Pakistan Vs Australia – The Semifinal – Through the biased lens of an Indian Sports Surgeon
Having bought tons of tickets to all Indian matches and semifinal and finals with absolute certainty that our team will make it to at least semifinal. I had to undergo a torrid time emotionally after the early exit of our team. All in the house were dejected including my son who couldn’t bear the taunts he was receiving at school from his Pakistani friend.
I took a pledge never to spend even a single rupee on watching our National team play again or to follow IPL.
But once the semifinal draws were drawn, I had to convince myself that I am a sport fan after all. My good old friend Saeed Ajmal who once was number one bowler in the world is still in touch with me. I also am fortunate to have had a great number of Pakistani expats as my patients in Abu Dhabi. So, I decided to give the tickets to my Pakistani friend Mr. Khan and we decided to go together with his brothers.
As I was the one who was driving and didn’t want to get caught up in the mad rush on the highway as well as near the stadium, I had to cox Mr. Khan to leave way early than required by tempting him to be present for the national anthem so that he can stand with his palm across his chest. When he gleefully agreed, I was thinking thank god I don’t have to worry about parking.
Being inside the stadium and at our seat at least an hour before the start of the match we decided to have a bet about who is likely to be the man of the match. Each had to choose one player from either side and I chose Babar Azam and Steve Smith as my picks. The reason I gave was that as the bowling is strong from both squads it needed technical superiority rather than fire power to construct an innings of say 70 of 50 balls innings and only these two players can do that. Mr. Khan nodded in approval but had a completely different take on his choices. He chose David Warner and Mohd Hafeez as his picks saying that Warner is in good nick and Hafeez has great all-round ability. His brother chose Maxwell and Shaheen Shah Afridi as his picks as he saw them as who can single handedly win the match for their teams. Chotu khan a body builder who accompanied us couldn’t give a damn about who is playing who and all it mattered to him was a Pakistan win.
He couldn’t tell his ankle from his elbow about cricket and in fact even couldn’t understand why Finch was out LBW when the stumps are still on the ground. Poor guy thought only way a player can get out is when the stumps are rattled and he was absolutely convinced that even if the stump lights are lit when umpires are adjusting the bails batsmen should be given out. He knew that Pakistan was playing and didn’t know against who.. bless him. So, for obvious reasons when we asked about his pick for man of the match, he looked the other way and pretended to be busy.
By then it was time for toss and we all waited with bated breath. Here we go and Finch wins the toss and my friend Mr. Khan immediately lost interest in life. Suddenly he started talking about how he misses his mom, and why horse racing is his favourite sport. I say “come on bhai . Abhi match start bhi nahin ho gaya and aap tho dil haar ke bhaite hai??”
He comes out with the statistics of how the team winning the toss will win more than 90 percent of matches and why going back to Abu Dhabi there and then was an amazing option.
It took a lot of cajoling and persuasion to make him sit back again and watch the drama unfold afterwards.
In the intervening time between the toss and start of the match being amazed at the ignorance of his chote brother I couldn’t help myself in asking him to treat me for a beer which he gladly did.
The beer counter looked empty as I expected. Only few days back when I attended Australia V England match the que at the beer counter was larger than the que for people to get in the stadium. That day I thought more people were at the beer counter than the ones watching the match and this day it was totally the opposite.
Just when I was about to stuck into the samosas Khan Saab bought for me, it was time for the National anthem. The stadium was almost full and people were still trickling in. Should I stand for the national anthem of Pakistan or not was my dilemma but out of respect for sport and “ dosti ke khatir” I stood up with my friends and cheered the anthem of both opposing teams. Khan Saab was next to me with hands across his chest and tears in his eyes as the anthem was played along.
Again, we sat down to discuss what should be the minimum target and what is par score at the powerplay. We both decided to agree with the world that the match will be decided in the first six overs of both innings and even the lady with a little baby on her lap sitting behind us was in total agreement.
Players on the field now and crowd cheered and shouted “Babar Babar “ to a deafening echo. This time I stood up voluntarily and chanted Babar Babar along with the crowd and I meant it. According to me he is the most attractive player, as good as our own Kohli, If not better.
