to judge who stays and who departs, though you have a good idea -- and that reckoning will come. Your journey will lead you to appreciate this Indian team for holding its nerve in the highest pressure game of its existence.

Your journey will also leave you with a sense of pride in the achievements of your unfavoured team because, for a week or two, despite the crushing end, Shahid Afridi and his brothers in exile reminded you of the joy and the thrilling expectation that once made Pakistan cricket great.

For that alone, that brief revival of ancient spirit, remember this World Cup campaign with fondness; a success for confounding all expectations. Today, this feels like the journey's end but it must be a new beginning.

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

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