Dear Team Pakistan, (A Love Letter and Apology to Misbah)
I am not a cricket writer. I cannot dazzle anyone with the depth of knowledge of the game that many other astounding bloggers can.
I am also not a sports writer. I don’t spend time pondering over statistics and building fantasy teams on their basis.
My relationship with sports, and in particular the Pakistan cricket team, is purely emotional. It is visceral. While I fancy myself a rather rational person in general, I am unable to inject any objectivity when watching a sporting event.
I’m a good sport in actual life, I’m a terrible sport when watching the Pakistani team. Is Stuart Broad bowling an astounding spell right now? I couldn’t give less of a shit and am secretly praying that he falls and breaks a bone in his foot. Alastair Cook is making our bowlers look like amateurs? I’d very much like to see a bouncer come straight to his face.
This in part explains why it took so long for me to come around to Misbah-ul-Haq. Brought up on a steady diet of caprice from the Pakistani team, I could not abide his tuk-tuking his way through his innings. Many expletives would be lobbed his way, and when they weren’t expletives they’d mostly be about what a selfish piece of excrement he was.
I was aghast when he began moulding the team in his image. An army of tuk-tukers hell bent on defense? I could not bear it. My hatred began to take epic proportions.
“Responsible batting you say? Selfish motherfucker is what I say!”
I wasn’t going to come around to Misbah. The only way I could ever like him was if I fell for him. Hard. How does one forgive the antagonist of Mohali?
One doesn’t. You just dive headfirst into the other category. One of unadulterated adulation. You only begin to speak of cracks in your armour of Misbah hatred when inside you already know that he’s the right guy for the job. That he’s more than just a cricketer of average intelligence. That you actually now really, really like him.
And when he and his bowlers bamboozle the world’s best side you just melt into a puddle of adoration. You whoop and holler at every wicket. You take immense pride in every over bowled that slowly constricts the air supply of the opposition. You marvel at the tenacity of two young batsmen rebuilding what you’ve assumed is a lost innings.
And when it’s all over, and the final wicket tumbles, you jump out of your chair. You dance a jig or twelve. You call your father who is verklempt. You join the chorus of Pakistan Zindabad and #TeamMisbah that breaks out on Twitter. You proudly proclaim yourself a lota.
And you just let it wash all over you. The purest, most visceral joy.