Today was an important day. Today was a disappointing day. Today was a memorable day. Today was the day that Pakistan lost against Australia in the T20 Cricket World.
As the defenders of the cup, it was a test to see whether the greens could, once again, show their magic and perform at a level of utmost brilliance to qualify for the finals. Perform they did, but it was all in vain; the Aussies fought back and fought back hard enough to beat Pakistan.
I watched the match in the Student Lounge. Even half an hour before the match started, the place was jam-packed, without even a single seat left. This, of course, was not a matter of hindrance for the true patriot that awakens and roars in all of us whenever there is a cricket match involving Pakistan, so many chose to either sit in a cramped spot on the dirty, Coke-covered floor or not sit at all and remain standing for the entire duration of the match.
Pakistan batted first. This seemed like a good idea because everyone concurred that, when it comes to chasing an established score, we’re nothing to write home about. When it comes to cricket, everyone in Pakistan is a self-taught self-proclaimed expert. The first over passed by without a single run being made, then a second with just one run; nonetheless, a cheer rose up at every ball. We looked around, having second thoughts about batting first but these thoughts were soon banished to the very back of our minds, as the openers, Kamran Akmal and Salmat Butt, began to do their job. They started hitting. We were already cheering when no runs were being made but at every 4,we screamed; at every 6, we jumped out of our seats, and shouted ecstatically.
It was funny too, because whenever a ball would be hit high, a cheer would start but stop momentarily until it was known for sure that the ball was NOT, in fact, caught. Of course, the Aussies had come to play too, and they did get our batsmen out but not before each of the Akmal brothers had made a fifty. Our hearts brimmed with adoration as the camera showed Kamran Akmal cheering on his brother Umar Akmal, who was on strike, and using the power of his neon-green lipstick to hit 4 after 4 after 4. The captain came to bat soon and we all cheered wildly for the man whose reputation was defined withing two poignant words: BOOM BOOM.
Sadly, he didn’t do what he hoped he would and was soon out but still, the flame of hope in our hearts did not die down. By the end of the first innings, we had made a grand total of 191 runs, an unthinkable score, one that we had not even dared to imagine. Many of us had assumed 160 would be a competitive enough score, and the highest that Pakistan could make but they surprised us all. The flame was now a conflagration, deadly and contagious, and subconsciously, we all imagined victory to be close.
With every ball served by Muhammad Amir and Saeed Ajmal, our hearts raced, and we expected a wicket at least every over if not with every ball. Sure, it wasn’t realistic thinking, but the heart wants what the heart wants. And we wanted to win. With every 4 or 6 the Aussies hit (and they actually hit A LOT), a somber silence would descend upon the lounge, its decibel the exact opposite of the roar that would erupt at a dot ball. To watch Afridi take a wicket and do his customary pose with both arms in the air was to catch a glimpse of the heavens above. Cheers would come and go, and everything from cans, bottles and hands were used to drum a frenzied beat on the tables, the chairs and even the ceiling. We sang ‘Dil dil Pakistan’ with more passion that JJ had probably ever imagined, and made Jinnah proud with our rendition of the anthem, interspersing it with ‘Pakistan…Zindabad!’
But though we were the champions of T20, Australia is the champion of the world, and they proved that once again tonight. That is not to say that Pakistan did not play well or did not perform; in fact, we did better than we had ever thought possible. It just wasn’t enough.
Towards the end, the Aussies had 18 runs to make out of 6 balls. It was a very easy target and subconsciously, I am sure we were all thinking that we would lose but to come this far and play so amazingly well in this match and not have a vistory to show for it was an idea none of us wanted to entertain. A few fumbles and some misfielding on the Pakistani front led the Aussies to require only 1 run off the last 2 balls. They got that one run, and they hit a 6 for it just because they could.
Darkness. The TV was switched off immediately and the raving mass of people left as if time was being fast-forwarded. No one could look at each other, eyes were misty and tears were quickly blicked away and there was not a single heart that didn’t sink as if a 5-tonne boulder had been placed on it. To say we were disappointed would be an insane understatement, what we felt was beyond that. All the cheers, the chants, the screams and the shouts, they were all without glory now. The fight was over and we walked away, hats in hand, heads hung in shame. Grown men sobbed and hugs were distributed a dime a dozen but the comfort of a shoulder didn’t come close to the elation of qualifying for the finals.
We lost. They won. In the world of sports, its as clear-cut as the difference between black and white. We just wished it would always be green.