Originally posted at Cricingif
MCG, March 2015.
The World Cup Final
All eyes focus on Brendan McCullum. He is Thor. His bat a sledgehammer. He owns this tournament.
From the Member’s End bowls Mitchell Starc. A destroyer of toes. He is to Yorkers what butter is to bread.
Australia versus New Zealand is a rivalry. Not one forged by wars and killing but by mateship.
This match ended on the 5th ball. The other 99.1 overs of the contest were irrelevant. Thor had been defeated. His castle smashed.
Sometimes you just know. Five balls into the World Cup Final, we knew.
The Oval, June 2017
The Champions Trophy Final.
Zaman Fakhar was lucky. An Indian bowler overstepped the Line of Control at the wrong time. His century unexpected. His century a blessing for the contest.
Hafeez. The Pakistani whipping boy. Yet his ODI stats stand up favourably against those of the tournament’s all rounder darling Ben Stokes.
Hafeez delivers. Pakistan make runs. Lots of runs.
But this is India. They can bat.
All eyes are on Rohit and Dhawan. They have owned this tournament. Providing platforms not seen since Greenidge and Haynes.
But a mountain is in front of them this time.
If it took Mitchell Starc only five balls to win Australia the World Cup, then it took Amir only three.
Ball hits pad. Rohit didn’t review. There was no need. He knew. Amir knew. We all knew.
But knowing doesn’t necessarily mean we believe.
Then Kohli. Dropped
Try again. Out.
Good bye Shikhar.
Amir only bowled six overs. But it was more than enough.
Pakistan had done it. We knew three balls into the innings. But we didn’t believe it until Amir had finished his performance.
Fakhar was Man of the Match, yet it was Amir who was Man of the Pakistani Hearts.
But this raises some uncomfortable questions.
For Amir is no cleanskin. A talented bowler. No doubt. However, this tainted man is now a national hero.
Is this the kind of character we should worship?
Many state that Amir did his time and should be forgiven. Let the kid play. Take the joy he provides. He made a mistake. It’s in the past. Forgiveness is the right thing to do.
Look what he delivered for his country!
Others aren’t so comfortable with this position.
He cheated his people. Treason.
Does winning supersede everything else? We are welcoming of Amir, but why not Asif and Butt? Is this hypocritical. Is it because Amir has more flair? Is it because he is an entertainer? Do we forget all else for these moments of pleasure?
It is not as though that this is new challenge for Pakistan. Wasim is a hero despite what Justice Qayyum ruled. Wahab Riaz is not known as “the jacket” for nothing.
Put this another way.
Mike Tyson is a convicted rapist. But he has served his time and was a marvellous boxer. Would you invite him into your home?
Are you happy that Maria Sharapova is playing tennis again?
How do we eradicate cheats from our game if there is always a back door to play again?
It is not my role to tell any of you what is right and what is wrong in this regard. I’m not even convinced that my own views are solid in this regard.
Watching Amir rev up a whole nation was the essence of sport. I soaked up every minute. How could you not?
But it is a simple society that ignores the question of values.
Because in Pakistan, cricket is not just a sport. It is a reflection of a nation’s self worth. Of pride. The glue that underpins a people. A means of relevance.
And therefore, when the euphoria dies, I’m not sure that all of Pakistan will be as comfortable with how the result was earned as they might be today.