Pakistan cricket June 26, 2012

The wonder and heartbreak of being a Pakistan fan

Gul Baz Khan
For us Pakistan fans, abnormal is normal. The love that one has for their favourite sports team is different to any other kind of love. It's not bigger. It's just different, and probably brings with it a lot more sorrow than any other kind of love
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My phone beeped, it was an SMS from a friend who had grown skeptical of the Pakistan cricket team since the 1999 World Cup final debacle. "So are your chuckers gonna win?" It was the eve of the 2009 World Twenty20 final. And though he knew that the response he would get would be oozing with positive energy, hope and an incomprehensible delight for one of the most unpredictable teams across sports throughout history, he still wanted to know.

You see, after a long time, this team was showing some spine. It was re-generating interest even in the sceptics who had turned away.

Please understand, I would never doubt the love Pakistan fans have for their cricket team. Apart from the heartbreaks caused by genuine losses, they have suffered through the years courtesy match-fixing, ball-tampering allegations, a whole year without any Test matches, infighting within the team, politics within politics, questionable board chiefs, coups against captains, no cricket at home for three years, and even an investigation around the death of their coach.

For us Pakistan fans, abnormal is normal. The love that one has for their favourite sports team is different to any other kind of love. It's not bigger. It's just different, and probably brings with it a lot more sorrow than any other kind of love.

The beef that I have with most Pakistan cricket fans is their fickle belief in their team. One loss and it's all about how we should throw the whole team out because they sold out. One loss and half the team should retire. One loss and #BlameMisbah hash tags appear all across the Twitter world (Misbah has to hold the record for the most unappreciated, yet very successful, captain).

But then, with the rich history of betrayal that Pakistan cricket fans have witnessed, it's difficult to blame them for being so trigger-happy. On the flip side, that's where true love comes in and fickleness goes out.

I am a huge Lakers fan in basketball. The first game that I ever saw in the NBA was Game 4 of the NBA Finals in 1989, between Los Angeles Lakers and Detroit Pistons, with Lakers being down 3-0 in the best of seven series. I was 11 years old then and we were based in Singapore at the time. I had recently started playing basketball myself and upon seeing that match, I was completely hooked.

Needless to say, it was the worst match to begin following the Lakers. Magic Johnson was out injured and the great Kareem Abdul Jabbar was a shadow of his former self at the ripe old age of 41. This was to be Kareem's last game ever as well. So they lost, and I hadn't even seen Magic play yet, but I was already a fan of the game.

And so it went. I have seen the worst of times with the Lakers, when after the 1991 emergence of Michael Jordan and the retirement of Magic due to HIV, Lakers went on a downward spiral, even missing the playoffs in 1994. It would be nine years till they return to the Finals under the Zenmaster.

The bottom line is when you love a sports team, you love it with all the baggage it comes with. You don't just wait for them to lift the Cup. That is not the defining moment. The defining moments are spread out across time, when you go to sleep thinking what combination would have worked out best, when you try and find all the faults the referee made in the match your team lost, when you can't wait for the match to start, when you are willing to start an argument with every Tom, Dick and Harry who dares challenge your team's chances. Those are the moments that define you as a sports fan.

As my favourite sports writer, Bill Simmons, says, your love for your sports team is full of heartbreak, but what would love be without heartbreak. Your wife accuses you of not attaching any importance to anything else when "the match" comes on, your mood at dinner with guests after a big match will depend on the result, your friends curse you for spoiling an otherwise good plan because you don't want to leave the house, and the same friends all start supporting the opposing team when they are stuck watching the game with you, just to piss you off; that's when you know you are a goner.

The Pakistan cricket team presents the most confusing paradox for any sports fan. It's not a club team that you can choose to "unfollow" if they were as unfaithful as our team has been over the years. It's your national side. You just cannot ignore it. You want them to do well. You need them to do well. There is already so much despair and negativity around, that it's this bit of happiness that drives a nation wild.

