Pakistan v Sri Lanka, ICC World Twenty20 final, Lord's June 22, 2009

A time to laugh, a time to heal

Pakistan's win has brought respite from death and bombs and given a nation the gift of celebration

Sea View was bouncing last night. Karachi's beach is never lost for humanity but last night it was particularly overrun. Mostly they were young men, from all over the city, dancing with the great abandon of those who cannot but do not care anyway. At regular distances, cars would have to stop, allow the men to dance all around, occupants being invited to dance, or drive on through under a flag. Mostly it was a Pakistan flag, but those of political parties were not absent. Those who didn't dance on the streets did so from the windows of their cars, bopping to horns and stereos. Save for rallies welcoming back exiled leaders I have never seen such scenes in Karachi.

TV channels elatedly confirmed that such scenes were not confined to Pakistan's most urban city. Lahore anyway needs no excuse to party, but even the capital, once described as a "fig of bureaucratic imagination," loosened its tie and let out its paunch. Obligatory scenes from refugee camps housing the displaced from the battle in Swat followed and why not? These are people who have lost everything but their lives and nobody will begrudge them a little cheer.

Rarely has cricket's place in this country's conscience been as entrenched as it has been over the past two years. Rarely has it so contributed to the mood of the hour. Since the Oval Test, in drawing rooms, on streets, at parks, at dinners, parties, mosques, markets, hotels, tea shops, courtrooms, police stations, cricket has lurked, waiting for politics to get over. Few things in this country are as talked about as politics but cricket has been a competitive second. Dope tests, intrigues, the death of a coach, rotten performances, more rotten administration, the Lahore terrorist attacks; people outside Pakistan worried that the Lahore attacks were the death of cricket but really, cricket has never more been life and life has never more been cricket, just that with all the beauty came the ugliness, unpredictability and despair.

So, of course, yesterday's win was going to be important. For good measure, for a people weak for romance, it was done in a bolshy, Pakistani way, against the grain, confounding everyone and even their own captain. For added touch, a Pathan led them and a Karachi-based Pathan - an ethnicity in itself - was his main man. Shahid Afridi, an observer said yesterday, has in him spirits of both Karachi and the Pakhtoon, spirits that have often resided uneasily; he is likely to hustle you as Karachiites always will, but the fight he brings will be a fearless one, even if it is often self-defeating. After this, people will remember him differently.

Younis Khan, in particular, has led with touching dignity and grace. He was lampooned for calling the whole thing a bit of fun earlier in the tournament. Yet why wouldn't he? Like Inzamam in the decade before him, he has stood upright and proud through quake after quake, tremor after tremor. He has seen a coach and mentor die after a traumatic loss, he has seen an international team attacked by terrorists in his country, he has seen his province and hometown in flames, he has seen immense personal tragedy and he has travelled to cricket grounds while being shot at during the worst of Karachi's ethnic battles. So if he thought that this was a little bit of fun, you can see why.

But when he needed to get serious, he did. It was not missed in Pakistan that he barely smiled on the field during the semi-final and final and if he laughed at errors before, he was not so forgiving here. He led Pakistan's run-scoring when they were doing badly and that's not bad for a player not thought of by some - including his own, now former, chief selector - as a Twenty20 batsman. Mostly, he realized when the flow was with Pakistan and he seized on it, like Imran Khan and Wasim Akram had often done before him. And he then did what so few subcontinent cricketers have done: he left gracefully. Admittedly it was only from the one format that anyway holds less allure for him, but it was some stage to leave, particularly with the riches the shorter form now brings.

It has been said that few sporting victories anywhere around the world have been as significant as this. Perhaps it is true, but the real truth of that will emerge over time. Pakistan's win will do little in literal terms for the war on terror; if we're lucky the spirits will be emboldened further. Countries are still unlikely to visit Pakistan for international cricket because that is not really part of this.

But the win and the run have brought, for however long, respite from war, death, bombs and load-shedding (power cuts). People have laughed and smiled since Pakistan's run began, with that outstanding Afridi catch and Umar Gul spell. Last night they laughed and smiled and danced and jigged and blew their horns and waved their flags and ate their mithai (sweets) and set off their firecrackers more than they have for a long time. That is as powerful a gift as can be given to any nation.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Theena on June 24, 2009, 6:19 GMT

    A bit late on this..

