But then…I calmed down, reminded myself to put things in perspective. Pakistan didn’t lose this game, Australia won it. There was nothing that the team management or players could have done. This game was a miracle, and it took a miraculous series of boundaries by Mr. Cricket himself to win it. Nobody can blame Afridi for bowling Aamer and Ajmal in the end. They were Pakistan’s best bowlers in the tournament (and until the last two over, in this game too.) Nobody can say that we dropped crucial catches or missed run out opportunities. Nobody can say that the batting lineup failed today.
All that’s left is the reality that Cameron White and Michael Hussey played out of their skins – Hussey, he with the nerves balls of steel, was trembling even as he accepted his Man of the Match award. The last five deliveries he played went like this: 4 6 6 4 6*.
The result is heartbreaking, but only because Pakistan came so close. Even the TV commentators were rooting for the underdogs in green by the end, that’s how uplifting their play was. For most of the game, our cricketers led the world to believe that they could achieve the (near) impossible: beating the overwhelming favorites and their perennial tormentors in brilliant fashion.
It was glorious, but it all came to an end so quickly that no one could quite believe what had just happened – neither the winners nor the losers, neither the players nor the spectators. Sport is my opium, and I was on a magnificent high for three hours. The painful crash afterwards, in the space of only six minutes, shouldn’t detract from that. The reality was, and remains, that Pakistan is far from the best team in the world, and Australia is beyond a shadow of doubt the finest.
(By the way, this was also a match to savor for cricket lovers everywhere, one that helped us forget the crass glamor of the IPL and the ugly cloud surrounding it.)
So after this game, I leave feeling happier on the whole; grateful to the Pakistani team for giving me a fighting performance, an exit to be proud of. There is no shame in losing to champions, there is no shame in giving champions the fright of their lives. The team I support played well today. They didn’t let me down, and didn’t let Pakistan down. In a country where misery and tears dominate the daily news, we might as well be thankful for those few hours when we all danced in delight.
Consider this: if, twelve days ago, someone had told you that Pakistan would score 191 against Australia in the semifinal and lose off the second-last ball by only three wickets, would you take it?
I know I would.
*By contrast, the first five deliveries he played yielded only three runs – 0 1 0 1 1. Which means that Cameron White’s innings was just as critical to the result, if not more.)