We are a very unforgiving lot - sports fans not Pakistanis. Well, maybe both. We cannot accept defeat. We will never look for the silver lining. And that is what makes my job as that unrelenting fan that much more difficult. Because there is only so much you can argue about with the many people around you. You can't force others to be empathetic. You have to listen to all the know-it-alls who personally know the bookie who paid off some cricketer. You have to listen to the 'experts' who tell you how every move in the match was pre-planned. You fail miserably and continuously in explaining a particular innings or a certain bowling performance. (I mean, just the fact that I had to defend Saeed Ajmal's class as a bowler after the time Hussey took him to the cleaners in the semi-final of the 2010 World Twenty20 angered me). Through all of that you still have to find that passion that allows you to stand by the team you love.

The only unfortunate thing is that we live in a world of wicked needs and loose morals. Yet, when you see the team fight its way to a Twenty20 victory when defending 122 at the opponents home ground, when you see one of the greatest innings played by Inzamam-ul-Haq and yet have the team fall short by five runs when chasing 350, when you see this good-for-nothing team "brown-wash" the No. 1 Test team in the world, when you see the fight in the eyes of a Saeed Ajmal, the passion of a Younis Khan and the unrelenting charisma of a Shahid Afridi, your heart soars.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Keanue on August 2, 2012, 4:52 GMT

    Just about all I can say is, I don't know what to really say! Except cenalirty, for the amazing tips which are shared within this blog. I will think of a million fun approaches to read the reports on this site. I think I will finally take action with your tips on those things I could never have been able to manage alone. You're so clever to allow me to be one of those to benefit from your handy information. Please see how significantly I am thankful.

  • Antigona on July 31, 2012, 4:37 GMT

    Its really funny about idinans.After 96 world cup it is a habit that Sri Lankan team throw them out of multi nation tournements.In Asian cup also idinans last match is against Sri Lanka.I really feel soory for them. Best thing for india is playing their own country.the pitches are made for them.out of their country indian team is nothing.I hope atleast they will win 2 t20 matches against zimbabwe.After that they can think about making a good fight against Sri Lanka. (0)

  • Mani on June 28, 2012, 20:55 GMT

    True about Misbah being treated as the scape-goat for every loss

  • Zahir on June 28, 2012, 8:35 GMT

    Was so emotionaly touched reading the article, was almost about to have tears, just waiting you to mention shahid afridi in the end, but you spoiled it all. You ruin the whole attachment to your words by mentioning younis khan. Of all the greats, you had no other name. Shoaib, waqar, wasim, saqlain, saeed anwar, abdul razzaq (bang bang). Know i know for sure there is a conspiracy in media, and commentaters to promote younis khan. Given the long run he has had since yousuf was dropped, give me any single moment when you didnt felt that it should have been younis who should be dropped. What passion? shoiab had passion, razzaq has passion... its just that he has strong safarish with him....

  • Nadeem Ahmed on June 27, 2012, 17:32 GMT

    Very thoughtfully written about the unpredictable Pakistani fans. We blame our team like sour losers when they don't perform up to expectations. We are the most non-thankful people in the world which forgets all the awesome moments which our team have given us. Win and loss are part of the game.

    This article defines it all about the natural Pakistani heart.

  • Era on June 27, 2012, 14:45 GMT

    To be frank pakistan could have had the best bowling attack in the world. Umar Gual, Amir , Asif along with Canneria, ajmal could have made wonderful combination.They could have become such a threat like windies in 80's & Australians in early 2000.

    In one way or another their talents just get wasted away. I am Sri Lankan. But as a cricket lover i feel very sorry for pakistan. They must get their act together first and build a strong side.

  • mvsh on June 27, 2012, 10:51 GMT

    perfect description of a pakistani fan...very very true..

  • Imad Khalid on June 27, 2012, 10:25 GMT

    Man you said my Heart out. YES winning a trophy is not the defining moment. But all other excitement and your support and love for the team is a defining moment. No matter how many matches Pakistan Loses ! I still have a fresh hope when they play a new match. Because they can beat any side on the given day.

