Freeze frames

In an era of crowded schedules and uncompetitive blue-riband events, here was an eye-opener – two weeks of the best fun imaginable, served up in thrillingly digestible portions, in front of packed crowds and rapt TV audiences. Soberingly, if this was the 50-over World Cup, the public would have long since tuned out, and we’d still have five weeks and 20 matches to go.

Andrew Miller makes a good point: the T20 World Cup was way better conceived and organized than its 50-over sibling. Elsewhere, Cricinfo does its usual good job of distilling the stats of the tournament; Ananth Narayanan delves even deeper into the numbers, and Nishi Narayanan rounds up the memorable moments.

Granting the thrills the tournament brought, I found just one moment worthy of post-mortem mention; the one moment in this tournament that will enter cricket lore. This one.

What is your pick?

A time to heal

Few None write of Pakistan cricket with the passionate empathy that powers every word of Osman Samiuddin’s prose. And predictably, his post-win writing has been top-notch, managing deftly to celebrate while putting the win against the larger backdrop of all that is happening in that country.

12 militants were killed and seven others sustained injuries when gunship helicopters and fighter planes targeted their suspected hideouts in different areas of South Waziristan Agency, while 27 militants died in the military operation in Bajaur Agency on June 21, The News reported.
Tribal sources said Security Forces (SFs) continued shelling Taliban hideouts in the Makeen, Kaniguram, Badar and Mula Khan Serai areas of South Waziristan, destroying four compounds of the militants. SFs claimed that 12 militants were killed and seven others injured in shelling by gunship helicopters and fighter planes. Another main compound of the militants in Mula Khan Serai was reportedly destroyed while a madrassa (seminary) was also targeted by the gunship helicopters.
An AP report from Islamabad stated that military jets and artillery targeted suspected Taliban hideouts in Bajaur Agency, killing 27 militants.

Over the past 24 hours, helicopter gunships and fighter planes have bombarded suspected terrorist hideouts in South Waziristan. Reports speak of continued shelling of Taliban hideouts in the Makeen, Kaniguram, Badar and Mula Khan Serai areas of South Waziristan.

Four buildings/compounds known to house militants have been reported destroyed; 12 militants are believed dead and seven injured.  Another militant compound in Mula Khan Serai has been claimed to be destroyed, and reports also speak of a gunship attack on a madrassa in the region where terrorists are believed to have been hiding out.

Elsewhere, official sources have spoken of an operation involving artillery, with fighter planes providing air cover, against Taliban hideouts in Bajaur Agency, with 27 militants reported killed.

Helicopter gunships. Fighter planes. Heavy artillery. These are words that resonate of war, not a civilian peace-keeping operation. And war is what is happening in Pakistan — a war between those who seek to create chaos as the first step towards imposing their own fundamentalist ideology and a government that, having had its toes badly burnt in games of footsie with the terrorists, is finally realizing that it needs to quell the Frankenstein it had created.

It is, as Osman points out, unlikely that a cricket win — even one of such magnitude — will change all that. Or that international countries will heed Younus Khan’s passionate plea and begin touring again.

Pakistan’s win will do little in literal terms for the war on terror; if we’re lucky the spirits will be emboldened further. Countries are still unlikely to visit Pakistan for international cricket because that is not really part of this.

But that is not the point. This is:

Sea View was bouncing last night. Karachi’s beach is never lost for humanity but last night it was particularly overrun. Mostly they were young men, from all over the city, dancing with the great abandon of those who cannot but do not care anyway. At regular distances, cars would have to stop, allow the men to dance all around, occupants being invited to dance, or drive on through under a flag. Mostly it was a Pakistan flag, but those of political parties were not absent. Those who didn’t dance on the streets did so from the windows of their cars, bopping to horns and stereos. Save for rallies welcoming back exiled leaders I have never seen such scenes in Karachi.

….

But the win and the run have brought, for however long, respite from war, death, bombs and load-shedding (power cuts). People have laughed and smiled since Pakistan’s run began, with that outstanding Afridi catch and Umar Gul spell. Last night they laughed and smiled and danced and jigged and blew their horns and waved their flags and ate their mithai (sweets) and set off their firecrackers more than they have for a long time. That is as powerful a gift as can be given to any nation.

Elsewhere, Osman teams up wbith Ramiz Raja in an audio discussion on how the win emphasizes that Pakistan still matters in world cricket. And that is the bonus the win brings. In recent times — post 26/11, post 3/3 — any discussion of Pakistan and cricket in the same sentence has centered on how dangerous the place is, how rapid its slide into anarchy, and how therefore no cricket can be considered in/with that country.

What the win does is break that hyphenation, create an atmosphere where the international cricket community says yes, Pakistan is dangerous, but its cricket team is electric, they fill stadiums that otherwise remain empty, and therefore we must have them tour us, even open up our stadiums to them as homes away from their home.

India alone is unlikely to do any of that just yet — not for lack of sympathy towards Pakistan cricket [or, since it is the BCCI we are talking about, not for lack of appreciation of the enormous earning potential of hosting a Pakistan touring party for Tests/ODIs and a T20 match up] but because the political establishment will not permit any such tour until Islamabad stops blowing hot and cold and lukewarm again on the subject of 26/11.