Shahram Rasool could be Australian.
Gregarious, extroverted, self deprecating and just a great bloke.
The captain of the Super Daddy Cricket Club has arranged a T20 match for to play at the Vital Five ground in Karachi. I have no idea what Vital Five represents. I don’t ask.
After he shouts me to a sushi lunch, we head to the ground. In the car with us is Omar Shahid Hamid. The Head of the Karachi Counter Terrorism squad. For context, only a few years back, Karachi was rated the 6th most dangerous city in the world. It is now 31st and dropping rapidly due to this man’s efforts.
A full security detail tails us. Omar explains that he has this 24/7 as he is a prime mafia target. When we arrive at the ground, these blokes with rifles make their presence felt.
The Vital Five ground is exactly as you would picture a walled cricket ground in the subcontinent to be. Square. Residential housing units making the boundary. A KFC within hitting distance.
The pitch is rock hard and true. I’m excited for the first game of my summer. For the local players, the summer never ends.
Shahram picks the sides. Mine will be known as the Dennis XI. I will be facing the might of the Super Daddy Cricket Club. A bizarre array of Karachi’s wealth and elite, scattered with sponsored youth.
Fawad Alam’s brother is in my side. He is the spitting image of his more famous sibling.
Also with me are a bunch of kids and grown men whose names I can’t remember. But I wish I did. Today they are all my brothers.
I lose the toss and we bowl first. It’s hot. About 36 degrees. The players are complaining. This confuses me as I thought Pakistani’s would be teaching this Melburnian a thing or two about coping with extremes.
I tell them to drink a glass of concrete and harden up. The sun isn’t burning like it does in Melbourne. The pollution in the hazy sky protects us from that. I put on my Old Haileybury woollen cricket baggy cap and lead the way out.
Everyone is sweating.
The cricket on display is of a good standard. I position myself at slip and in the 3rd over, let one pass me at a catchable height.
The the sledging begins.
For the rest of the day, a megaphone finds itself into the hands of the rowdiest players. They do fake Australian accents. They laugh at everyone’s efforts. This could be an Australian club game. Maybe Australian’s and Pakistani’s are more alike than what I had considered?
I had a bowl. three overs of medium slow filth. I get carted by guys who take immense pleasure in making my life hell. To be fair, I laced my spell with plenty of good balls, but none took a wicket. At least I didn’t get hit onto the roofs of the surrounding compounds like others.
Then it is our turn to bat.
I come in at number 4, but not until I’ve completed three TV interviews, had a chat with local sports’s print media and taken selfies with those who made the effort to come meet me.
This is very humbling.
But everyone has the same message for me. That for whatever reason, the story of Pakistan and its irrevocable links to cricket must be told. It is a bond that we don’t share in Australia.
Time to bat.
I make a solid 10 (14) before attempting one almighty swipe at a shit ball, missing it, and pulling an oblique muscle.
I retire hurt. A Not Out on Pakistani soil.
More interviews. More selfies. More humbling words from the gathered crowd.
I pull out the Aussie Rules football and have a kick on the outfield with some guys while the match continues. It is the only time in my footy career that I’ve been the most skillful one on the pitch.
We need 6 off the last ball to win. We get a single. But no one cares. We all had the time of our lives.
Thank you Super Daddy Cricket Club. This was a day I’ll never forget and it gave me more clues about your country’s relationship with this stupid game.