  • RonaliP on June 27, 2012, 8:47 GMT

    This article was absolutely spot on in terms of how a genuine cricket fan would feel about their team. I'm from Sri Lanka and therefore, I re-interpreted this in the way I feel about our team, and I agree with you wholeheartedly about the role of a true fan who sticks by their team no matter what happens. I got goosebumps reading this! Keep up the good work :)

  • Muneeb Alam on June 27, 2012, 7:30 GMT

    OMG so true, hate the people who are like "you're not even Pakistani"...i mean i live in Canada (Vancouver to be exact)and i have to wake up around 2 in the morning or sometimes even 4ish to watch a cricket & i do that even when there's school. LOL sometimes i even go to computer just to watch cricket. Its hard following cricket here - its rarely shown on tv (only few WC highlights)& not a lot even know what it is (half of them think i am passionate about croquet). So this article was awesome to read!!!! Cheers. Great job bro

  • Keanue on August 2, 2012, 4:52 GMT

    Just about all I can say is, I don't know what to really say! Except cenalirty, for the amazing tips which are shared within this blog. I will think of a million fun approaches to read the reports on this site. I think I will finally take action with your tips on those things I could never have been able to manage alone. You're so clever to allow me to be one of those to benefit from your handy information. Please see how significantly I am thankful.

  • Antigona on July 31, 2012, 4:37 GMT

    Its really funny about idinans.After 96 world cup it is a habit that Sri Lankan team throw them out of multi nation tournements.In Asian cup also idinans last match is against Sri Lanka.I really feel soory for them. Best thing for india is playing their own country.the pitches are made for them.out of their country indian team is nothing.I hope atleast they will win 2 t20 matches against zimbabwe.After that they can think about making a good fight against Sri Lanka. (0)

  • Mani on June 28, 2012, 20:55 GMT

    True about Misbah being treated as the scape-goat for every loss

  • Zahir on June 28, 2012, 8:35 GMT

    Was so emotionaly touched reading the article, was almost about to have tears, just waiting you to mention shahid afridi in the end, but you spoiled it all. You ruin the whole attachment to your words by mentioning younis khan. Of all the greats, you had no other name. Shoaib, waqar, wasim, saqlain, saeed anwar, abdul razzaq (bang bang). Know i know for sure there is a conspiracy in media, and commentaters to promote younis khan. Given the long run he has had since yousuf was dropped, give me any single moment when you didnt felt that it should have been younis who should be dropped. What passion? shoiab had passion, razzaq has passion... its just that he has strong safarish with him....

  • Nadeem Ahmed on June 27, 2012, 17:32 GMT

    Very thoughtfully written about the unpredictable Pakistani fans. We blame our team like sour losers when they don't perform up to expectations. We are the most non-thankful people in the world which forgets all the awesome moments which our team have given us. Win and loss are part of the game.

    This article defines it all about the natural Pakistani heart.

  • Era on June 27, 2012, 14:45 GMT

    To be frank pakistan could have had the best bowling attack in the world. Umar Gual, Amir , Asif along with Canneria, ajmal could have made wonderful combination.They could have become such a threat like windies in 80's & Australians in early 2000.

    In one way or another their talents just get wasted away. I am Sri Lankan. But as a cricket lover i feel very sorry for pakistan. They must get their act together first and build a strong side.

  • mvsh on June 27, 2012, 10:51 GMT

    perfect description of a pakistani fan...very very true..

  • Imad Khalid on June 27, 2012, 10:25 GMT

    Man you said my Heart out. YES winning a trophy is not the defining moment. But all other excitement and your support and love for the team is a defining moment. No matter how many matches Pakistan Loses ! I still have a fresh hope when they play a new match. Because they can beat any side on the given day.

