One day there was no man, just Rahat….
And then there was one, his slain countrymen were stacked around him, it was Rahat Ali, the fighter, standing tall like the ultimate warrior
A scared,scarred, nation watched on. Their hope should’ve been gone. But together they believed in Rahat. He was more than just a mere man
You could hear the ground shake in Pakistan as the chant started getting louder each ball. rahat. Rahat. RAHAT.
His only weapon, a busted back foot cover drive that was passed down to him from his father, was what he used as the Barmy Army charged him
The Rahat clan, they have always said, fights on for Pakistan until the end. They don’t know how to give up. They bleed green.
It doesn’t matter, Rahat, it is over. Rahat turns his back on the pitiful doubters. It is never over until Rahat is defeated.
We may lose, Rahat sighs through pained breaths, but I must give my people something. A flicker of something that hints at a better future.
He squints, the sun seems harsher now, but he battles through each attack. His heart may be broken, but not his spirit.
The enemy sang their vicious battle songs, to a lesser man, to even the strongest of men, it would have beaten them, not Rahat. Never Rahat
Rahat kicked at his muscular horse, Sohail, which reared up violently at his attackers. Two brave animals, who in this fight, had become one
There was a pause in the battle, Rahat took Sohail to the river and let him have a much-deserved drink. Rahat knew it may be there last.
Then Sohail fell. Rahat looked at the beautiful blue sky, then down at the cold hard ground. It was over. There was no point going on.
Rahat had done all Rahat could. It was magnificent, but it wasn’t enough. He limped from the battle, a proud, but beaten man.
From now until the end of time, every time a warrior fights on this land, the trees will whisper Rahat. Rahat. Rahat.
Stolen from my twitter feed.
During the last World Twenty20 I had a chat with a senior cricket writer who wanted to quit cricket. He had spent a long time writing about cricket, and just thought there were more important things he could have written about. For a minute, I argued the opposition. But the truth is, I could see his point.
I mean, what is writing about cricket really? It involves travelling to summer-drenched places (and England) and sitting in a usually comfortable glassed box where you are fed free food while writing about someone who is trying not to be hit by a bouncer so you don’t tap on your crumb-riddled keyboard that they have a weakness, before ignoring the next ball to look at a stream of tweets saying essentially the same thing.
That is probably cricket writing at its very worst.
At its best, well it’s still a lot of those things, but you get to see something that actually moves you. Something original. Something funny. Something horrific. Something that you love.
Yet, mid-tournament blues can still come in. The thought that this isn’t really that important. I could be writing about an animal that is being wiped out. An atrocity that people are ignoring. Or outing a businessman for pouring poison into a school playground. Instead I’m trying to work out how to write about Trott’s strike rate of 87 in a losing total for the 1743rd time.
A few days after my chat with the writer about cricket’s lack of importance, I was at the game that is often the most hyped, most underplayed and most important to cricket. India v Pakistan.
Australia and England might have been at it for longer, but really for most Aussies and Poms, the Ashes is just a thing that happens. I doubt many fans lose sleep over the result. Cricket is not the favourite sport in England; if it is in Australia, it’s by default. Australia and England are trade partners; they share Naomi Watts, Germaine Greer and the Bee Gees. You can travel between the two pretty easily. Australia has not attacked England, nor has England retaliated in quite some time. Individual groups based on political and religious beliefs do not plan to do the other country harm.
It’s great that the Ashes exists, and cricket is lucky to have it. But it’s of less and less cultural importance these days. Australia no longer see England as the mother country. Young Australians don’t flock over here to work. More and more Aussies have completely different mother countries. Mostly countries that have no interest in cricket at all. Cricket gets less important by the decade in English society. It’s seen by many as a posh sport; state schools don’t really play it. If your posh or Asian parents don’t introduce it, you’d have to find it by accident to get involved.
For many reasons, most blatantly obvious, the India-Pakistan series is far more important. It has more people involved. Many of those people do lose sleep over the result. Many take the matches incredibly seriously. It’s important. It’s not front-page news, it is the news.
An Indian fan recently told me that Imran Khan was overrated and Pakistan were a fourth-tier nation. It wasn’t sane. It was fanatical. It was India v Pakistan.
And I get it. I’m told by Asian fans I often don’t get the culture. That as a white man, I could never understand it. Of course these same fans tell me exactly what is wrong with England or Australia quite often. If I don’t understand it after six years of writing and fighting about cricket, I never will.
