Diary of an avid cricket fan

Published: June 25, 2012
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You cannot choose to "unfollow" your national team. You cannot ignore it. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

My phone beeped. It was an SMS from a friend who had grown skeptical of the Pakistan Cricket Team since the 1999 World Cup Final debacle.

“So are your chuckers going to win?”

It was the eve of the 2009 T20 World Cup final. And even though he knew that the response he would get would be oozing with positive energy, hope and an incomprehensible delight for one of the most unpredictable sports team in all sports throughout history, he still wanted to know.

You see, after a long time this team was showing some spine. It was regenerating interest in the skeptics who had turned away. Please understand that I would never doubt the love of these kinds of followers of the Pakistan cricket team. Apart from the heartbreaks from genuine losses, they have suffered through the years from spot-fixing, ball tampering allegations, no cricket at home, in-fighting, politics within politics, to bumbling idiots as the head honchos and whatnot.

For us Pakistani cricket fans, abnormal is normal.

The love that one has for their favourite sports team is different than any other kind of love. It’s not bigger, it’s just different and probably gives a lot more sorrow than any other kind of love. The beef that I have with most Pakistani cricket fans is their fickle belief in their team. One loss and it’s all about how we should throw the whole team out because they sold out. One loss and half the team should retire. One loss and #BlameMisbah hash tags appear all across the Twitter world. But then, that’s where true love comes in and fickleness goes out.

The bottom line is when you love a sports team, you love it with all the baggage it comes with. You don’t just wait for them to lift the cup. That is not the defining moment. The defining moments are spread out across time; when you go to sleep thinking what combination would have worked out best, when you try and find all the faults the referee made in the match your team lost, when you can’t wait for the match to start, and, of course, three days before the actual match, when you are willing to start an argument with anyone that would dare to do so.

Those are the moments that define you as a sports fan.

Your wife accuses you of not giving any importance to anything else when the match is on, your mood for the dinner with guests after a big match will depend on the result, your friends curse you for spoiling an otherwise good plan because you don’t want to leave the house, and same friends start supporting the opposing team when they are stuck watching the game with you, just to tick you off.

That’s when you know you are a goner!

The Pakistani cricket team presents the most confusing paradox for any sports fan. It’s not a club team that you can choose to “unfollow” if they were as unfaithful as our team has been over the years. It’s your national side. You just cannot ignore it. You want them to do well. You need them to do well. There is already so much despair and negativity around, that it’s this bit of happiness that drives a nation wild.

We are a very unforgiving lot; sports fans, not Pakistanis. Well, maybe both of us. We cannot accept defeat. We will never look for the silver lining. But there is only so much you can argue about with the many people around you. You can’t force others to be empathetic. You have to listen to the know-it-alls and the “experts”. You fail miserably in defending a one-off innings or a certain bowling performance. Through all of that you still have to find that passion for the team you love.

The only unfortunate thing is that we live in a world of wicked needs and loose morals. Yet when you see the team fight its way to a victory, when you see the fight in the eyes of a Saeed Ajmal, the passion of a Younis Khan and the unrelenting charisma of Shahid Afridi, your heart soars.

This team is full of faults.

Muhammad Amir broke my heart. Muhammad Asif makes want you want to bang your head against any hard place. Salman Butt makes you… “@#%x&@#”.

But I will still sit in front of the TV when the next match comes on and watch it till the end. Because that’s what we sports lovers do. We stay till the end.

Oh, and my reply to my skeptic friend? Didn’t send him a reply, didn’t want to jinx anything. He, of course, did call me at the end, screaming with joy.

And, no, I didn’t call him a bandwagoner even then.

Follow Gul baz on Twitter @gbkhan2011

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Gul Baz Khan

A banker with an immeasurable love for his wife and daughters, sports and movies who tweets @gbkhan2011

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