Where were you when JFK was assassinated? Where were you when Armstrong landed on the moon? Where were you when Pakistan won the World Cup? Where were you when 9/11 happened?
This most basic of questions is usually reserved for momentous events that forever change the course of history. Now, as supporters of the Pakistan cricket team we have another event to add to the list - where were you when Pakistan lost the plot in Sydney? If one of my favorite writers, Dr Saad Shafqat is to be believed then this is THE "most heartbreaking" Test in Pakistan's history.
I followed all 4 days of the test match, waking up each day believing that we had a real chance of winning. Ofcourse, being a Pakistan cricket fan I knew that anything was possible. I remember a famous Adidas ad campaign featuring Beckham and others in which the tag line claims "Impossible is Nothing". With the Pakistani cricket team you know that "Nothing is Impossible". On the rare occasion when they achieve great heights from impossible positions, all followers of the team are left exulting and the cricketing world repeats its usual cliches about Pakistan being the most unpredictable and mercurial side in the world. But if anything is predictable about the team, its that they lack the application and temperament required for the longer version of the game.
This was clearly evident at Sydney where the Pakistanis dominated for the first 3 days but came out on the 4th as if they were on the defensive. I wonder what went through their minds when they lay in bed before the 4th day? Ofcourse the captain must take the blame, which he has. But the sad part is that he still doesnt realize his mistake. Yousuf has defended his tactics and said that Hussey was the set batsman which required the 7 fielders on the boundary. What about confidence in your bowlers? And what about the fact that every batsman starts fresh on a new day? Bigger batsmen have fallen after a drinks break.
In his writeup Dr Shafqat also mentions Pakistan's most momentous wins, one of which was the win at the Oval in 1954. It is for sure one of Pakistan cricket's most historic wins. The thing that struck me the most was Fazal Mahmood's conviction and sheer belief that Pakistan would win. Here is what he said after the match:
Even though we were bowled out for 133, I did not think for a second we would lose
I wish he were alive today to explain the definition of conviction and self-belief to Yousuf and the team. At the same time our cricketers share a symbiotic relationship with society. If you look back and take a look at the last year in Pakistan (leave cricket aside) then they're probably happy to just be playing. Fazal Mahmood and his team mates were probably full of an optimism and self belief born from the birth of their nation. They had a point to prove that Pakistan belonged with the other Test playing nations. Maybe the current Pakistan squad should use this Sydney match to motivate themselves? That they will put a price on their wickets, hold on to their catches and prove to their strongest detractors that they can beat any team in the world.>
On another note I couldn't help but dig up some other painful memories (to compare with Syndey). I agree with Dr Shafqat that Syndey was our most heartbreaking Test. But in my mind, two other Test's come close behind.
1. The infamous St. Johns test where Jimmy Adams, the umpires and Saqlain all came together to deny Pakistan what would have been a historic series win in the West Indies.
2. And ofcourse that morale sapping historic 4 innings chase in Hobart in which Gilchrist scored his maiden Test century and the umpires and Saqlain figured prominently. An attack that featured Shoaib, Wasim, Waqar and Saqlain failed to defend a 4th innings total of 369... still hurts!
Let us know what you think and whether the Pakistan team can rebound from this loss.