Thursday, June 27, 2019

Blown away by Babar and Birmingham

Pakistan's win over New Zealand in Birmingham was set up by Mohammad Aamir and finished by Babar Azam. Pakistan's premier fast bowler and Pakistan's best batsman rising to the occasion when needed the most - What better way could there be to lift an entire nation than this!

Birmingham was absolutely electric!

Twenty five thousand Pakistanis at the ground made it feel like we all were in Pakistan itself. A sea of green, thousands of flags, and Dil Dil Pakistan echoing around Edgbaston turned Birmingham into Lahore for the day.

It all started with Aamir's first ball of the match. Chants of "Aamir Aamir Aamir" as he ran up to bowl made magic happen as Aamir broke through the defenses of Martin Guptill, shattered his stumps, and set up the entire day for Pakistani fans.

The euphoria that resulted from this did not die down for even a second for the next 8 hours!

Even though New Zealand fought back from 80 odd for 5, the final target was not a daunting one and we expected Pakistan to chase it down.

But as Pakistan fans, we all know better. Pakistan and chasing don't seem to go together.

Babar Azam and Haris Sohail, however, made sure that these ghosts of past chases stayed away from Birmingham.

Pakistan's victory was a shut up message to a number of Pakistan critics.

Critics who did not believe that Pakistan could chase.

Critics who did not believe that Pakistan could compete against the bigger teams.

Critics who laughed every time a reference to 1992 was made.

Critics who mocked the believers of Pakistan cricket miracles after the losses to Australia and India.

Critics who harshly criticize Babar Azam for not finishing games.

I say harsh because Babar is merely 68 ODI innings old. How can one expect someone with that little experience to be a world beater? How can one expect someone who has not even played 100 ODIs to be a Kohli or a Joe Root?

Babar is immensely talented no doubt. He is the best batsman in Pakistan currently, and the best batsman to come out of Pakistan since Inzamam, Yousuf, and Younis.

However, expectations of him need to be real and not unfair as they have been.

The Kohlis, Roots, Smiths, and Williamsons of the world did not become who they are after 60 odd ODIs. Babar's international career is only 3-4 years old and no batsman ever became a great inside their first 3-4 years.

Look at how the rest of the current 'greats' and past 'modern greats' fared in their first 68 ODI innings.

Barring Hashim Amla, Babar is well ahead of the rest of the pack after 68 ODI innings. In terms of runs, in terms of average, in terms of strike rate, and in terms of ODI centuries.

Give him time, and he will convert more 50s into 100s and win more matches for Pakistan. He has got a long road ahead of him and a lot of time too.

In Birmingham, Babar brought up his 10th ODI century and it was definitely his best ODI century till date. He walked in to bat in the 4th over and stayed there till the last. He dominated the bowling and he finished the game off for Pakistan.

Under pressure, chasing a target, Babar showed the world his best.

It was a treat to watch this knock from the stands.

Babar's celebration when he got to the hundred showed what it meant to him. And the crowd's reaction showed what it meant to them.

The Birmingham experience was one of the best in ground experiences I have had watching cricket. It was by far the best Pakistani crowd I have ever seen. It was better than Lord's, better than Old Trafford, better than Sharjah and Dubai, better than Gaddafi Stadium.

The atmosphere was just awesome.

Surely Pakistan dominating the game made it all the more exciting for Pakistan fans, but I could feel the belief and excitement among everyone on the train from London and on the walk to Edgbaston from the Birmingham train station.

It was a magnificent day out and I was totally blown away by Babar Azam and the Birmingham crowd!

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