The thing about Pakistan is that it moves both slow and with rapid speed at the same time. Like some weird alternative universes fighting against each other for supremacy.
We began the morning with a plan to see some street cricket. But the camera crew was delayed an hour. But then our fixer rang to say that the “Asian Bradman”, Zaheer Abbas had agreed to meet us immediately. So we had to run faster than Inzamam had ever moved to make it in time.
The joys of making a film I guess.
Zaheer, or “Zee” as he referred to himself in stories is a gracious host and statesman. He takes his time when communicating, chooses his words carefully and like all Pakistanis I’ve met so far, has an appetite for cricket stories and debate.
I’m offered a beer. Correction, I’m given clear instruction to have a beer. Zee halts the interview until I take a sip. What kind of an Australian am I if I won’t drink the beer?
I’ve taken a cricket bat and ball with me. I ask Zaheer if he will show me a cover drive as his playing days were well before mine, and I’d never seen him play one in the flesh. There is reluctance but he agrees.
He hits that drive with the ease and grace of David Gower and Mark Waugh’s love child. It puts me in elite company. Dennis Freedman. Spanked by Zaheer Abbas through the covers for four.
Next up is Sikander Bahkt. A Pakistani quick who must stand 6’1 or 6’2. Possibly more.
Consistent with everyone else here, he is a generous and open man. He tells me that what makes Pakistan is their hospitality and community. I find it hard to not conclude the same at this early stage in my travels.
We get talking about all kinds of things, and things get fun when the conversation turns to match fixing. You’ll have to wait until the documentary comes out to hear his views. Suffice to say, they align somewhat with mine.
Tape Ball cricket is next on the agenda. A random open housing estate under construction. Lots of motorbikes. Lots of young men. Tennis balls wrapped in electrical tape. Cheap bats. Concrete blocks for stumps. A guy selling juice.
A random Australian jumps out of a heavily tinted van like a mafia Don to join in the fray.
This is serious stuff.
I am offered the chance to face the best tape ball bowlers that Karachi can offer. The first two balls I face I hit off the middle of the bat. Unfortunately, the ball finds it way into the hands of fielders on both occasions for catches.
These guys can make this ball swing and cut and bounce and spin like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It is magical and genius and enthralling all at once. Like the first time you visit the circus as a kid.
It provides real insight into how the skills of Pakistani cricketers are forged. If you can succeed out here on the concrete roads, you can succeed anywhere.
A quiet reflecting chai at a road stall before we visit Rehan Sheik’s house. A guy with an unhealthy crush on bats. He tells us a few stories about the multiple assembled blades he has on display.
“This was Sir Viv’s bat. This once was Afridi’s bat. This one was……..”
Just a list of cricketing legends and stories. I get to hold them all.
History. In my hands. Hidden in a random house in Karachi.
Rehan persuades me to try Pakcola. A green soft drink that has the face of the founder of Pakistan on the can. What would the Australian version of this be? Auscola? A yellow drink with Tony Abbott on the can? A shuddering thought.
I get back to the hotel thoroughly exhausted, but hit my bed with a brilliant smile on my face.
Pakistan. You are simply amazing. And we are only up to Day 2.