Let me explain the culture as I see it. Pakistan fans can handle losing a tournament, but not losing to India. Indian fans can handle losing a tournament, but not losing to Pakistan. That is not unique. There is barely a sport in the world without this rivalry. Collingwood wants to beat Carlton, the Lakers want to beat the Celtics, the Celtics want to beat the Rangers, Jennifer Jones wants to beat Kelly Scott, and Royal College wants to beat St Thomas’ College.
The next part is a mixture of personal history and nonsense. The final bit includes wars and weapons. It stems from ugliness. But you put it all together and you have the world’s most important sporting rivalry. And the only two teams that could completely reincarnate a dead rubber.
Yet, before the World Twenty20 match, I felt no extra excitement. I was merely on my way to another cricket match. I was jaded, tired, and bored of T20 matches I could barely remember the next day. Even with the crowd cramming in, and the game starting, I was still not excited.
Then I looked around. And suddenly I saw something amazing. Indians and Pakistanis cheering next to each other. Now I’ve been to a college basketball match that had a brawl. I’ve seen pictures of football fans ripping each other apart. And I once went to a suburban Aussie Rules game that ended when every supporter in the ground went onto the field.
And here I was with the world’s biggest sporting rivalry, between two countries that are in constant arguments. That have nuclear weapons as deterrents. That war, fight, scrap, blame, curse and mock each other all the time. And their fans were cheering like mad men or sulking like babies, a few feet from each other.
So I left the press box and went to watch the match.
Indian fans abuse Rohit. And Pakistan fans abuse Akmal and Malik. Suresh Raina shushed the crowd in a cheeky way, and even the Pakistanis loved him for it. I saw a Pakistani man dance with an Indian. And two Indian guys accidentally head-butt each other while dancing.
Fans from both countries abused me for being English; I never stopped to correct them.
Pakistani supporters stare mournfully at the screen for the longest time when their team does something really stupid. Indian fans will all turn in and discuss any bad moments like their conversation can help solve them. The Indian crowd will chant Sachin’s name even though he is not there. A Pakistani man without a Pakistan shirt on seems almost impossible.
No matter the shot, if it makes runs, it is awesome. People with face-paint are more likely to dance. People with wigs are more likely to scream. The mobile phone is an active member of the experience.
Pakistani fans will leave once the result is obvious, but for hours after the game they will roam the streets outside the stadium. Indian fans will cheer the TV interviews like it’s another boundary.
It was just another cricket match, and it wasn’t just another cricket match.
I loved it. Every second of it, even the bit where I was called English. Watching the fans, it felt like something. Like this game was actually needed. That it wasn’t just something that was happening, that it was happening for a reason. That it should be covered. That I should be there.
I wish they could play five-Test series in both countries all the time. I wish I could be at every India-Pakistan match. I wish every cricket match felt like this one. I wish the fans would have opportunities to troll each other every couple of months. I wish the conflict would end, but that the cricket passion never does.
Today I’ll head to Edgbaston jaded. But no matter how much this game doesn’t matter, this tournament doesn’t matter, and this format of cricket doesn’t matter, I know I’ll feel something. I’ll be glad I was there. I’ll cherish every moment of this contest. Probably even the rain breaks. I’ll leave my glass cocoon of comfort and stand among the fans. I’ll be glad I did.
This match, like all India-Pakistan matches, is important, because of the history, and because of the now. That they happen at all is a miracle. And I’m glad I get the chance to be at them. Especially as I’m a jaded white guy who doesn’t understand.
Pakistan can be such a romantic team. They’re essentially homeless. Have a giant. Are captained by a nice human piñata. Coached by an aged cherub. Have a yoda-like spinner. The Jamshed. And, as always, have a quality kit.
But, they’ve lost three from three.
It’s hard to fault their bowlers. It’s easy, and utterly correct, to blame their batsmen.
It’s hard to see how Imran Farhat would play in any other team in this tournament. Or even for Ireland, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh or Japan. Yet he played twice. TWICE. Mohammad Hafeez faced 61 balls, had a high score of 27 and an average of 12.66. Shoaib Malik faced 53 balls, had a high score of 17 and averaged 8.33. They had three players score over 27 in three games.
Nasir Jamshed and Misbah-ul-Haq aside, it’s almost unfair to call them batsmen. Their batting is essentially rotten fruit sitting in rancid milk in the bottom of a rusted can. Even the rats wouldn’t eat it.
