I am writing this piece with a fair idea that this might be ridiculed as stupid and amateurish by many of our senior and respected cricket columnists, but then, everyone has a right to an opinion!
Let me spill the beans. If Lord’s is the home of cricket, then Sydney Cricket Ground will easily be its citadel, where some greatest cricketing names have produced their best.
And watching young prodigy Umar Akmal bat at SCG, one was easily reminded of none other than Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar in his early days. The flow of the bat, the ease at the crease, the sound of the leather touching the sweet spot, and above all, the ability to judge the length… I started comparing all. Umar scored a gallant 49, but failed to take Pakistan through to a much deserved win.
Chasing 176 for victory against the Aussies, Pakistan succumbed to 139 and lost the Sydney Test by 36 runs. Pakistan didn’t lose close encounters. Instead comeback wins were their trademark. There-in laid its unpredictability. That was why top teams in the world feared to have Pakistan in their group in world events. They were easily the cricketing answer to Argentina in world football. Never the pre-tournament favourites, but always dangerous opponents.
Remember Bangalore 1987, when legendary Imran Khan inspired Pakistan usurp India by 16 runs or Chennai in 1999 when Tendulkar’s heroics in second innings failed to stop Pakistan as they won the Test by 20 runs. But all that is history.
Sydney 2010 will be easily remembered for one of cricket’s greatest turn around as Ponting, who was admonished for most part of the Test, had the last laugh. In a stark contrast, his counterpart, Mohd. Yousuf, found it hard to explain the loss in the post match ceremony. As I am writing this blog, the cries for Yousuf’s head have gained great support in Pakistan. Knowing how the weather changes in <i>Allah’s</i> own country, the bearded Pakistan captain might be booted out of the team by the timer I finish off.
But by no means is it all over for Pakistan cricket. If Melbourne witnessed a profound half century by Umar, Sydney re-iterated the fact that Pakistan had in its embryo, cricket’s next Tendulkar.
Go back to 1989. Struck by a lethal Waqar Younis delivery in Faisalabad Test, Sachin Tendulkar, who by then was one Test old, braved the odds and carried on. “Mai khelega (I will continue playing),” is what Tendulkar had said then.
Come 2010. Facing a rising Peter Siddle delivery Akmal stands up and miscues. The impact makes alarming noise and the young Pakistani heartthrob goes down. As team-mates circle around him, Akmal stands and says Sab thik hai (All is well). Moments later a pull short for six through mid-on sees the crowd applauding. The crushing impact on the helmet had hardly managed to dent the audacity of the youngster.
Few balls later, the Sydney crowd, known for its graciousness, was treated with another lofted stroke over covers which clearly indicated that this child, born in Punjab in Pakistan, was blessed. Soon it looked that history was in the making and the youngster would take his team through to a memorable victory. But it did not happen. One false shot and Akmal knew he had again left his team in the lurch. The expression on a Pakistani spectator summed up the entire story. A desperate face buried in the Pakistan flag with disbelief written all over it.
Having said all that, my only apprehension is how will the youngster carry the burden of all expectations? Often we have witnessed bouts of brilliance from Pakistan taking on the world stage by surprise but thrills have had quite a short shelf life.
<i>Insah Allah</i>, this time the thrill would not just be short lived considering the way in which the Pakistan Cricket Board treats its young (and veteran) prodigies.