July 24, 2013

For the love of swagger

West Indies can be an unpredictable and volatile side. And Pakistanis love them for it
22

In Pakistan, we thoroughly enjoy locking horns with West Indies. Alongside India and England, they are our favourite opponents. We like to see cricketers who have style as well as swagger, whose approach to the game is at once nonchalant and keenly driven. We want to watch cricketers who smile easily and laugh with abandon, cricketers who - like us - carry an air of unpredictability and volatility. Yes, we do have our own team, and despite its ups and downs we love it to bits. But after Pakistan, we find it easiest to cheer for West Indies. Except when we happen to be on the receiving end, we always want to see West Indies win.

When our septuagenarian and octogenarian cricket fans narrate their choicest memories of visiting teams, they bring up images of Wes Hall walking back to his unimaginably long run-up, or Garry Sobers brandishing his incredible backlift. There is wistful talk of Lance Gibbs, Conrad Hunte, and Rohan Kanhai. Those were the players with truly effortless mastery over the game, we are told, players who knew how to play as well as to entertain. Australia, India, and New Zealand also visited Pakistan in the 1950s, but the cricketers whose visit gets most longingly recounted are the ones from the West Indies.

Nor is this reverence limited to the fans. When great cricketers such as Hanif Mohammad, Imran Khan and Javed Miandad reflect on their most satisfying matches, they go back to epic contests with West Indies.

It is often said that West Indies are to cricket what Brazil - with their flair, flamboyance and feats - have been to soccer. In Pakistan, we feel we have been in possession of some of the same flair and flamboyance. Perhaps not as much to be considered the Brazil of cricket, but certainly enough that it helps us identify with a team like West Indies far more than with those such as England, Australia, India or South Africa - better known for method and application.

Pakistanis who have been privileged to watch cricket at arenas around the world unanimously agree that the best place to enjoy the game live is in the West Indies. I'm not one of those lucky few, but even sitting in Pakistan and following on television, you can sense the heady atmosphere of West Indian grounds. There are people having a party even as others pay attention to the nuances of every delivery. There are fans cheering and dancing and letting their hair down, and others who stand berating, bemoaning and wailing in despair. Especially these days, when there is no international cricket in Pakistan, the urge to be transported into those West Indian throngs is intense and overpowering.

There may not be a particularly fleshed out rivalry between the two teams, but Pakistan's most evenly balanced record happens to be against West Indies. In 46 Tests against them, Pakistan have won 16 and lost 15; and in 125 ODIs, Pakistan have won 54 and lost 68 (in T20 cricket, the two sides have met only once so far). In both Tests and ODIs, Pakistan's win-loss ratios versus West Indies are closer to the parity figure of 1.00 than against any other team.

It is often said that West Indies are to cricket what Brazil - with their flair, flamboyance and feats - have been to soccer. In Pakistan, we feel we have been in possession of some of the same flair and flamboyance

Contests with West Indies have produced some of Pakistan's most dramatic and closest matches. Including last Friday's game in St Lucia, three Pakistan-West Indies ODIs have ended in a tie; no other pair of ODI teams has tied more often (Australia-West Indies and Australia-South Africa also have three ties each). Pakistan and West Indies have also played four ODIs decided by the narrow margin of one wicket, more than any other pair of opponents (and equalled only by the combination of England-West Indies).

There is also general agreement that Pakistan's toughest and most closely fought Test series have taken place against West Indies. During the latter 1980s, when Pakistan's golden era coincided with the historic West Indian peak of international success, the two teams played a three-Test series in Pakistan followed by a repeat in the West Indies, and drew each rubber 1-1. Legends populated the ranks of both teams - Viv Richards, Gordon Greenidge, Malcolm Marshall, Curtly Ambrose, and Courtney Walsh from West Indies; Imran, Miandad, Saleem Malik, Abdul Qadir, and Wasim Akram from Pakistan. Pakistani fans who followed them in real time remain intoxicated to this day by those unforgettable battles.

For two decades between 1973 and 1994, when Pakistan were an impenetrable fortress at home, West Indies were the only side to breach their defences and draw blood, securing a Test series victory in the winter of 1980. And between 1976 through 1994, West Indies convincingly won every Test series at home except the 1988 one against Pakistan, the only occasion during their heyday when a visiting side managed to grind out a draw. From those magical days of the 1980s, both teams have experienced a downward twist in fortunes since.