Next half an hour or so was a sea saw battle between bat and ball and on most occasions, Pakistan was on top. My most favourite bowler of all time and a supreme athlete Hazelwood didn’t impress me that night to my surprise and was taken apart to the joy of people surrounding me. When Babar finally got out to the last ball before the break, I thought he only did half the job but did half the job nevertheless.
Rizwan was playing ok but was not taking our breath away and people were not sure about Fakhar Zaman having any major impact against the quality of Australia attack.
Again, a period of cat and mouse followed and no one was sure who was ahead in the game.
Occasional four and sixes were there but Pakistan was still within reach of Australia bowlers and then tired Rizwan got out. Already he had two catches dropped of him which the crowd celebrated with a deafening roar but this time he got caught. As we already agreed earlier and with the approval of the lady behind us with the Baby on her lap Asif Ali came. This time crowd chanted Asif Asif and in no time, he is gone. It seemed as if they have forgiven him for failing to hit a single six and crowd even digested Shoib Malik getting bowled by a screamer from Starc. Talks about 155, 165, 175 fluctuated with every ball and it was strange that no one talked about 150 160 or 170. Very knowledgeable crowd indeed.
The guy in front who was never in his seat and was always either dancing or cursing the Pakistani batsmen was spot on in most of his predictions. The minute he would curse a batsman about how slow they are going; they would hit a six. It was so accurate that all fans in our section literally begged him to curse the batsmen so that they get a six and the total would swell beyond 180.
It took some belters from Fakhar Zaman to get Pakistan past 175 and after the last ball of the innings was bowled, I could sense that entire Pakistan thought they have the cup in their backyard already. Mr. Khan sighed a sigh of relief & satisfaction and started again talking about how much he loved his cricket and how he used to open batting for his college team and how his brother got a call to represent UAE after hitting three back-to-back centuries in some obscure domestic league. I had to totally agree with him that his brother was the best in cricket and should have represented at least UAE if not Pakistan. Surprise surprise my free pizza followed and Mr. Khan wouldn’t take no for an answer when I said one pizza is enough.
Lady behind started narrating how Afridi will wreak havoc in Australia batting line up and how Pakistan will get Australia all out for under 130. It seemed as if she had the entire scorecard ready for the Australia innings even before the first ball was bowled.
What followed in the second half was a dream for a neutral fan who is inclining towards Australia. A see saw battle and a nail-biting finish similar to the one day before between England and New Zealand was what I was praying for and secretly desiring for a last ball victory for Australia.
The innings started with another round of deafening noise from the frenzied crowd and it was the best bowing display I have seen by a fast bowler in his first over when Afridi bowled. He should have gotten three wickets in his first over and he ultimately ended up getting just Finch. It was carbon copy of ball to Rohit Sharma and Mr. Khan reckoned the ball would have hit the middle of middle of middle of middle stump, at least three middles if not more. He reckoned that Finch was very kind to his team in not taking a referral and wasting one and as always, the lady behind concurred. Mitch marsh survived a close call and by the end of first over we were already discussing about our revised total Australia may ultimately end up finishing this time around 130.
The talk about how Afridi is modern day Wasim Akram came up this time lady behind giving her first opinion and she also mentioned about Afridi being her distant relative. I was tempted to say Afridi is my distant relative too but I somehow resisted myself.
When the ball was handed over to Imad Wasim, my friend Mr. Khan was not impressed and said it should have been Hafeez instead. When finally his wish was granted Hafeez ended up bowling this strange ball which pitched at least ten times before being whacked for a six.
Flurry or boundaries and sixes followed and stadium had a lull for few more overs. Harris Rauf, my favourite bower suddenly didn’t look as pacy and it seemed Australian batters liked his style of bowling.
My friends again started losing hope again and I was telling them to wait for star spinner Shadab and that he will get 5 wickets. This time the lady behind offered me free water and samosas which I gladly accepted. I was telling them that there will be a moment in the match and the team which wins that moment will be in the final.
In comes Shadab Khan and in no time, it looked as if he has won the match for Pakistan with liters to spare. My favourite Steve Smith never got going and immediately after the break the moment I was talking about came. Warner got out to an edge only he knew he did without any scientific evidence.