  • RonaliP on June 27, 2012, 8:47 GMT

    This article was absolutely spot on in terms of how a genuine cricket fan would feel about their team. I'm from Sri Lanka and therefore, I re-interpreted this in the way I feel about our team, and I agree with you wholeheartedly about the role of a true fan who sticks by their team no matter what happens. I got goosebumps reading this! Keep up the good work :)

  • Muneeb Alam on June 27, 2012, 7:30 GMT

    OMG so true, hate the people who are like "you're not even Pakistani"...i mean i live in Canada (Vancouver to be exact)and i have to wake up around 2 in the morning or sometimes even 4ish to watch a cricket & i do that even when there's school. LOL sometimes i even go to computer just to watch cricket. Its hard following cricket here - its rarely shown on tv (only few WC highlights)& not a lot even know what it is (half of them think i am passionate about croquet). So this article was awesome to read!!!! Cheers. Great job bro

  • Hisham Zainal on June 27, 2012, 5:34 GMT

    Actually I don't care, if my PAK team win or lose, as long as they play their heart out.

    It's truly a joy to support a team like PAK, and it doesn't matter, even with occasional heartbreaks, because they are worth it.

    -PAK Cricket Team Malaysia's No 1 Fan-

  • Lahoria on June 27, 2012, 0:07 GMT

    I agree that most, not all, Pakistani fans, are fair weather & short sighted. One loss & every one starts pontificating about what's wrong with the national team & how they could fix it. I'm a "goner" as the writer put it, & a huge unapologetic Misbah fan. I remember all the games he has saved for Pakistan where we didn't have a chance in hell to win or draw but he got us home. I feel like writing one of these just to remind all my countrymen about all those games, concluding with the most recent whitewash. Anyway, well done my pakistani brother, I honestly thought you were describing me; mood swings, euphoria, waking up in the middle of the night (in US). I just wish my fellow pakistani fans appreciate the fight that Umar Akmal, Asad, Azhar, Adnan, & Misbah display. It brings tears to my eyes every time Umar scores & kisses the star on the helmet. That's why I watch.....

  • Shahzad on June 26, 2012, 20:10 GMT

    You said what Pakistani fans don't know about them. Great piece of writing except that basketball thing :)

  • Razick on June 26, 2012, 20:07 GMT

    Though, I'm not a Pakistani, I have the same feelings and despair when the team loses. Perhaps you face much more heartache than Pakistanis themselves....

  • sudantha on June 26, 2012, 19:57 GMT

    when you are reading a article in a newspapare or where ever, on the halfway through you would get a feeling that this one is written from that side. But I think this is a great article I happened to read in my life. Yes Mr.gul you experienced the bitter sweet more than us. But, nothing can let down your passion. Love to read more. A Sri lankan fan of Pak cricket.

  • Saad Shafqat on June 26, 2012, 18:46 GMT

    Lovely, thoughtful and heartfelt piece. Couldn't agree more w/ Gul Baz that being a true sports fan means loyalty to your preferred team, above all else.

  • Bishkek on June 26, 2012, 18:36 GMT

    Oh my wife hates it when I stay up late to watch a game, be it cricket or football, but I have just never been able to stay away, in the 2003 world cup during the match between pakistan and india, I had an exam the next day and I decided I wasn't going to watch the game, but just then, I heard some of the noise and commentary coming from the neighbours' television and started wishing someone would just force me to watch the game so I could say it was not my fault that I watched it, finally, a few minutes later my father came to my room and took me with him to watch it on our tv.

  • nomisheikh on June 26, 2012, 18:06 GMT

    i think my thoughts with millions of others' were given words. Excellent!!!!

  • Zeeshan Javed on June 26, 2012, 17:18 GMT

    The only problem that us Pakistanis have with the performance of our team is that they do not play to their full potential. Just take a look at the batting skills of our tailenders and compare them to the rest of the world, like recently Tino Best played one of the most special knocks ever. The highest our tail enders have ever achieved is 50 odd or something like that. What I mean to say is that whenever Pakistan has shown the will to fight and survive (especially in the batting department) they will always be praised. But having said that the article was really thought invoking and a great piece.

  • Fahad Hussain on June 26, 2012, 17:05 GMT

    Brilliant. Captures the thoughts of so many unrelenting Pakistani fans! Homed in to perfection.

  • Moosa.M on June 26, 2012, 17:02 GMT

    Pakistan team can do a lot better if selected on the basis of merit. As PCB's head quarter is in Lahore, the Lahori guys take the full advantage. Look test, 50 overs, 20/20 and even U-19 all are flooded with the faces from one province. This is not a biased comment but a true picture.