Although West Indies have won a Test series in Pakistan, Pakistan are still looking for their inaugural Test series win in the West Indies in five decades. It's a pity that the two Test matches originally included in the itinerary for Pakistan's current West Indian tour were scrapped; the fan base in Pakistan - and presumably in the West Indies - had greatly looked forward to them. The PCB and WICB are equally culpable in this disappointing turn of events.

Pakistan's ODI record in the West Indies is much better, with three series wins so far, and the welcome possibility of a fourth if things go Pakistan's way in the final ODI of this series. Despite inconsistent batting from both sides, it has turned out to be a highly absorbing series and that has at least partly compensated for the lack of Test cricket.

Saad Shafqat is a writer based in Karachi. His latest book is Breath of Death, a medical thriller

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on July 25, 2013, 21:12 GMT

    I disagree with the comment that West Indies is the second most favored team by the Pakistanis when their team is out of a competition. Although, they might be an exciting match up to watch but that does not make them the second favored team. Sri Lanka in my opinion has always been the second favored team that would be most supported by Pakistan fans. They are close neighbors and have always done well in competitions and seem to play energized cricket that Pakistan fans always dream about from their players. They seem to be electric most of the times on the field and leave it out on the field, as oppose to Pakistan who's weakness has always been in the field. Not to forget the 1996 world cup when all of Pakistan took Sri Lanka to their first world cup title, a dream run and a tremendous team. A great treat for Pakistan that was when Ranatunga lead side dominated the Ausies in Lahore's Gadaffi Stadium!

  • smalishah84 on July 25, 2013, 18:31 GMT

    Spot on Saad. The West Indian cricketers have a swagger and flair that is hard to match by any other team. I also wish that their cricket team could rise once again. We can have another "The Dark Knight Rises" :)

  • Bilal_Choudry on July 25, 2013, 9:59 GMT

    WorldCup 87 Windies were staying at a hotel in lahore .. a man took his 7 year old to meet Pattrick Pattreson .. the son ran away crying much like Pakistan top order in those days ...... mudasser, mohsin were usually gone by the time the live transmission started... windies of 80s was just pure magic ... i am still not sure how dujon caught some of those catches... i remember the atrocious wait for miandad's hundred as he scrapped around for hours .and his defiance in bad light in Gujuranwala ... i remember tauseef's resistance with Imran in Karachi ... best were the heroics of Saleem Malik in Faisalabad ...stuff of dreams

  • on July 25, 2013, 8:43 GMT

    I remember the WI series when there was only Jim Khana ground in lahore, the team was captained by Kenhai and i saw the Bowlers like Ves Hall and Taylor and Ramadhin the spinner , that was the days of glory of WI cricket but we were not behind we have had Hanif and Aleem openers Wazeer Mohammed we were following WI cricket all the way through Radio Pak s commentry BY the legend Mr Qurashi, dear Saad you remind me about our golden era

  • cardmak on July 25, 2013, 4:32 GMT

    Enjoyed reading it. Very well narrated. Grew up in Pakistan, therefore traveling to the caribbean islands to watch cricket is certainly quite enjoyable. Folks are very friendly and truly enjoy life and cricket in simple ways.

  • h4haseeb on July 25, 2013, 2:20 GMT

    All of the matches in this recent series were delightful to watch. PCB and WICB shouldn't have cut down test matches. And i believe in the best interests of cricket, every test match series should be at least three test matches long irrespective of whether the broadcasters or sponsors like it or not.

  • on July 25, 2013, 0:21 GMT

    Well, Saad has artfully depicted the beauty of a whole era of exotic, nail-biting and glamorous cricket and players by simply comparing the two most unpredictable champs wrestling in their peaks. If you have lost your heart to cricket, those ecstatic days were no less than pace-makers setting the rhythm of your blood rush. Just to mention one example: Wasim, undoubtedly, finished the reign, if not career, of Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes, by his left-arm over the wicket in-swingers. And even his normal away-swingers were seemingly left alone even though both these openers were actually beaten by the genius Akram! One major major flaw with particularly Windies cricket in those times was their open one-sided Umpiring.. Wouldn't say more than that.. Lols!

