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What makes Pakistan tick?

Against South Africa, it was Pakistan’s force of nature
Modified 14 Jul 2017, 15:03 IST

“What makes you tick?” he asks.

“Confident humility,” comes the response.

As I lay in denial, wondering how a fairytale could transform itself into a heartbreak, I was reminded of this conversation. Obviously, I wasn’t a part of it. Obviously, I wasn’t confident or I would have been a part of it; I would have been the person ticking.

To put it bluntly, and a bit offensively, I was Pakistan. I was humble, so much so that I could have served jalebis to the ball-boy and my own willy to the opposition. I was a douche; a man so low on confidence that he would have mistaken a half-volley for a toe-crusher and Alastair Cook for Kevin Pietersen.

Basically, I was a boring d**k, and boring men don't tick. Pakistan were so boring against India that their off-field camaraderie – read corruption allegations – and Ahmed Shehzad’s selfies would have garnered more attention on social media than their post-match analysis.

In fact, all they carried with themselves on the field was the douchebaggery of it being 'just another game', and they played like it really was. You see, hope without conviction is a wasted cause. It gives you more pain than inspiration and makes you feel more helpless than empowered. Pakistan went into the game against India with hope – and just that. 

There was no conviction, no method to the next-to-nothing madness on the field, and their players walked off at the death as if in penance of making the pinnacle of all sport look like a wimp.

“I was scared,” I crib.

“You’ll always be,” comes the response.


Pakistan were scared. Pakistan were petrified. But for how long? For how long could they carry the burden of being the worst to play the tournament this year? For how long could they manoeuvre their reputation of being sporadically excellent and leverage it against their periodic chokes?

Numbness helps you more than any kind of stimulus. It is when you feel absolutely nothing that you are ready to do absolutely anything. The fear of impact prevents men from doing the unthinkable. The fear of happiness and losing it, the fear of pain and never getting rid of it, but most of all, the fear of feeling things.

Being numb makes you tick. Feeling nothing makes you tick. It is because you want to feel again. The fact that you’re a hypocrite makes you tick.

I don’t know what made Pakistan play the way they played against South Africa. But I do know, with a certain degree of surety, that they wanted to feel again. The wanted to feel victorious, and it wasn’t just them or just their fans who wanted to feel vindicated.

As much as you loathe and deride Pakistan for playing in the manner they do, you know that the excellence they're capable of producing is soul-stirring. And it would not be soul-stirring if it happened every now and then.


Hence, Pakistan being Pakistan is as much of a blessing as it is a curse. At the Oval against South Africa, it was a blessing received from all the curses that were coming their way since they last played the way they did on Wednesday, which was on a date I do not remember.

Pakistan caught as if they were trying to catch their breath, they threw themselves around with the dexterity and the precision of a long-lost lover sleeping with you out of pure lust. Pakistan could have been the greatest-ever bunch of retards to have taken the field, but with the attitude of mavericks.

Hasan Ali made the ball reverse when the best English exponents of swing couldn’t make the ball move. Junaid Khan and Mohammad Amir bowled as many yorkers in the last ten overs as there are palpitations in your arm when your deepest fantasy is served on a platter.

For all his smiles at the batsman, he did this when he got the batsman out

“I need closure,” I demand.

“Not my problem,” comes the response.

What Pakistan do isn’t our problem. What they have been facing for almost a decade now isn’t our problem. Our problem is with the consequences of their problems. It is easy to poke fun at someone else’s anxiety. It is very hard, on the other hand, to be as anxious as they are, and still manage to survive.


That Pakistan have survived is an achievement. That they sporadically perform par excellence is a blessing. They don’t have a home. They need to find shelter. They are nomadic.

They steal what they can from wherever they can. The problem is that you don’t find homes for a night and then abandon them after you’ve had what you wanted. Every other home that you find and adopt takes a part of you away.

You’re rendered hollow from the inside. That hollowness makes you humble. None of the Pakistani fast bowlers looked like Pakistani fast bowlers. None of them could consistently breach the 90 mph barrier. But they were Pakistani fast bowlers.

Hasan Ali smiled at being hit for four as he did when he beat the batsmen fair and square. He looked into the batsman’s eye and smiled – not in sarcasm, not in insult, but in the most pleasant sense of whole-heartedness. Waqar Younis would never have done that.

He jumped in exuberance and had a half-Cristiano-Ronaldo-half-Shoaib-Akhtar-like celebration for a wicket. Imad Wasim and Mohammad Hafeez let out half-hearted hurrahs to celebrate theirs. There was no chest-thumping, no slang-using and certainly no aggression.

But this was Pakistan. Battered, bruised but far from being broken. They knew that they’d be beaten again. They knew that they’d choke again. But on a rainy afternoon in London, Pakistan had a closure they so desperately deserved.


The closure that they needed to convert all of their heartbreaks into one fairytale and prepare themselves for the ones that were to come. I watched them play, watched them scratch with the bat in the same game, and I realized one thing.

It isn’t anybody else’s problem that you need closure for. It is yours.

Published 09 Jun 2017, 20:18 IST
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