Sunday, February 22, 2015

1999 - the year I stopped watching cricket

I was in Karachi in 1999, preparing for my IBA entrance test which meant that I had ample time on my hands to watch ALL the matches of the Cricket World Cup. I was at my grandmother's house and with all cousins over for holidays there was a big, festive gathering which sat down to watch each match. Over tea, snacks and Cadbury fruit and nut chocolate, we discussed the merits of our team versus the rest of the world. 

And what a team it was! A solid fast pace 'killer' bowling attack in the form of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhtar, Azhar Mahmood, and Abdur Razzaq. And an equally solid spin attack with the veteran Mushtaq Ahmed and the spin maestro & pioneer of 'doosra', Saqlain Mushtaq. Moin Khan was the perfect keeper. The batting line up had veterans like Salim Malik, Ijaz Ahmed and of course Inzi. Lending support to the veterans were Saeed Anwar, Yousuf Youhana and the young Shahid Afridi. What a team! 

It was one of the first (and last) Cricket World Cup in which I followed all the matches, kept a tab on scores of teams, and even made notes of high scoring batsmen and top wicket takers. [Saeed Anwar was one of the leading run scorers in the tournament while Saqlain Mushtaq was among the highest wicket takers.]

Steve Waugh & Wasim Akram before the final.
Our team did surprisingly and amazingly well. The loss to Bangladesh was avoidable but just three losses to the final wasn't so bad. And what a super victory we had over New Zealand in the semi-final! There was no doubt in my mind and probably in the minds of almost all Pakistanis that we were bringing the World Cup home.

The final was a total anti-climax and with a few exceptions, probably one of the most disappointing match I've ever witnessed in my life. It was like our team was drugged or under a spell. When the batting failed, there was hope that the bowling attack will rip the Aussies apart. But it was not to be and we lost, miserably. It wasn't the loss that hurt as much as the manner in which we lost. Every effort seemed half-hearted. It was as if the team had come prepared to throw away the match. 

I don't know why we lost. Maybe the team was suffering from a bad hangover. Maybe they all got off from the wrong side of the bed or a black cat passed in front of the team bus just when they were stepping out to play. Or maybe someone, the captain perhaps, decided to throw away the final to earn an extra buck. 

Whatever it was, 1999 was the last year when I took cricket seriously. 

And in the present circumstances, it seems like a great decision!

Image: Google