Myths, Romances and Comeback stories…

There’s something about certain cricketers that tickles the viewer’s senses. No matter how many times they let us down with the rubbish half-volley, the mindless swipe across the line or the ridiculously simple dropped catch, we tune in to the next game in the hope that they’ll finally live up to our illogical expectations.

Abdul Razzaq is a classic case in point. He’s given us enough reasons to hate him. He dropped Sachin Tendulkar in the 2003 world cup for God sake! He comes back into the team after every 6 months, fields like an idiot, bowls with hardly any pace and looks absolutely atrocious against any decent spin attack. Every time he lets a ball go through his legs, we laugh, we despair and we tear our hair out. But for some reason we put up with it. The reason can hardly be found in his largely unflattering bowling and batting averages over the last few years. I suspect the answer lies in those odd days in the year, when the Razzler blitzes anything and everything in his sight. The Saffers know what I’m talking about. Oh Razzaq how we live for these cameos. Who cares if you lose us a few games every now and then?

Then there’s that other enigmatic would-be prince of pace Mohammad Sami. A test average exceeding 50, an ODI economy of close to 5, one struggles to recall a single game in the last 10 years when he hasn’t received a royal pasting. He walks into the team after every few months with a new hairstyle and a promise to his fans that he’s finally developed a semblance of control over his lineup.He runs in and his beautiful bowling action melts our hearts all over again. He starts off with an impressive two overs. Maybe he has matured after all, we wonder in our excitement.Come the start of his third over the ball suddenly starts screaming to the boundary. And our boy Sami is back in all his glory. 6 overs of carnage later its regret all over again. Regret about what could have been. Regret that Pakistan’s most naturally gifted fast bowler in ten years has failed to carry on the legacy of his legendary predecessors. Regret that two outrageous performance against New Zealand are the only tales worth telling in a largely inglorious career. Yet, like true fans we’ll keep expecting that miracle from Sami. I hear he’s still touching 150 in domestic cricket. Glorious comeback story anyone?

Rumors are always circling the Pakistan cricket world about a certain swashbuckler by the name of Imran Nazir possibly walking back into the team. As ridiculous as this suggestion sounds, it reflects a romantic attachment to an idea that was born a few years ago, that in Imran Nazir Pakistan possessed an answer to Virendar Sehwag; that a little 20 ball flutter from him was all we needed to win ODI matches. That Nazir continues to get more attention than deserving domestic cricketers is more to do with how good looking his back foot shots look rather than any performances in international or even domestic cricket. But sure enough, the next time he smashes two balls to the boundary, cricket fans will rave about his wasted talent and how he provides us our most aggressive option at the top of the order. Wasim Akram once related a story of how he pinpointed to Nazir early on in his career that his glaring weakness against the incoming ball would be his undoing in international cricket. That he hasn’t been pushed to overcome these weaknesses is the fault of our cricketing culture and an easily satisfied fan base that continues to delight in his odd cameos that come once in every 2 years. Well who am I to talk? I must confess, if Pakistan pick him over Taufiq Umar for the England series I’ll secretly be rejoicing.

No discussion on Pakistan cricket’s would-be wonders could be complete without a musing over our two most over-hyped cricketers from the last decade, Asim Kamal and Anwar Ali. Anwar Ali’s biggest contribution to cricket has been an evening of freak inswing that castled an under-19 bunch of Indian cricketers. 6 years to the day, the average Pakistani fan still somehow believes him to be the next great swing bowler from the country. And then Asim Kamal. Oh Asim Kamal. Barry Richards ,one of the most talented batsmen of his time was forced to prematurely retire from international cricket with an average of 70 plus. I doubt whether South Africans have whined about his absence as persistently as the Pakistanis who’ve been mourning Asim Kamal’s absence ever since the English bowlers exploited his absentee footwork in the winter of 2005.

In recent years, I’ve often wondered if following Pakistan cricket would be any fun if we had a conventional, professional cricket setup like England or Australia. Well I for one am all for the soap opera moments in Pakistan cricket.We pick players on hunches, favoritism and attractiveness. We’re all about glorious comebacks. And sure enough, the next time I see Mohommad Sami and Imran Nazir in the Pakistan jersey, I’ll start hoping again for the miracle performance, conveniently overlooking the ten years of statistics that point to the contrary.

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About Assad Hasanain
Follow me on twitter @LeftArmAround

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