Panicstan embrace the chaos
DON'T PANIC. For the love of everything that is good, KEEP CALM. Just don't be you. Do the right thing, the safe thing, no need to get worried, just please, oh please, just don't do it again, we can't take it. Enough.
Boom, boom? I don't think so. That is how a heart beats in a regular cricket fan. A Pakistan heart goes boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, and in a small chase, hell, there is no way to even write it down it's just a high-pitched squealing noise, like a heart in a vice that's getting electrocuted as someone burns it with a cigarette butt.
It's not a steady beat, it's a scream.
There are two sides of the brain of a Pakistan fan. The right side looks at a chase of 237 in 50 overs on a clear day and a good pitch, against a team that's come in short on frontline bowlers and thinks, 'we're going to win this comfortably'. And the left side of the brain beats the right side unconscious, because the left side knows, man, it knows, that there is no such thing as an easy Pakistan chase.
Opening is Azhar Ali; he's calm, he's in control, he can bat for long periods of time without a sniff of a rash shot. He'll hit the balls to so many fielders you'll start thinking the fielding team has too many guys out there. But when he slaps the first one, it's straight to point, and on the full. Danushka Gunathilaka drops it, catches it, drops it, clutches for it, gropes for it, begs for it before scrambling around on the ground trying to pick up the ball so quickly everyone can't see he has dropped it. We know that drop, we pioneered that drop.
At the other end it is Fakhar Zaman slapping the ball around. Take that Lasith, and that, and that. Sharjeel who? It doesn't matter that Azhar's strike rate was virtually negative. Yin and yang, dark and light, contrasting forces that bring together spiritual harmony. And that is what happens, an opening partnership of calmness. When Zaman is out, he has 50 from barely any balls, he's done his job, he's cracked the top off the chase, the run rate is now never going to be the problem, and over 30% of the runs needed are in the bank.
And Babar Azam is here, if there is a player who seems almost unaffected by wearing green for Pakistan, it this guy. He's a drink of ice cold cola on the hottest day of the year. He's flicking the ball straight to short midwicket and out. But Professor Hafeez is here, he might love how unpredictable Pakistan is, but he's not, he just chugs along, experienced, seen it all, knocks it around, gets the job done. Oh hell, hell no, no no no no no no no, what is this? That is not a shot, it's not soft, butter is soft, this is just a vague collection of gases that looks like a poor cricket shot from a distance.
I still remember, vaguely, three short-haired Pakistan bowlers running through Sri Lanka. It was marvellous, no reverse, no scary pace, just quality, clever bowling, and an anything-can-happen attitude. Sure, some random quick bowler came in and stroked us around, but really, it was awesome, we owned the ground, and we were going to go into the semi-finals of a major tournament despite our incredibly poor performance in ODIs over the last two years. All we need is two guys, out there for a while, to honour the work of our bowlers, to stand up. Or just stay upright, and not fall over.
Am I worried. Is my heart racing? Yes, sure, but it's okay, here is Shoaib Malik, solid marriage, overseas-leagues pro, eases a ball through covers. Everything's coming up Shoaib. Oh it's at him, and he's flicked one off his glove, and damn. Now Imad Wasim, ha, my man, the future captain, he's already won a match here, right here, in Wales, and he was born here, like we planted a sleeper agent for just such a moment. And with the captain, who also smashed the ball here, they don't even need to score; they just need to stand out there. Just chill, be in the moment, Occupy Cardiff. No, Imad, what have you done, this is not slips practice, why would you think this is slips practice? This is a game, everyone is wearing their matchday clothes, there is a crowd, TV cameras, weird German drummers, and this is a must-win game, and we're losing it, we're losing it and you're hanging your bat out like a fat 50-year-old fielding coach on midweek session.
But we still have one more saviour, Faheem Ashraf, the new Afridi, but without the baggage of thinking he is Afridi. He smashed Bangladesh to win the warm-up game, like just a week or so ago, it was like 77 off 12 balls, or something. Not important. He can do this, he can be our man. Faheem, how can you do it when you can't even ground your bat? Just ground your bat Faheem, we want to love you, adore you, ruin you with our praise and turn you into a semi-effective allrounder with delusions of grandeur. We can't do that when you are run out at the non-striker's end off a fumble, and you have left us seven wickets down with 72 runs to get. How Faheem, how Pakistan? Why?
Our only chance now is that the other team is worse than us, that they panic, throw overthrows, fumble straightforward stops, drop simple catches, let the ball go straight through their wicketkeeper's legs, drop another catch, and put a short mid-on in front of a normal mid-on, that they lose all sense of self and become us. Oh my, they are, they have become us, they are going to win it for us, our two best players in this chase are going to be a teen prodigy who had five years off and Sri Lankan fielders. We are so Pakistan, we have made someone else Pakistan. All we have to do is not be worse than them, all we have to do is overcome ourselves, or become ourselves, embrace our chaos, become the chaos.
Ride this partnership like it's a glorious stallion even though we know it's a busted-up donkey with an inner-ear infection. Let our captain try run himself out every ball, hit the ball to point and take off. A single to short midwicket? Yes please. Let us run head first into risk when we know they have a three-and-a-half man attack that we can outlast.
Don't look back you glorious heroes, ride into the PANIC. Keep panicking, panic hard, panic like no one is watching. Tear your clothes off run around in circles with your hands over your eyes. Oh, for the love of everything you have ever held dear, GO INTO A WILD SWEATY FRENZY OF WORRY. Be you, be all of you, the good, the bad, the Pakistan, pour the Pakistan all over you and trip, stumble and fall into this win. We can take it; we want it, we want all of it. We demand it, be Pakistan, be all the Pakistan you can be. Pakistan, Pakistan.
Do you hear that heart beat? Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan.
Jarrod Kimber is a writer for ESPNcricinfo. @ajarrodkimber