  • on July 25, 2013, 21:12 GMT

    I disagree with the comment that West Indies is the second most favored team by the Pakistanis when their team is out of a competition. Although, they might be an exciting match up to watch but that does not make them the second favored team. Sri Lanka in my opinion has always been the second favored team that would be most supported by Pakistan fans. They are close neighbors and have always done well in competitions and seem to play energized cricket that Pakistan fans always dream about from their players. They seem to be electric most of the times on the field and leave it out on the field, as oppose to Pakistan who's weakness has always been in the field. Not to forget the 1996 world cup when all of Pakistan took Sri Lanka to their first world cup title, a dream run and a tremendous team. A great treat for Pakistan that was when Ranatunga lead side dominated the Ausies in Lahore's Gadaffi Stadium!

  • smalishah84 on July 25, 2013, 18:31 GMT

    Spot on Saad. The West Indian cricketers have a swagger and flair that is hard to match by any other team. I also wish that their cricket team could rise once again. We can have another "The Dark Knight Rises" :)

  • Bilal_Choudry on July 25, 2013, 9:59 GMT

    WorldCup 87 Windies were staying at a hotel in lahore .. a man took his 7 year old to meet Pattrick Pattreson .. the son ran away crying much like Pakistan top order in those days ...... mudasser, mohsin were usually gone by the time the live transmission started... windies of 80s was just pure magic ... i am still not sure how dujon caught some of those catches... i remember the atrocious wait for miandad's hundred as he scrapped around for hours .and his defiance in bad light in Gujuranwala ... i remember tauseef's resistance with Imran in Karachi ... best were the heroics of Saleem Malik in Faisalabad ...stuff of dreams

  • on July 25, 2013, 8:43 GMT

    I remember the WI series when there was only Jim Khana ground in lahore, the team was captained by Kenhai and i saw the Bowlers like Ves Hall and Taylor and Ramadhin the spinner , that was the days of glory of WI cricket but we were not behind we have had Hanif and Aleem openers Wazeer Mohammed we were following WI cricket all the way through Radio Pak s commentry BY the legend Mr Qurashi, dear Saad you remind me about our golden era

  • cardmak on July 25, 2013, 4:32 GMT

    Enjoyed reading it. Very well narrated. Grew up in Pakistan, therefore traveling to the caribbean islands to watch cricket is certainly quite enjoyable. Folks are very friendly and truly enjoy life and cricket in simple ways.

  • h4haseeb on July 25, 2013, 2:20 GMT

    All of the matches in this recent series were delightful to watch. PCB and WICB shouldn't have cut down test matches. And i believe in the best interests of cricket, every test match series should be at least three test matches long irrespective of whether the broadcasters or sponsors like it or not.

  • on July 25, 2013, 0:21 GMT

    Well, Saad has artfully depicted the beauty of a whole era of exotic, nail-biting and glamorous cricket and players by simply comparing the two most unpredictable champs wrestling in their peaks. If you have lost your heart to cricket, those ecstatic days were no less than pace-makers setting the rhythm of your blood rush. Just to mention one example: Wasim, undoubtedly, finished the reign, if not career, of Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes, by his left-arm over the wicket in-swingers. And even his normal away-swingers were seemingly left alone even though both these openers were actually beaten by the genius Akram! One major major flaw with particularly Windies cricket in those times was their open one-sided Umpiring.. Wouldn't say more than that.. Lols!

  • on July 24, 2013, 22:11 GMT

    I grew up in a cricket mad house. Alongside the deeds of Pakistani players from the previous era, I was regaled by legendary tales of West Indian cricket. Sobers, LLoyd, Hall - these were names made familiar to me.

    Today, as a grown man, I still love West Indies cricket. I started watching the game just as WI were passing the baton on, 1991 was my first live cricket - and I find almost as much joy and sorrow with their wins/losses as I do with Pakistan. May WI keep rising and return to winning ways (save when playing Pakistan!).