  • Asad Afzal on June 26, 2012, 16:26 GMT

    Thumping wins and rickety losses. Scandals aplenty and odd-beating performances. Record-setting wins and mind-boggling collapses. Mecca for fast bowling and sahara desert for opening batsmen. Such are the thrills and spills of a Pakistani fan. With so much drama, it's no wonder how we draw so much attention from cricket fans. Thanks to all that still love us, and to all those that don't...thanks to you too - you make winning worthwhile. Pakistan Zindabad!

  • Anujah Maria on June 26, 2012, 16:10 GMT

    Being a Pakistan fan is always a pleasure. To watch them play and win is an extra delight! I think this the best team and with the way it was playing showed what great talent team Pakistan has got. Just because of some ups and downs we cannot let them down by not supporting! we should encourage them by giving our support. it has got immense talent! by the way Misbah is the best captain! Age is not a barrier, so he should guide team Pakistan as Captain for more years!And Afridi should play for more years too! love you Team Pakistan! God bless you!

  • Hassan.Farooqi on June 26, 2012, 13:28 GMT

    Yes, no team can win all the time, not even Australia. However the fact that many players were involved in fixing is now proved in a court of law. That is the reason players known to be not in fixing e.g. Shahid Afridi would always have a fan following despite their failures and despite them being called highly overrated player. Fans can trust these players integrity, if not the consistancy of their performance.

  • Siham on June 26, 2012, 13:26 GMT

    Loved the article! It looked like you just put EVERYTHING I feel for cricket. I'm so sharing this with everyone.

  • Zain Jafri on June 26, 2012, 13:25 GMT

    I haven't watched this last game because of the frustration of the loss in the one days but I heard about some bad umpiring decisions and the unavailability of DRS. I think with Misbah in the side, this is the best Test team Pakistan can offer at this moment. And I have no doubt that if Misbah, Younis and Azhar get these kind of favorable decisions than they can easily post 450+ score. At this score and with the DRS system in place, I bet no team has any chance against this quality bowling line up. Sri Lankans are a good side but they are not a great side in any way and outside their home they are just average. This is the time for ICC to implement some laws and create some uniformity to minimize the home advantage.

  • Adnived on June 26, 2012, 13:12 GMT

    Quite a boring article. May be slightly interesting if you were a Pakistani but then it was nothing that they already didn't know. The article is not a mind changing or enlightening one unless you were very shallow and did not know why you supported a team in any sport. Going on about Basket ball and Lakers prolonged the agony.

  • Vinod Gangaputhran on June 26, 2012, 13:09 GMT

    "The bottom line is when you love a sports team, you love it with all the baggage it comes with. You don’t just wait for them to lift the Cup. That is not the defining moment. The defining moments are spread out across time, when you go to sleep thinking what combination would have worked out best, when you try and find all the faults the referee made in the match your team lost, when you can’t wait for the match to start, when you are willing to start an argument with every Tom, Dick and Harry who dares challenge your team’s chances. Those are the moments that define you as a sports fan. " - U said it dude...Awesome post...enjoyed heaps....Keep up the good work..keep writing...from an indian fan of Pak cricket and all the 'madness' associated with it...

  • ambalal on June 26, 2012, 12:55 GMT

    Pakistan has produced some of the most exciting/crowd pulling cricketers in world cricket.Simeltanously Pakistan is subject to a new kind of aparthied.South Africa practiced aparthied but countries like England,Austrailia and Newzeland were enjoying benefits on both sides.The aparthied/discrimination which Pakistan is facing is worst than south african aparthied.No one minds money overtaking the spirit of cricket because every one except Pakistan is financially benefitting from it courtesy IPL. If any other team had faced even 50% of discrimination of what Pakistan has been facing it would struggle to even draw against Bangladesh. Tough times do not last tough people do.

  • shafique chattha on June 26, 2012, 12:47 GMT

    Excellent article .Hats off to you Mr. Gul baz Khan for conveying my sentiments to the fullest about being a sports fan in generic and a Pakistan cricket fan in specific.

