Decimated by Australia over the summer? No worries, bowl them out for 220 and win by six wickets at the MCG. Annihilated by England in an ODI series? That’s okay, chase down 302 against them. Unbeaten at home against England and Australia in Tests? Throw in a loss against an inexperienced West Indies side.
Scratch your head, bang it against the wall or just clench your teeth. As you can imagine, it’s a tough job being a Pakistan cricket fan.
Think of it as a toxic relationship, one with multiple break ups but a dependency that takes you back to your partner after each break up. You fight, curse and end things only to fall back in love all over again, even if with a pinch of skepticism. Because you have experienced the high of being with your partner, that process of going back to them after each break up doesn’t take a lot of time.
Those around you try to warn you. They tell you it’s a one-sided relationship. Rip the bandage, gulp the pain, and move on, they say. Yet, every single time your beloved walks in, your heart skips a beat and you forget all the toxicity. In that moment, you offer unadulterated and unconditional love.
The struggle, though, is real.
There is a fixing scandal every few years. That is the exact equivalent of your partner cheating on you and breaking your trust. How do you trust them again? You find a way in the face of betrayal.
Then there is this constant buzz of intrigue and infighting. Yes, a lot of it is just media hype but we have had cases of players swearing on the Quran against a playing captain or – better yet – refusing to take the field under a certain captain. Where is the commitment in the relationship? Think of this as a flimsy excuse to get out of a relationship: I don’t like your friends!
How can you forget performances like the one against India in this Champions Trophy? It’s almost as if they fail to turn up at the ground on such days. The same as your beloved being physically present but mentally absent. You start wondering why you two are together. You question if you two have any shared interests at all and, once you realize you don’t, you want an out as soon as possible.
This betrayal and this hurt is sprinkled with sporadic appearances of affection, just enough to keep you hooked. A romantic dinner or a meaningful gift to show appreciation. From the cricket team, you get an inspired spell of fast bowling, an outrageous catch, and a match-saving innings. They spring these surprises every now and then.
Against Sri Lanka, for example, we saw both. The fast bowling was exceptional, the batting terrible. All of it, however, was exciting enough to keep most fans on the edge of their seats. The pendulum swung far too often, thanks in part to each team wanting to lose more than the other. Yet, you loved the adrenalin rush. You cheered for every run even when your heart was scarred.
And then, as skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed marched off the field with Dil Dil Pakistan playing in the background, you fell in love with Pakistan Cricket all over again. There was a certain kind of nostalgia in the air. Throw in a touch of divinity too. After all, matches are made in heaven as they say.
Think of the last two games against South Africa and Sri Lanka as outbursts of affection from your beloved. May be your partner was guilty and tried to please you. Your partner is making an effort to win you back, one more time. But it can all come crashing down, like it did in the past. So, you are better prepared this time. Or so you think. What happens when you see your beloved walk out tomorrow? You can’t help it. It won’t stop. It’s toxic but it’s fun and you won’t trade it for anything in the world.