I would have put a million dollars on Maxwell going for the reverse sweep and getting out and in fact told my friends to get their camera ready. It was exactly the same ball which I predicted he will get out that he got out but I had predicted a bowled or an LBW. My friends couldn’t care less about the mode of dismissal and by this time they were convinced about my cricketing knowledge and started admiring me.
This was the time when my friend broke the news that me in fact is an Indian and suddenly everyone around me started appreciating me and saying welcome welcome doctor. I felt like a special guest of mini-PCB around me filled with expert commentators, selectors, cricket analysts and cricket players who thought they should have been in playing eleven instead of those on field.
When Mathew Wade came in, he looked out of sorts in the beginning. Now entire stadium was ready for the formalities and few quiet Indian fans who expected Maxwell to win the match for Australia slowly walking off. Of course, they were not revealing that they were Indians but pretending as if they are just going to buy a snack and drink from the counters and slowly sneaking out.
Now the discussion was about 130 being the maximum Australia could get and if someone plays a blinder the total reaching up to 150. Mr. Khan was already rearranging his schedule for Sunday and me planning to part with another set of tickets which I bought for the finals to my friend again.
What happened in the next 5 overs was unbelievable and it was a privilege to have watched such a match and such an innings by Wade. Hassan Ali could do nothing right and Harris Rauf was ineffective. The twin sisters in front of us were telling how many runs Hassan Ali will leak in his over and it seemed they were almost spot on.
However, entire stadium, whole of Pakistan and above all Mr. Khan believed in Shaheen Shah Afridi. Then I said if he can win it for Pakistan then I agree that he is Wasim Akram.
But the moment of the match I was mentioning about was not the one involving Warner as we previously thought. It was the one which came in the last over of the match bowled by Afridi instead.
A dropped catch and three full blooded blows from the devils’ quarters and the match was over. Crowd couldn’t believe what they had seen.. I couldn’t believe what I had seen and Mr Khan was distraught. Chote Khan could sense something terrible had happened but didn’t know what why and how.
No one wanted to eat or speak and stadium was empty in no time. Kids were still chanting “jeetega bhai jeetega” as if it was a must ordered by their headmaster. Mummies suddenly losing their temper, lady behind were long gone. Scores of dejected people slowly getting back to their cars not knowing how all this happened.
Had to tell Mr. Khan the truth from a neutral’s perspective.
Pakistan didn’t lose a match they should have won. They lost to Mathew Wade. The guy played the innings of his life and it was a privilege to witness it in flesh. The world cricket owes Pakistan team for giving us such a match. Well played Pakistan. In the end as has always been the case it’s not the best team which wins the tournaments. It’s the team which is there and there about and suddenly finding sixth gear and big slice of good fortune that wins. This was exactly such a case.
There is no shame in being on the receiving end of such an epic.
We had a quiet return journey. Chote khan was already asleep when his brothers were in tears. When I dropped them at their place, I had to give a hug to all three of them. I could feel that hug from Mr Khan was a touch heavier than I anticipated. He was a broken man and I felt really sorry for him. He may be a Pakistani but he is my friend afterall. In the end I said “ Khan Saab .. danda pani to chalthe rahega.. lekhin dosti jaroori hai.
As I drove back home, was thinking to myself, it’s not a bad world after all. Kohli is still out best batsman it seemed, Hardik Pandya is still very talented and deserved his place in the team it felt. I could convince myself that it was the toss which killed India’s title dreams and not the poor team selection or shot selection or the infamous IPL as it felt last week.
Indian cricket is in the right track not because Rohit is the new captain or Dravid is the new coach. We don’t mind another 4 new teams being added to the IPL. Let them play 365 days of cricket and we will
still support them.
It’s all because of the dropped catch and bhai HASAAN ALI. Hasan Ali, you shattered Pakistan dreams but enthused Indian cricket with a new lease of life.
Indian cricket owes you for the lifeline you have given them.
Dear Neighbors, we eat the same food we have the same blood and we worship the same game.
Let’s not fix matches but let’s fix our heart first. Indian cricketers don’t hate you and Indian fans don’t hate you. You win a match and we win a match and let’s applaud a good game together. This is what me and Mr. Khan discussed in the end and believe it or not Chote khan was still looking sleepy.
The writer is a Orthopedic Surgeon and Knee specialist at NMC Specialty Hospital, Abu Dhabi, UAE.