    From us in Sri Lanka: a hearty congratulations.

    More than this fine tournament, certainly more than the IPL, more than the display of world class skills, watching Pakistan lift the T20, especially at this juncture in the country's history, redeemed the T20 format in my mind. International cricket needs Pakistan just as much as Pakistan needs international cricket. Well done to Younis Khan and co. Brilliant, brilliant performance in the final. You played like champions.

    I've been saying it all week, but I'll say it again: Pakistan zindabad!

  • Mustafizur on June 23, 2009, 14:05 GMT

    Wow.... Pakistan. Congratulation Folks. Pakistan needed this victory badly and proved itself to be a great cricketing nation despite of many other cricketing nations reluctant to play them. Pakistan's cricket had been going through tough time following the Lahore incident and this win is really really significant. Congratulations again.

  • suraj on June 23, 2009, 13:31 GMT

    congratulations to pakistan!! this is a very good win for pak sports in tough political conditions. ICC will now re-consider its decision of sidelining pak from world cricket and hopefully we will see some international cricket in pakistan. cheers!

  • Sridhar on June 23, 2009, 7:56 GMT

    As an Indian, my heart felt congratulations to the Pakistani nation and people. Your team was the best and deserving winners in the end. More importantly, your nation deserved this more than any other. To be honest, I was rooting for pakistan throughout the tournament once India was knocked out.

  • Littak on June 23, 2009, 7:37 GMT

    Hi Pakistani Folks, This is something to be really cheered about. This is a big day for Pakistan as well as world Cricket. You really deserve it. I am an Indian , posting this from California,US. In this tournament, I was supporting India till they crashed out.I like Pakistan team just because they have more flamboyant stars like Afridi. Also I feel that Pakistan deserved to win the finals because of the following reasons.

    a) Pakistan have been playing extremely well in this tournament b) Pakistan team needed a victory like this to boost the morale, it came at the right time

    3. Politically, Pakistan is going through very tough times as everyone knows. Atleast Srilanka has something to cheer about with their army's massive victory over LTTE.

    4) Cricket tournaments are going to be more interesting now with no more domination by a "super team".

    So Cricket is the ultimate winner here.


  • nooruddin on June 23, 2009, 5:24 GMT

    we Pakistanis are predictably unpredictable, this makes us special. i am impressed reading comments from our Indian brothers. If anyone needed this victory it was Pakistan, we had enough of hatred and intolerance hope this voctory brings the lost confidence back to the people of Pakistan.....Amen!

  • Globe on June 23, 2009, 3:52 GMT

    It's hard to believe but this uncanny team has delivered. Congratulations to every Pakistani for our cricket team has reaped such glorious laurels for all of us to feel proud of. The treatment of the international cricketing community during the last two years has been far from fair towards Pakistan. We have been alienated in quite shameful ways. For all of you cricket-maniacs, you would agree with me that this was quite a murky time for Pakistani cricket and it felt like this last sport where we had played with pride on international level was going to be a story of the past. This is a huge lesson not only for the whole nation of Pakistan as it bears a strong analogy to their socio-political state-of-affairs but for the ICC and the cricketing nations as well. I would strongly recommend that ICC re-consider the decision to take 2011 world cup away from Pakistan. This will be an utterly unjust treatment especially in the wake of extra ordinary committment of Pakistan to this sport.

  • Nitin on June 23, 2009, 1:19 GMT

    Congratulations to Pakistan! I am an Indian fan, but I am very happy that our Pakistani brothers did so well on this tournament. Inshaallah Pakistan will triumph against terror as well. God be with you in this difficult time.

  • Samuel on June 22, 2009, 17:50 GMT

    Given the situation in Pakistan, I don't think anyone should be spending any time doing anything other than trying to stabilise the country and I actually believe Pakistam could have done without this distraction from the massive task at hand.

  • Ganesh on June 22, 2009, 17:50 GMT

    Congrats to Pakistan, not just the team but the entire nation, for you have shown the world, on how to keeping fighting, irrespective of all the negative things happening around you!!! Kudos to you all!!!

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