It’s not really a surprise that their totals were 170, 167 and 165. If they played against India again, it would only be fair if India had just 25 overs in which to chase their total. You could also suggest that Pakistan could have 100 overs, but the evidence suggests they can’t last 50, let alone 100.
Their coach, Dav Whatmore, said, “I thought he did a very good job.” He was referring to Trent Woodhill, Pakistan’s batting coach. If by ‘did a very good job’ he refrained from beating any of the players with their own bats when they were dismissed, he is correct.
Against India, with Misbah and Jamshed failing, they seemed as likely to score 200 as any of them are of ending up 200 years old.
They even managed to lose the game on a ball they should have got a run-out from. By the end of the game the holes in the crowd were where the people in the green shirts, with the green face paint, wearing green scarves had been earlier.
The real shame was that the Pakistan supporters deserved so much better. Every time Pakistan have played in this tournament there has barely been a spare seat. They’ve travelled to the grounds in novelty green double-deck buses. They’ve stood and waited for their heroes for ages after the game. At The Oval, Ramiz Raja walking out on the ground was greeted like he was a god. Wasim Akram walking out was treated like the god of gods. They’ve come to each game, and even sat and watched their team bat. Which must have hurt their pride, and their eyes.
It’s amazing that they even had the pride, or energy, to dance to the repeated playings of the catchiest song ever, “Dil Dil Pakistan”. In fact, “Dil Dil Pakistan” was played more often in this tournament than Pakistan hit boundaries. By the final group game, if a Pakistan batsman managed to not be dismissed on a delivery, they would play the song. Because they couldn’t actually wait for one of them to doing something good.
The only truly great thing the Pakistan team managed this tournament was a Pepsi ad starring Mohammad Irfan and Junaid Khan. The ad features someone removing a room service tray only to see Irfan’s head: a painted Irfan pretending to be a water feature to trick Dav Whatmore. And Saeed Ajmal in an afro. The ad was meant as a comedy, and is quite funny.
Unlike the Pakistan team, which was meant to be serious and played for laughs.
As Whatmore said: “We’re one ODI victory from having a good series.” Or to put it another way, they were one ODI victory away from being thrown out of the tournament with one win.
There was a time during the India South Africa game where I really suspected that someone was making South African flags out the back of the Prema and selling them for a few rupees. At first they weren’t there, and then suddenly one whole stand was holding up the South African colours. The Pakistani fans were the ones holding the flags, as most of the South African fans had gone home.
During the India Pakistan game it appeared like 4 out of 5 Sri Lankans at the game had adopted Pakistan as their home team. Thousands of fans had Sri Lankan shirts on and were waving Pakistan flags or had their face painted with the Pakistani flag on it. They were as Pakistani as you could get, for just the three hours.
It’s been one of the highlights of this tournament.
People picking their second country to follow, or following a whole new country just for qualification purposes while supporting them as much as they could and the cheering of superhuman feats no matter whose team performs them.
That stopped tonight.
Outside the grounds I swear some of the very same people I saw screaming for Pakistan a few nights back were now chanting “Go home Pakistan”, “bye, bye, Pakistan” or “Sri Lanka Zindabad”. Pakistan fans coming out of the stadium were greeted by laughing or taunting Sri Lanka fans who had long forgotten that Pakistan were there second favourite side and were now happily giving them some stick.
This is more of a party than a tournament. And I’m not just talking about what goes on player’s hotel rooms.
Because of the setting, the amount of games in quick succession and the nature of double headers, it’s been far less patriotic than a bilateral series or even a world cup. If you are here to support your country, you are probably also going to see neutral games as well. It’s how this tournament is.
But tonight all that disappeared. The Sri Lankans had been cheering Chris Gayle supporting the Pakistanis and getting excited at Shane Watson, but not any more. Tonight Pakistan was the opposition, not their second favourite team.
Watson or Gayle can be sure that their sixes will be met largely by silence followed by an ICC firework.
The Sri Lankan fans can now see themselves winning this. They really want to win it. They even started partying like they were winning it. One fan drinking what appeared to be arrack as he hung out of the sunroof of a car while wearing a Sri Lankan shirt and wrapped in a Sri Lankan flag was certainly enjoying the victory. There seemed to be more fans outside the ground than could ever fit into the ground.
