Australia may own the most World Cup trophies, and England might have hosted the most events, but the World Cup is just for Pakistan.
Other teams are involved, but Pakistan is always central to everything. In 1999, nothing could upstage the Lance Klusener-Allan Donald run out, but Pakistan were right there, stinking up the final. 2011 was the official opening of India’s new thousand-year reign, and no one was more accommodating than the Pakistani fielders when it came to Sachin Tendulkar. Twice they have co-hosted the World Cup – in 1987 and 1996 – and not made the title round. In 2007, they played their part in the biggest upset in sporting history.
This World Cup, Pakistan were outstanding on the field, making 105 in their opener (against a team that would end with only one more win) and then notching up a match-winning 348 (against the World No. 1s) as their follow up. They finished by stumbling over the line against Afghanistan and scoring just the one six in a game they had to hit about 34 of them to beat the net run-rate.
That’s a solid effort, but other teams have been fun too.
Watch on Hotstar (India only) – Imad pushes Pakistan past 300
Dimuth Karunaratne bowled himself, before throwing the ball to a random uncle who hasn’t bowled in years to win the match. They also had no swimming pools at their hotel. And Lasith Malinga destroyed teams while carrying something that shook like a bowl full of jelly.
And Afghanistan, I mean, quite the tournament they had. Two players sent home, a selector demoted, their fans jumped a fence and they finished not winning any games with their captain almost getting hit by a ball he was supposed to catch.
These are strong efforts, but it’s not quite the full Pakistan, and as we all know, you never go the full Pakistan.
I am old enough to remember when Pakistan fans still weren’t sure about Babar Azam. Sure, he was pretty, but did he score fast enough, was he Kohlilite, or Umarish? So the dramatic turn of events that lead to him being outed as an Avenger after the New Zealand knock was shocking. Pakistan had their own cricketing beatification; pedestals couldn’t be built high enough to place this man on.
People should be excited by Babar – though you could say they should have been before. He is graceful sex on wheels, your favourite pizza, but with no calories. I have never seen him plug in his phone, but I bet he commands the cord, finds the charge point without looking, and needs no force at all while staring dreamily at a stunning landscape.
But can we dial down the hyperbolic overreaction from a One Direction concert to normal Pakistan over-adulation levels? The man doesn’t levitate. At least not yet.
Wahab Riaz had a dream he would be at this World Cup. It’s not quite Martin Luther King Jr, but it’s nice.
And, of course, if he does all the stuff he’s capable of all the time, he’d never have to dream about coming to the World Cup, he’d be picked in the 30 probable players squad. But, even then, he’s taken ten wickets and hit six sixes; it’s good, but you’d imagine the World Cup of his dream was a bit more exciting.
I bet in his dream he was swept to the wicket on a wild white stallion while Welcome to the Jungle played and he’d fling the human head of the last batsman he dismissed – probably Shane Watson – as a reverse swinging yorker to defeat his next victim.
His World Cup has been less fun than that, but still fun. Sort of mad, infuriating, strange, captivating, and on the verge of greatness. Which is less like a dream and more like his day-to-day lived experience.
The first truly great Pakistan non-story/off-field story of this World Cup almost lived up to the one of the time Moin Khan had dinner in a casino. Shoaib Malik just had dinner with his wife. And some other Pakistani players ate burgers. You would never catch Aaron Finch in this kind of inappropriate eating in public with his family while consuming minced Aberdeen beef.
If eating in public is terrible (and it is), then yawning on a cricket field in a game with a billion people watching is the single worst thing a human has consciously chosen to do. Yawning – for most of us – is an involuntary act that science has not yet worked out. Not for Sarfaraz Ahmed.
When he opened his mouth to stretch, everyone became instant oscitation professors. According to the new experts it was a yawn of surrender, of ineptitude, he was not fit enough to keep his jaw moving the way he does when he talks non-stop to his disinterested bowlers. It was also the first time a player had ever yawned on a cricket field according to Statsguru. So it made sense that this yawn launched a thousand memes.
Remember when your WhatsApp filled with, “OMG U SEEN THIS” and “I told you, Bruv, believe”. And then you had a picture of Imran Khan, and a list of things that happened in this World Cup that were sorta, kinda, a bit like the 1992 World Cup. At first, you’re hit with how stupid it is. I mean, the overwhelming nonsense of coincidence and its role in predicting future events hurts all parts of your brain. But then the Pakistani devil in the green suit that sits on your shoulder – who looks a lot like Shahid Afridi – screams the coincidences in rapid succession.
I mean, that third game really was a washout. There is genuinely a new ul-Haq in real life. And holy hell, there is another Aladdin film, when was the last time Hollywood ever even rebooted a franchise? This is getting cray cray, it really is happening all over again, I must share this on tiktok. Now you’re visualising a tiger was really in a corner. And what would it be cornered by, a World Cup? Asif Ali’s mis-hits, perhaps. It doesn’t matter, the cup is ours, the cup is green, Pakistan Zindabad, etc.
Then you turn to your other shoulder, and there is a man dressed in white (it’s Misbah, obvs) and he says slowly and firmly, “Afghanistan didn’t even play in the ’92 World Cup”.
Then you support India, because they have to beat England for you. Geopolitics be damned, England can’t get those two points. And you are just as annoyed as any Indian fan when India slow down in the chase.
Now you could look at the fact that MS Dhoni has done this kind of thing before, the man is pragmatism in human form, and he’s no longer the constant smashing machine of years gone by. Perhaps in trying to keep wickets in hand early on – as India do in every game – they batted overly cautious, meaning they had too much to do later on. There is also the fact the pitch slowed down, and that they were still swinging for shots. They played 19 pull shots, four cuts and five slogs in the last ten overs, and from all those fairly high scoring shots, they managed only 32 runs. There are good well-documented cricket reasons to justify India’s poor finish.
Or you could believe that India – who hadn’t yet guaranteed qualification – lost on purpose to defraud Pakistan of their rightful chance at a semi-final berth.
But no matter what you believe, there is nothing they can’t do. The memes keep them in any game, including this one that said: “Hope for Pakistan: Western Australia scored 286 runs in one ball back in 1894 during an Australian First Class Match. The ball got stuck in a tree and was clearly visible so it was not considered a lost ball. The batsmen ran 6km between the wickets to amass 286 runs before the ball was brought down.
Now Western Australia didn’t play a first-class match that year. From crease to crease, a pitch is 17.68 metres long, meaning that two players would run 5.05 kilometres each, and there is no historical proof of this original claim. The world record for the most runs in a ball was by my primary school librarian, Garry Chapman, it is 17.
Now there are the facts.
And they would usually be enough. But we live in a Pakistan cricket universe, where Shahid Afridi can bite a ball, and they can win the 2017 Champions Trophy. So there is reality, and then there is Pakistan cricket.
So with that in mind, let me be the first to congratulate Pakistan on winning this World Cup, and all past and future editions. Because in this universe, even when it is not Pakistan’s World Cup, it is always Pakistan’s World Cup.