November 20, 2008

Lahore Badshahs v Pakistan

A fan dreams of a clash between the two teams that have brought Pakistan much joy over the last week

Welcome violence: Imran Nazir murders the Hyderabad attack in the ICL final © ICL

Memo to Moin Khan, manager of the Lahore Badshahs: "Congratulations. Your team has won the ICL tournament and made us proud. Now your captain has gone one better and challenged the Pakistan national side to a duel." We've just had a few terrific few days: both the Pakistan international team and their alter ego, the Lahore Badshahs, have scored a series of resounding wins. What could be better for the Pakistani game, and for the fans, than watching these two outfits do battle against each other?

Lately it's been so slow around here that you could be excused for forgetting that Pakistan is a full-member ICC nation, which has played over 300 Tests and nearly 700 ODIs, won a World Cup, and added a few names to the pantheon. These days all anyone seems to notice is that Pakistan is an agitated land boiling with a Taliban insurgency, exploding at random, and sitting on the cultural and ideological fault line of conceivably everything.

Pakistan haven't played a Test in nearly a year, and prior to the series in Abu Dhabi hadn't played any ODIs since July. With no sign of wood meeting leather, fans have instead occupied themselves with whatever cricketing scraps they could get their hands on - cricket board politics, firing and hiring the coach, the soap opera of the naughty-boy du jour (Mohammad Asif, Shoaib Akhtar, or Mohammad Yousuf - take your pick).

Then, one recent Abu Dhabi evening, Kamran Akmal hit those two last-over sixes for victory in the first ODI against West Indies. As the balls crashed into the stands behind long-off and point, it felt like the welcome patter of rain after a hard and bitter drought. West Indies had had the upper hand throughout the match until that point. Akmal reversed the momentum with a turnaround so energetic that Pakistan rode to a 3-0 series sweep.

Even the most unforgiving and sceptical followers were awestruck. I heard a female colleague, a trenchant critic who has never offered anything better than grudging praise, admire newcomer Khurram Manzoor as the great answer to Pakistan's incurable opening problem. An octogenarian fan, who has seen it all and loathes hyperbole, opined that Pakistan were turning a historic corner in the evolution of its cricket ethos. A friend who had supposedly given up following cricket altogether sent a text message, all in capital letters, that Sohail Tanvir's wicket-taking in-dipper to Chris Gayle in the second ODI was better than the best of Wasim Akram.

Even if events in Abu Dhabi were not that earth-shattering, you could forgive the fans for feeling that way. After the sadness and disappointments of an extremely lean year, Pakistan came out keenly motivated and driving hard. The on-field body language, the most sensitive gauge to a team's rhythm, was amazing. Batsmen looked opponents in the eye, bowlers snorted and charged, and fielders (most of them, anyway - this is Pakistan we're talking about) flung themselves around. Even Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Malik, never known to see eye to eye, exhibited a surprising range of male-bonding rituals, including smiling, back-slapping, draping arms over shoulders, and generously patting hips.

The national side was motivated by deprivation and disappointment, the Lahore Badshahs by half a million US dollars, and the loss in the last season's final. It was noticeable that Inzamam-ul-Haq was bending his back in the field with an assiduousness that was perhaps not always seen in his playing days for Pakistan. Whatever works, said the fans, and cheered him and his team on. Lahore didn't receive much coverage in the press, but their games had fans riveted. Some of their players, such as Imran Nazir and Saqlain Mushtaq, are beloved figures. There was also the chance to behold partnerships between Mohammad Yousuf and Inzamamul Haq, an exquisite pleasure we thought we had lost forever.

As Kamran Akmal's hits crashed into the stands behind long-off and point, it felt like the welcome patter of rain after a hard and bitter drought
Lahore have approached ICL with an arrogance that comes from a non-negotiable belief that you can hold your own against any team in the world. Last season's embarrassment, when they lost one of the finals in a bowl-out, only intensified their hunger. After a shaky start they peaked perfectly and entered the semi-finals at No. 2 on the points table. Sandwiched between the first and second ODIs in Abu Dhabi was the first match of ICL's best-of-three final, in which Lahore comfortably chased 170 against Hyderabad.

They were off-colour in the second match, but a stunning boundary catch from Justin Kemp had the unintended consequence of toughening their resolve immeasurably. Dean Jones called it the most awesome catch he had ever seen - check it out, it's not an exaggeration - but it stung the Badshahs, and from merely motivated they became menacingly murderous. The decider, held the same evening as the third Abu Dhabi ODI, featured a 44-ball detonation from Imran Nazir that fetched him 111 out of the winning total of 160.

Ultimately both Lahore and Pakistan were driven by revenge. The Badshahs wanted to scream in the PCB's face that their players, who are banned from playing for Pakistan, were as good as any. Pakistan wanted revenge against the geo-political winds, and the nameless and faceless terrorists that have led to their cricketing desolation.

How far the revenge motive was achieved, only time will tell. While it's been a good few days, prospects for international cricket in Pakistan are still shaky at best. The fans are slowly retreating to once again hiding their faces and licking their wounds.

So well done, Inzamam and Moin. Geo Super- our local sports channel - will televise it, the PCB will organise it (we'll talk to them very, very nicely), Cricinfo will spread the word, and the fans will cheer and chatter for a long time. Lahore Badshahs versus Pakistan could really kick-start the mood.

