I am working as hard as I ever have.
Sure, some will claim this is a paid holiday. Not an unfair accusation, but I can assure you that myself and the crew are running ourselves into the ground.
Someone is running logistics which is the art of getting us six of us around the country. Someone is setting up interviews and location shoots. Someone is working with government to get permissions to go to places and film. Someone is starting to cut up the footage. Someone is planning the final structure of the documentary series.
For me, I have to get up every morning and write a thousand piece travelogue. I need to check interview notes, give direction on production, give enough time to social media, do media interviews, make sure my family in Melbourne are ok, eat and rest.
Documentaries are hard!
This morning we began back at the LCCA ground in Lahore.
When we arrived, Misbah’s team was fielding. He was at mid off. Yasir Shah at point. Adnan Akmal and Abdul Razzaq were sitting in the players stand. A small rope is all that divides them, myself and about 100 cricket nerds.
It’s at least 35 degrees outside. School kids have popped in to watch their heroes during their lunch break. Full uniforms including ties. A stupid hangover from colonialism. Ties should be banned worldwide. It is essentially just a piece of coloured silk tightly wrapped around your neck for no practical purpose other than fashion.
The sound of the bat on ball at a relatively quiet cricket ground is something else. Hard to explain to non cricket fans, but it send a warmth and comfort through your body.
The sightscreen at one end is an old manual thing on wheels. It takes three sleepy groundsmen to move it. At the other end, a concrete wall has been whitewashed. However, over the years it has found itself worn down and slightly dirty. It’s not the best but that’s how things work here.
I watched a bit of the game while we wait for Qasim to organise an interview. The opener leave a straight ball and loses his off stump. It appears bad leaves are a global phenomena and not just for Virat Kohli and Glenn Maxwell.
Abdul Razzaq agrees to give me five minutes. We walk into the players tea room so as to get away from the other media at the ground.
Abdul is now a coach, but keeps himself in great shape. A quiet speaker. A humble man. As we talk, his passion for the game and for giving back shines through. He weaves his Islamic faith into the conversation. So many that I’ve spoken to have as well. It is obviously an important element of life here.
We head back to the Cricingif offices for a production meeting.
These are always lively. However, the critical thing is that by the time it is over, we have alignment of thinking on most issues. The footage we are capturing, the stories being told and the personalities we are filming are beyond my expectations.
Shahbaz Kalia is a legend in Lahore. A legend in Pakistan. A legend to all tape ball players globally. He is known as the greatest of them all.
He agrees to meet us at some outdoor cricket nets where kids come and play 24 hours a day. It is non stop.
Shahbaz is known to bet with bowlers that he can hit them for 6 x 6’s in an over. He always wins the bet. He also once made 58 runs in an over. He claims that he kept hitting the no balls for 6.
He speaks to me in Urdu through a translator. For him, tape ball is all about entertainment for the youth. It keeps them focused on positive things. For many, it harbours their dreams to wear a green shirt and represent Pakistan.
We ask him to bat for a while. He has presence and movements like Sir Vivian Richards. He owns the court. Shahbaz tells the boys bowling to him that if they dismiss him, he’ll buy them a bottle of soft drink. No one dismisses him.
I step up to face a few balls. Off about 7 or 8 paces, Shahbaz pelts them down. He is seriously quick. At 45 years of age, he’s still going strong.
For the whole time we are together, he never stops smiling. It is contagious.
We wrap up by eating at a simple street vendor. Grilled chicken breast on rice. Fresh lime [7 up with a squeeze of lime in it]. A sneaky scoop of icecream to finish it off. Banter.
I am at peace here. The world is passing me by. It is still pleasant outside at midnight. My belly is full. The company makes me laugh.
Life at its best.