What is it like being a Pakistani cricket fan? It is watching on TV that test match in 1999 India v Pakistan at Chennai; losing hope and going out when India needed 16 with 4 wickets in hand and Sachin slapping Saqlain for fours at will. You later find out that Pakistan won by 12 runs and curse your luck that you missed that magic moment. Now you aren’t taking your eyes off of screens – even if your team is out of the match – for the rest of your life, especially when the match is in the deserts of UAE. That place lets the Pakistanis show their inner beast.
It is exactly the reason why in 2011 when Pakistan faced SriLanka for the 4th ODI at Sharjah, and Pakistan looked out of it, no one left the ground. Fans at home were also glued to the screen. Sri Lanka needed 46 to win with 7 wickets in hand. Sangakkara and Jayawardena had just put on a 100 run partnership. We might as well leave and get on with our lives, right? Well it’s Pakistan we are talking about. We hope and we pray. That’s what the crowd was doing. It prompted commentator to make an arrogant remark about the futility of the prayers. And suddenly Sangakkara is bowled by a ball that seems to turn a mile. When was the last time Afridi turned the ball that much?
Sri Lankans might have thought well it’s just 46 runs, and 6 wickets. But we, the fans, had started to feel it. It was happening. The Sharjah magic, the incredible come back that always happens and makes us fall in love with this unpredictable team. Soon after Afridi decides that he is Muralitharan and turns the ball a mile in the other direction. It was really happening. You can’t mistake it. Suddenly making runs becomes difficult. The cool and calm Jayawardena panics and offers a simple catch to short-cover. Even the fielding becomes that much better. Afridi decides to be Jonty and takes brilliant one-handed catch. Sri Lankans can’t believe it, but we the fans although overjoyed, know exactly what it is. It is that magic trick when Pakistanis become a force of nature. It often happens in Sharjah. With their self-belief touching the sky, Sri Lankans could not stop Pakistan. No one can.
Afridi ends up with 5/35 and Pakistan won by 26 runs! Everyone feels this has happened before in deserts of UAE. And fans are reminded what it’s like being a Pakistani fan.
This PSL, Pakistanis are in UAE yet again. You know that, rest assured, there will be some “Sharjah Magic”.