Saad Shafqat is a writer based in Karachi

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • farzan on November 21, 2008, 6:21 GMT

    Well the idea sounds quite interesting as far as viewers and fans are concerned. The idea of Imran Nazir thrashing Umer Gul in the Opening Spell, or vice versa gives rather a daunting experience worth to watch. Yousuf rubbing shoulders with Skipper Shoaib Malik, eye to eye thinking how to settle things will be a spicy movie rather a match. Rana Naveed destroying Salman Butt's middle stump or Misbah going after Shahid Nazir. The fire and anger between the two sides will be remarkable to see. Now come to face the reality, PCB is not going to monk itself or its players by accepting the challenge. Same way the BCCI,ICC,IPL will make sure it doesn't happen. So nice to write about but not a practical setup is possible in near future. One favor in return, the cricinfo should get in contact with the PCB and have their comments about such an event. Apart from the BCCI or IPL politics, what would be the major issue that would not let this game happen is my question to everyone.

  • Patrick on November 20, 2008, 22:43 GMT

    After witnessing the idiocy of today's India v England match being halted by bad light when perfectly good floodlights were available and also seeing the recent Test Matches between India and Australia being played in empty stadiums because some half-wit came up with the idea that spectators could only buy a ticket for all five days of each match before being allowed in, I find the idea behind this article very refreshing. Badshahs v Pakistan? Why not? If the public want it bring it on, and also let's get rid of the idiots wrecking international cricket before its too late.

  • Imran on November 20, 2008, 20:06 GMT

    It is a brilliant idea. Pakistan team should take it as a challenge and prove themselves and to Inzimam why they are wearing national colors. But most important thing is that it would have commercial value and it organized properly this could do well commercially. They can start with a best of 3 20/20 series. No international cricket at home! Sensible solution.

  • Nom on November 20, 2008, 19:08 GMT

    Hmmm its a very interesting thought guys. If the 20-20 match between Pak Team and Lahore Badshahs happens it might be a good crowd puller but I am afraid I don't see it happening. Firstly because ICC will not permit PCB to let Pak Team play against an ICL team. Secondly, PCB will not risk it. Look Pak Team is rusty and has just played and luckily won a series after a long time. Now if Pak Team were to lose against the Badshahs the National sides egos will get badly hurt and we can't afford that considering the future series especially against India. It will be a grudge match as the Badshahs will have a score to settle against PCB (not Pak Team). On the other hand Pak Team is a very talented side and I don't think they can be beaten that easily, so I don't believe for a second that Badshahs will just roll them over. I would personally love to watch it if it ever happens because it will be good for cricket and great for Pakistan.

  • Khurram on November 20, 2008, 17:53 GMT

    The BCCI is trying to control the game, ICC needs to step in, but they sat BCCI is responsible for internal matters/admin of cricket, what a laughing council, they have lights on the grounds and they dont want to use them on day ODI matches, haha. IPL is a copy of ICL, Cricket umpires review is copy of ICL. ICL World series is copy of ICC. Why not joing them together for the benefit of cricket? S.Jayasuriya/C.Vaas/M.Hayden are also old, but they produce the goods, why don't we give ICL the chance Vs IPL/Pak?

  • Qamruzzama on November 20, 2008, 15:22 GMT

    Well this could be great for Pakistan Cricket, show some light to other cricket countries against the arm twisting methods of IPL and BCCI, and finally of great entertainment value. I have always believed that IPL and ICL are one and the same, its benifiting Indian cricket, but harming other nations, either they should merge or both should be banned totally by ICC, what good have these leagues done to the game, its only an entertainment value cricket, nothing serious about these leagues, and to top it all we have another extravaganza coming up, the Champions league. All International commitments have gone for a toss.

  • Vin on November 20, 2008, 15:03 GMT

    Isn't it ironic that ICC keeps chatting about popularising cicket, along comes ICL that's doing exactly that and it gets banned. So many more cricketers and audiences are getting a chance to involve themselves in quality cricket and if only ICC would only care to support such initiatives cricket could spread like wildfire. But no, the numbnuts are only too agreeable to being pushed around by the indian board. Wouldn't it catch even more eyeballs if say, the ICL champs were also present in the 20-20 champions league. Then we could see who really is past their prime and who still needs education.

  • Rajkumar on November 20, 2008, 13:55 GMT

    Deja vu...First of all a gr8 idea.Its been long since there was any series with the clash of two equal teams. The days of SA vs Aus or IND vs PAk are gone 10 yrs ago. This is one series than can pump adrenaline.This will pave way for recogonizing LHR Badshahs and if they crush the pakistan team then some one has to answer why PCB fields a secondary XI as the natioanl team. Who knows this could be the door for the recogonization of ICL. Kapil is a revolutionary 1983-world cup for India and now 2008 -ICL.

    looking for the dream to come true. Thanks, Rajkumar

  • usman on November 20, 2008, 13:06 GMT

    Lahore Baadshahs is nothing more than a hotch-potch of retired and the rejects of Pak team. And those who turned their backs on the national team for the sake of a quick buck, they ought to be taken at face value. Knowing fully well that playing in the rebel league would finish their national careers, many of them still opted for quick money at the cost of representing their nation. Now the gall of them to challenge the national stars, it would be shameful if it were not hilarious. Quickly cast your eye over the ones playing ICL and it would dawn on you that great majority of players who feature there are past their sell-by date or were marginalised as being under-performers by their national teams. A swallow does not make a summer and beating blue the crocks of Hyderabad Deccan does not mean you have taken the world of cricket by storm or can take on a national team like that of Pak!

  • Lok on November 20, 2008, 13:04 GMT

    That will be awesome and most definitely 'Lahore' will beat 'Pakistan' which will be a big slap on PCB's face and expose their partial and dictatorial attitude towards genuine and desrving players. But my feeling is that just because of the fear of this outcome, PCB is not going to agree for such contest.

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