The past as prelude

The loss of innocence

The loss of innocence

What would have been just another final was given context and nuance by an event atrocity that happened [a round up post from then, and a piece I had done for Rediff at the time] three and a half months ago [Almost unnoticed, the first arrest in that case was made three days ago].

The attack on the Sri Lankan team March 3 robbed cricket of its amulet. All along, the sport had assumed that no matter how vicious the merchants of mayhem or how anarchic their intentions, they would never touch sport. The backlash from the general populace would spell doom for the ideology of terrorism, it was argued.

Inevitably, the T20 World Cup final got framed against the backdrop of recent history: a match-up between a team and a country that became international pariahs in the wake of that atrocity, against the team that had toured Pakistan in a show of solidarity and found itself in the crosshairs.

Three and a half months later, and sport’s great gift for reinvention has delivered a contest that flicks two fingers at the perpetrators of the Lahore atrocity, and proves that – without wishing to overload the sentiment – the human spirit cannot be crushed by cold calculation. Pakistan and Sri Lanka will take centre stage at Lord’s on Sunday for the final of the most joyful international tournament the game has arranged in years. Twenty20 may be cricket for hedonists, but after everything these two teams and their respective nations have been through of late, the need to lay on a party suddenly feels like the only serious obligation.

A case of reading too much into a game of cricket? No, says Sambit Bal, who called it a match that’s bigger than the game.

Osman Samiuddin says no matter what happens in the game, things back home will not dramatically change — but that is not the point. It is the nature of contemporary reality that Pakistan finds itself in the headlines, daily, for all the wrong reasons. It becomes therefore doubly important to celebrate those rare moments when brightness pierces through the all-enveloping dark.

What can a mere sporting win do? A lot. There is no overstating the healing power of sport. Sports fans live their dreams through the lives of their sporting heroes and win radiates joy. And it’s a joy that spreads easily and it helps forge bonds and ease pain, however momentarily. Most sportsmen are aware of thisEdit Post ‹ Smoke Signals — WordPress power and that this makes them worthy.

It is unlikely that when they go out in their country’s colours tomorrow the Sri Lankans and the Pakistanis will be oblivious to the wider significance of the match. Rather than weighing them down, such knowledge should be empowering. It can invest their game with a little more meaning and passion. Twenty20 is not a game of grand ideas and epic performances. It’s a game of moments; inspiration matters.

It was necessary also in this uncertain new world of cricket, where there is more money and less time, a world which was in danger of passing Pakistan by. By reaching the final of the premier World Twenty20 event twice, Pakistan has said to one and all that they are still a force, no matter what the strife, that they cannot be ignored or sidelined in this world. Men such as Afridi, Gul, Akmal and Ajmal cannot be ignored in this world. They can contribute richly to it.

Pakistan matters because no team could have pulled off what they have just pulled off and in the manner they did. Their march has not been just a great cricketing tale or a fine sporting one; it is a simpler, more important one of how men do things sometimes nobody expects them to, of how from any darkness light can emerge. Even if we’re not sure how the tale was written, how long it will go on and when, or whether, it will happen again, we must celebrate it, be grateful for it and not forget it.

As the overlong IPL wound down, I had thought I was all tapped out, that I wouldn’t be able to work up any kind of enthusiasm for the World Cup immediately following. And yet, the final is minutes away from the start — and even at this remove, there is a strange sense of excitement. It is a feeling, I realize, I wouldn’t have had if this contest was between any of the other teams in the tournament. Even India.

Here’s to cricket.