  • Anonymous on June 26, 2012, 12:21 GMT

    Well, very very true; a joyful read.

  • Waqas Rasool on June 26, 2012, 11:35 GMT

    Refreshing Read!!!!

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • Waqas Rasool on June 26, 2012, 11:35 GMT

    Refreshing Read!!!!

  • Anonymous on June 26, 2012, 12:21 GMT

    Well, very very true; a joyful read.

  • shafique chattha on June 26, 2012, 12:47 GMT

    Excellent article .Hats off to you Mr. Gul baz Khan for conveying my sentiments to the fullest about being a sports fan in generic and a Pakistan cricket fan in specific.

  • ambalal on June 26, 2012, 12:55 GMT

    Pakistan has produced some of the most exciting/crowd pulling cricketers in world cricket.Simeltanously Pakistan is subject to a new kind of aparthied.South Africa practiced aparthied but countries like England,Austrailia and Newzeland were enjoying benefits on both sides.The aparthied/discrimination which Pakistan is facing is worst than south african aparthied.No one minds money overtaking the spirit of cricket because every one except Pakistan is financially benefitting from it courtesy IPL. If any other team had faced even 50% of discrimination of what Pakistan has been facing it would struggle to even draw against Bangladesh. Tough times do not last tough people do.

  • Vinod Gangaputhran on June 26, 2012, 13:09 GMT

    "The bottom line is when you love a sports team, you love it with all the baggage it comes with. You don’t just wait for them to lift the Cup. That is not the defining moment. The defining moments are spread out across time, when you go to sleep thinking what combination would have worked out best, when you try and find all the faults the referee made in the match your team lost, when you can’t wait for the match to start, when you are willing to start an argument with every Tom, Dick and Harry who dares challenge your team’s chances. Those are the moments that define you as a sports fan. " - U said it dude...Awesome post...enjoyed heaps....Keep up the good work..keep writing...from an indian fan of Pak cricket and all the 'madness' associated with it...

  • Adnived on June 26, 2012, 13:12 GMT

    Quite a boring article. May be slightly interesting if you were a Pakistani but then it was nothing that they already didn't know. The article is not a mind changing or enlightening one unless you were very shallow and did not know why you supported a team in any sport. Going on about Basket ball and Lakers prolonged the agony.

  • Zain Jafri on June 26, 2012, 13:25 GMT

    I haven't watched this last game because of the frustration of the loss in the one days but I heard about some bad umpiring decisions and the unavailability of DRS. I think with Misbah in the side, this is the best Test team Pakistan can offer at this moment. And I have no doubt that if Misbah, Younis and Azhar get these kind of favorable decisions than they can easily post 450+ score. At this score and with the DRS system in place, I bet no team has any chance against this quality bowling line up. Sri Lankans are a good side but they are not a great side in any way and outside their home they are just average. This is the time for ICC to implement some laws and create some uniformity to minimize the home advantage.

  • Siham on June 26, 2012, 13:26 GMT

    Loved the article! It looked like you just put EVERYTHING I feel for cricket. I'm so sharing this with everyone.

  • Hassan.Farooqi on June 26, 2012, 13:28 GMT

    Yes, no team can win all the time, not even Australia. However the fact that many players were involved in fixing is now proved in a court of law. That is the reason players known to be not in fixing e.g. Shahid Afridi would always have a fan following despite their failures and despite them being called highly overrated player. Fans can trust these players integrity, if not the consistancy of their performance.

  • Anujah Maria on June 26, 2012, 16:10 GMT

    Being a Pakistan fan is always a pleasure. To watch them play and win is an extra delight! I think this the best team and with the way it was playing showed what great talent team Pakistan has got. Just because of some ups and downs we cannot let them down by not supporting! we should encourage them by giving our support. it has got immense talent! by the way Misbah is the best captain! Age is not a barrier, so he should guide team Pakistan as Captain for more years!And Afridi should play for more years too! love you Team Pakistan! God bless you!