  • anirudh_CSK on July 24, 2013, 16:22 GMT

    Used to work at Chepauk for 5 years and I cant remember how many long time employees spoke of Sobers's Legendary six that people are still fishing for that ball at the Marina Beach nearby

  • Baba_Sehgal on July 24, 2013, 10:48 GMT

    For some reason, and I couldn't figure out why, when West Indies won the T20 world cup last year, I was really excited. As excited as I would have been if Pakistan had won the trophy. It was a delight to see the whole team come together, and everyone contributing to the win under Darren Sammy's leadership. In my opinion, we have developed the love for West Indian team because they are very similar to Pakistan. The bad decisions by the cricket board, the unfair treatment of senior/talented players, going from legendary cricketers during 80s and 90s to struggling cricketers of the new millennium, the ability to be consistently inconsistent, and the unpredictability factor of the players who could turn a game on its head in the matter of a few overs; West Indies and Pakistan are very much alike.

  • on July 24, 2013, 10:40 GMT

    Regrettably both countries have lost ground. They are no longer the sides they used to be and cricket is poorer for it. I just hope and pray that cricket is revived to past standards and we see great players from both countries again. To me West Indies ODI and T20 team still have the potential to win any series or ICC tournament. I was very pleased with myself when I predicted before the T20 tournament that West indies would win. My favourite WI players is not doubt Gayle and so far he has had a poor series but TEAM PAKISTAN better watch out because if he performs today there will be nothing stopping WI winning.

  • harshthakor on July 24, 2013, 10:35 GMT

    Ironically,inspite of coming on the brink of famous victories Pakistan were denied wins in both 1988 and 2000 series by the skin of their teeth.Wrong umpiring decisions arguably cost them those series.

    The best series ever was the 1977 edition in the Carribean closely followed by the 1988 series. .The 1st test at Barbados in 1977 had the twists and turns of a Hollywood classic.The 1988 tests at Trinidad and Barbados were epic games.

    In one day cricket morally Pakistan came closest to toppling the Calypsos in both 1975 at Edgbaston and at the Oval in 1979.In the 1980's the 2 rivals were virtually neck to neck.

    Pakistan's huge batting line up played an important role in the 1970's and in the 1980's it's brilliant bowling attack was a crucial factor.Infact with Imran,Wasim and Qadir the Pak attack was more lethal than that of the Calypsos.

    I will always cherish memories of Mushtaq Muhammad,Imran Khan,Miandad and Wasim Raja in challenging the might of the West Indies .

  • harshthakor on July 24, 2013, 10:24 GMT

    Saad,I totally endorse your viewpoint.A West-Indies Pakistan confrontation often had the effect of a Muhammad Ali- Joe Frazier bout or the intensity of a classic Hollywood film.The intensity is above that of India -Pakistan or England-Australia .The 1977,1988 and 2000 test series in West Indies contained games where the pendulum constantly turned in opposite directions and had sensational twists and turns.The 1977 test at Barbados,the 1988 test at Trinidad and the 2000 game at Antigua is the best example.In the one-day version the 1975 ,1979 and 1988 World cup clashes,the 1993 series in West Indies produced classical finishes.In the late 1980's these 2 teams contested the unofficial test championship which morally Pakistan should have won but for dubious umpiring decisions in 1988.

    I can never forget the likes of Imran,Majid,Zaheer,Qadir and Miandad against the likes of Viv Richards,Malcolm Marshalll,lGreenidge,Andy Roberts or Clive Lloyd.Simply classic rivalry.

  • on July 24, 2013, 9:58 GMT

    So true. If i have cheered for any other team other than Pakistan, it is West Indies. I also remember West Indies as the toughest team of all times back in the 80s.

  • zarasochozarasamjho on July 24, 2013, 8:25 GMT

    Nice article, Saad. It is not cricket, if no test cricket. Shame on PCB and WICB!

  • orangtan on July 24, 2013, 4:36 GMT

    Well written article, Saad, and very true, I daresay the same could be said of other countries' jousts with the legendary West Indian teams. The 1974-75 series in India comes to mind, which the Windies won 3-2 after relinquishing a 2-0 lead. Of-course, the historic 1960-61 tour to Australia by Frank Worrell's team,and several tours to England beginning with the one in 1950 when those "two little friends of mine", Ramadhin and Valentine ,wove their magic.. Yes, most definitely the West Indians have never ever been a team that people " love to hate".