Most of them, when there wasn’t a Pakistani fan to laugh at, were already calling Sri Lanka the champions. Why wait to Sunday when you can start celebrating now.
The party bit of this tournament has definitely ended, the party in Sri Lanka may not end for quite some time.
Result: I missed Afridi’s last ever innings (well it could be) by deciding to wash my hands. Dilshan now won’t get beaten to death by a sack of rambutans.
There is a condition that I have: I forget the name. It’s like night terrors or sleep paralysis. I am often convinced someone is in the room at the foot of my bed and I wake up screaming or attacking them.
Other people have it too. Some scientists believe that alien abduction and ghost stories can often been explained away with this condition.
Ofcourse it’s also possible that there really is someone in my room, and in my hazy freshly woken state I just don’t see them get away time and time again.
The nightmare for Australia was that their middle order was exactly as shit as they thought they were.
That they couldn’t score against the spinners, wouldn’t rotate the strike and under extreme pressure would fall apart.
Every night Australia has had this dream, and every night of the tournament they wake up screaming and check beside them to make sure Shane Watson is still there.
Tonight, Shane Watson wasn’t.
It was just as ugly as all the nightmares suggested.
In the end all they needed to score was 112, and they did that because Mike Hussey was awake the whole time, although it didn’t seem like he was always conscious.
You could also give all the credit to Pakistan for almost flat out refusing to try pace, and for being really good. But let’s focus on how utterly shit Australia looked without Watson making runs.
Now they have two games in which to fix this problem.
Knock out games.
And they’ll have precisely no warm up matches between now and them to practice.
But on the plus side, it’s not a nightmare, it’s a reality. Doesn’t that feel better?
Result: Shane Watson bleeds human blood, and Shoaib Malik ruined the 20 overs of spin thing.
So this is what it’s like walking around the ground at an India v Pakistan game in Sri Lanka.
Many men will dance with each other, some will dance because of the cricket, others will not notice the cricket.
People will stop you and ask you to take their picture, you get good at making a clicking sound with your tongue.
Pakistani fans will abuse Kakmal and Malik.
India fans will abuse Rohit.
Suresh Raina will shush the crowd, and that will make them love him.
Various men of various nationalities will say, “Hey England, fuck you”.
The cheerleaders will look completely jaded unless they think a camera is on them.
Police officers will smile at you.
Police officers will scowl at you.
Police officers will tell you not to go somewhere and you’ll nod and act dumb and go there anyway.
Flags will be waved in a way that only dislocate your shoulder.
Both sets of supporters will look happy at the same time in a way that will confuse you.
Pakistani supporters will stare mournfully at the screen for longer when their team does something really stupid.
A wicket is the greatest moment ever. A six is greater than the greatest.
The crowd will chant Sachin’s name even though he is not there.
A slog will get as much cheer as the prettiest drive Kohli can muster.
Men will stroke each other’s mullets in a tender yet probably completely hetero kind of way.
70% of the crowd will have their countries shirt on.
Someone will take a photo of his mate posing with another friend, then they will all confer on whether the photo is any good, and if not they will reshoot it again and again until everyone is happy with the photo.
You’ll be asked if you are on facebook.
People with face paint are more likely to dance.
People with wigs are more likely to scream.
Pakistani fans will leave earlier enough that they don’t have to deal with too many Indian fans on the way out.
Indian fans will stay, dance and cheer the tv interview.
Pakistan fans will wander the streets in packs of two and three, all wearing similar vintage replica shirts, hours after the game has been lost.
Result: Pakistan have a great bowling attack against anyone who isn’t India, Virat Kohli is batman to Watson’s superman.
YES. That’s right.
While looking for random cricket shirts that are probably only of interest to me, I found something that I thought would be of interest to everyone. Ok, not everyone, but people who like cricket themed t shirts that aren’t variations of “he bats for the other side”, “Bowling maidens over” or “I hate short wide ones”.
It’s now clear to me that I’ve failed to make cricket replica shirts cool. I gave it a go, but perhaps my love for them, and the one time I looked good in a Pakistani shirt under a sports coat, was a false dawn. As no one else seems to care about them. Not even my Lancashire shirt that was worn by Andrew Crook, or A Crook as it reads on the back, seems to excite people.
However, people love cool t shirts. And I think I’ve found the t shirts that could mend the fences between traditional crickey nerds and cricket hipsters. Bootleg Pakistan Domestic Faysal Bank T20 tournament t shirts.
