The Glorious Uncertainties of Pakistan Cricket

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The Glorious Uncertainties of Pakistan Cricket
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It would be near impossible to find a genuine cricket lover across the eight major cricketing nations who would not be shattered to see the game moving ahead without a substantial role of Pakistan.

On the contrary, there would be millions lamenting that tours to Pakistan have suffered for a few years for reasons that are beyond the control of either the administrators or the fans of the game.

In this season, even indifferent observers would have turned serious followers had they been witnessing how Pakistan cricket navigated through a dark, treacherous period and emerged joyous and unscathed on the other side.

In the process, they also sparked unadulterated joy among millions of supporters back home. Forget home; they must be even lifting the spirits of the rival camps.

Younis Khan and his team have given the other Test playing nations enough reason to see the fact that it would be a collective loss for all cricketing nations if tours to Pakistan remain stalled.

Tours though are not decided by cricket captains and emotional fans; more so as the aftershocks of Mumbai and Lahore would be felt acutely by the governing bodies of countries scheduled to tour Pakistan.

On their part though, Pakistani cricketers have done enough for the world to take notice. On Wednesday they gave another proof—if it was needed in the first place—on why the game of cricket is so much poorer without the incendiary brilliance that their team brings to this rather small mix.

It was not an ideal surface to bat on, but it produced a match that single-handedly justified the Champions Trophy. The Aussies put Pakistan in after winning the toss and bowled 50 overs with intensity to restrict Pakistan to 205.

The chase began like a typical Aussie hot pursuit, with boundaries raining. At 62 for 2 after 12 overs, the seasoned Ponting and Hussey took charge: Ponting extra cautious while Hussey free-flowing.

The Aussie captain perished in the 32nd over—to a slog-sweep off Malik caught wide of square leg, courtesy a great effort by Umar Gul.

It was just a precursor to the period that I call the ‘Pakistan Factor.’ This elusive and dangerous quality that makes a Pakistani team lethal is scientifically defined as the product of mass and velocity: commonly called momentum.

And in its own peculiar way, this momentum does not run contrary to the Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle*—one of the fundamental pillars of Quantum Mechanics named after the German physicist Werner Heisenberg, who presented it in 1927.

In simple cricketing terms, it can be used to say that momentum can be observed but what triggers it remains elusive.*

When Pakistan began their World T20 campaign this year, they played England in the first game and lost by 48 runs.

A match report said: ‘Pakistan was well short of their best, especially in the field where they dropped at least four catches and produced countless more sloppy pieces of groundwork. … maybe suffered from knowing they have a second chance against the Netherlands …but this defeat was so heavy that even a win in that game might not be enough.’

Pakistan won against Netherlands and then lost to Sri Lanka. They then defeated New Zealand emphatically, and something that can’t be measured accurately triggered what could be seen plainly: Pakistan had gained momentum. Pakistan qualified to the semis as the 4th team to take on the unbeaten South Africans.

Osman Samiuddin, Pakistan editor of Cricinfo, in a preview to the T20 semi-final called it first a clash of ethos, of philosophies and even of time, more than a semi-final. It was the art of cricket against the science of it, cricket’s future against its past.

South Africa had all bases covered. “The whole machinery is intimidating …the mission pre-programmed; with seven consecutive wins… they have also taken the inherent unpredictability of this format out of the equation. They are well-oiled, and their psychologist talks about 120 contests and of processes over outcomes. They win even warm-up matches and the dead games because every game counts. They are cricket’s future.

Pakistan are the past. They are wholly dysfunctional, but just about getting along, though unsure where they are going. They don’t control extras…. They are least bothered about erasing the flaws because any win will be in spite of them.

They did hire a psychologist though, and you can only imagine what those sessions were like…There are permanent mutterings of serious rifts. They may not bat, bowl or field well all the time, but sometimes, they do what can only be described as a ‘Pakistan’: that is, they bowl, bat or field spectacularly, briefly, to change the outcome of matches. You cannot plan or account for this as an opponent, because Pakistan themselves don’t plan or account for it.”

Osman hits the nail on the head when he says that it is not something that Pakistan plan for; meaning that it happens and also meaning that it is in harmony with my ‘not-so-scientific’ comparison with the revolutionary theory of the Quantum Physics genius Heisenberg.

Pakistan took on South Africa and despite scoring a gettable 149, Afridi turned the game on its head by taking Gibbs and De Villiers cheaply and almost back to back. Sri Lanka had been the more consistent team in the tournament; but in the final it was Pakistan that was more hungry.

Ponting sensed the danger today as his strike rate of 50 suggests; rarely does he score 32 runs in 64 balls. Asif was back in the 40st over after a dull first spell; Ajmal had sent Ferguson back a while ago. Then followed the madness, the brilliance, the call it what you like, the-what I like to call...the Pakistan Factor.

Rana Naved started a new spell in the 41st over and his fifth ball, an in-swinging dipping yorker, shattered Hussey’s off stump; it was as if lightning had struck. Hussey left after a fluent 64; 31 needed from 9 overs with 5 wickets left.

It was already crazy when the back-from-hell Asif made it absolutely maddening in the 42nd over; Hopes drove straight to mid-off and Younis pouched a low catch. Johnson survived a run-out scare; White had no such luck.

The fifth ball was an Asif special: It landed on a good length outside the off and cut back sharply to pierce the bat pad gap and shatter the timber behind; an unbelieving pale White made his walk back.

Twenty-three in 36 balls with 3 wickets in hand and Rana Naved bowled two maidens on the trot.

In between the maidens Johnson hit a four and was deceived the very next ball by an Ajmal beauty; a short and quick doosra that Johnson misread and it came back to crash his stumps. Australia had needed just 36 runs in the last 10 overs with six wickets in hand. Seven of those 10 overs yielded half of the runs at the cost of 4 Aussie wickets. It was sheer madness, it was pure magic, and it was quintessential Pakistan. It was something that would have made Werner Heisenberg—the 1932 Nobel Prize winner in Physics—smile.

Only Pakistan could have brought Australia to such a desperate situation in an otherwise one-sided contest. And only Australia could have survived a tsunami like that and yet manage to cross the line.

If unpredictable is the word for Pakistan, then the Aussies can best be summed up as unyielding. Lee and Hauritz saw Australia home in the last ball of the match.

Pakistan now moves ahead with the momentum that makes them so lethal by their side. It would be tempting to put your money on them but it would not be wise: Some things are best left uncertain.

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*Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle states that it is not possible to simultaneously measure both the position and momentum of a particle with precision.

Conversely, it also means that more the precision in measuring one of them the greater would be the inaccuracy in measuring the other.

There are many ways to define and derive the principle. It is one of the fundamental building blocks of Quantum Theory.

The principle was at the core of dialogues between British physicist David Bohm and the 20th century ‘spiritual thinker’ J. Krishnamurti. Krishnamurti was spotted and raised by The Theosophical Society: which he left saying what remains as his most famous one-liner, ‘Truth is a pathless land’.

The dialogues are available in a 1985 published book titled The Ending Of Time . It is the Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle that prompted Albert Einstein’s famous comment, “God does not play dice.”

This piece was first published on Oct. 2, 2009 on my Wordpress blog.

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