  • orangtan on July 24, 2013, 4:36 GMT

    Well written article, Saad, and very true, I daresay the same could be said of other countries' jousts with the legendary West Indian teams. The 1974-75 series in India comes to mind, which the Windies won 3-2 after relinquishing a 2-0 lead. Of-course, the historic 1960-61 tour to Australia by Frank Worrell's team,and several tours to England beginning with the one in 1950 when those "two little friends of mine", Ramadhin and Valentine ,wove their magic.. Yes, most definitely the West Indians have never ever been a team that people " love to hate".

  • zarasochozarasamjho on July 24, 2013, 8:25 GMT

    Nice article, Saad. It is not cricket, if no test cricket. Shame on PCB and WICB!

  • on July 24, 2013, 9:58 GMT

    So true. If i have cheered for any other team other than Pakistan, it is West Indies. I also remember West Indies as the toughest team of all times back in the 80s.

  • harshthakor on July 24, 2013, 10:24 GMT

    Saad,I totally endorse your viewpoint.A West-Indies Pakistan confrontation often had the effect of a Muhammad Ali- Joe Frazier bout or the intensity of a classic Hollywood film.The intensity is above that of India -Pakistan or England-Australia .The 1977,1988 and 2000 test series in West Indies contained games where the pendulum constantly turned in opposite directions and had sensational twists and turns.The 1977 test at Barbados,the 1988 test at Trinidad and the 2000 game at Antigua is the best example.In the one-day version the 1975 ,1979 and 1988 World cup clashes,the 1993 series in West Indies produced classical finishes.In the late 1980's these 2 teams contested the unofficial test championship which morally Pakistan should have won but for dubious umpiring decisions in 1988.

    I can never forget the likes of Imran,Majid,Zaheer,Qadir and Miandad against the likes of Viv Richards,Malcolm Marshalll,lGreenidge,Andy Roberts or Clive Lloyd.Simply classic rivalry.

  • harshthakor on July 24, 2013, 10:35 GMT

    Ironically,inspite of coming on the brink of famous victories Pakistan were denied wins in both 1988 and 2000 series by the skin of their teeth.Wrong umpiring decisions arguably cost them those series.

    The best series ever was the 1977 edition in the Carribean closely followed by the 1988 series. .The 1st test at Barbados in 1977 had the twists and turns of a Hollywood classic.The 1988 tests at Trinidad and Barbados were epic games.

    In one day cricket morally Pakistan came closest to toppling the Calypsos in both 1975 at Edgbaston and at the Oval in 1979.In the 1980's the 2 rivals were virtually neck to neck.

    Pakistan's huge batting line up played an important role in the 1970's and in the 1980's it's brilliant bowling attack was a crucial factor.Infact with Imran,Wasim and Qadir the Pak attack was more lethal than that of the Calypsos.

    I will always cherish memories of Mushtaq Muhammad,Imran Khan,Miandad and Wasim Raja in challenging the might of the West Indies .

  • on July 24, 2013, 10:40 GMT

    Regrettably both countries have lost ground. They are no longer the sides they used to be and cricket is poorer for it. I just hope and pray that cricket is revived to past standards and we see great players from both countries again. To me West Indies ODI and T20 team still have the potential to win any series or ICC tournament. I was very pleased with myself when I predicted before the T20 tournament that West indies would win. My favourite WI players is not doubt Gayle and so far he has had a poor series but TEAM PAKISTAN better watch out because if he performs today there will be nothing stopping WI winning.

  • Baba_Sehgal on July 24, 2013, 10:48 GMT

    For some reason, and I couldn't figure out why, when West Indies won the T20 world cup last year, I was really excited. As excited as I would have been if Pakistan had won the trophy. It was a delight to see the whole team come together, and everyone contributing to the win under Darren Sammy's leadership. In my opinion, we have developed the love for West Indian team because they are very similar to Pakistan. The bad decisions by the cricket board, the unfair treatment of senior/talented players, going from legendary cricketers during 80s and 90s to struggling cricketers of the new millennium, the ability to be consistently inconsistent, and the unpredictability factor of the players who could turn a game on its head in the matter of a few overs; West Indies and Pakistan are very much alike.