Yes, they are as good as you’ve dreamed of. And I own every single one of these shirts. Because, because.
Dolphins are the second smartest mammals after legspinners. But you’ve probably been afraid of rogue tuna or looking overly effeminate. Now you can put a dolphin on your chest and not worry about anything. Other than being mugged by someone who wants your cool ass Karachi dolphin t shirt.
I’m not going to lie to you; the Rawalpindi team could have named themselves better. I mean they are synonymous with the word express, and rams are more known for head butting other rams. But I like this ram, he’s got a dark side, and while he’s not a devil worshipper, he’s not averse to dark shit, and why not that have that on a t shirt.
This one’s an easy buy for anyone who wants to have a slightly different spelling of the word whore on their chest. Your parents, wife or Rabbi can’t tell you off for having this on your chest, it’s just a cricket team from Lahore, isn’t it?
The silky stallions have still never taken my advice and changed their name, but everything about this t shirt is awesome.
I don’t really care for wolves. This team might have been better if they’d called themselves werewolves, and had Jason Bateman on the front, but I’m still skeptical. This one did come with a puff paint, and some people will like that too.
This is the ultimate in cricket t shirts. It’s a cricket shirt of a country that are the new coolest worn torn place that no one will want to tour who slog like maniacs and call each other bisexual when things go wrong. But to make it even better, it’s not even their country’s national shirt. It’s a domestic t shirt of a war torn kick ass minnow cricket nation. Wow. Also, it has a cheetah on it. A cheetah. Cheetah.
Geoff Lawson wrote a letter to Dav Whatmore about coaching Pakistan, and so should we all. Here is mine.
Misbah Ul Haq isn’t one of us.
It’s quite obvious really.
If you know anything about paleocontact or ancient astronauts you’ll have seen the signs long ago.
Misbah brings the truth:
While other Pakistani cricketers pretend they are actually embryos who have been locked in their mothers womb but only come out for a match day, Misbah doesn’t. When asked about why he was so old and yet making a come back he said it was because he was his actual age. His actual age, can any Pakistani cricketer give us more truth than that?
Misbah brings the calm:
The single greatest thing about the Pakistan Cricket team is their flair for craziness. If the entire cricket world was made up of hard working New Zealand players we’d all be watching UFC. The only reason Wrestling is so big in America is because they believe they have to artificially bring in the drama, whereas cricket fans know if you want drama, comedy or even dramedy, you just call Pakistan.
Misbah brings money:
Who invented T20 cricket? Who gives a shit. Without Misbah playing that weird scoop when he had India by the balls, everyone in cricket would be eating left over Maccas and stealing VCRs from their mums house. No man has changed modern cricket more than Misbah. Even if it might have been a bit for the shit.
Misbah brings his eyes:
He may not be the first calm and measured Pakistani, Imran, Inzi and Moyo all flirted with this at times. But they still had Pakistani eyes. And Pakistani eyes (which are nothing like Pathan noses I’m told) can’t help but betray all calmness. With Misbah his eyes are lifeless, they’re more like LED bike lights than anything resembling human.
Yet even with the calm truthful eyes of Misbah, people want to get rid of him.
No doubt to bring in some over excitable puppy dog captain, or someone else who’ll do it for a week before leaving to cobble shoes in Italy. Misbah wins the Test series against the number one side in the world, loses a few ODIs no one could remember while they were watching them and people start to question his leadership. Some don’t even question, they just want him out.
That would be a mistake, Dav. Misbah is the man you want, because he isn’t even a man. He’s an alien. A bloody good one too.
Misbah is an alien who was sent here to guide Pakistan cricket to a better time.
It’s probably quite obvious to you, mostly because I doubt if Misbah ever felt truly human to anyone.
Pakistan have tried several humans of recent times, and none of them have been any good. Salman is off churning ice cream in prison. Younis wouldn’t deal with anything less than a personal dictatorship. Shahid didn’t have enough time to wash his hair during a Test. And Mohammad looked a little confused.
I know Pakistan being lead by a man like Misbah is similar to Shahid Afridi wearing a Sarah Lund sweater, but it works.
Dav, Misbah changed the world, made Pakistan win and is old enough to remember Kirk Cameron not being a fundamentalist fuckwit.
Misbah may not be from our planet, but ask yourself this, does Pakistan Cricket need a Pakistani to lead them, or could they do better with an ancient astronaut?
Fund my film you bastards.