By Zain Malik
The arrival of the Pakistan cricket team at Grantley Adams International has gone relatively unnoticed. Perhaps because cricket devotees around the Caribbean were concerned with what Barbados TODAY labelled as “Pathetic”. They were of course describing the thrashing The Windies received from a resurgent Australian side in Bridgetown.
Their collapse in the first ODI resonates with Pakistani supporters. They too have become accustomed to being pessimistic. In many ways, perhaps for the worst, the two sets of fans endure a common fate. The unpredictable nature of their team in recent times, the nostalgia of bygone eras, the surprise triumph against all odds. Whenever these two sides play, wherever they play, even the best and brightest cricketing minds are in a struggle to envisage the end result.
So when they take on each other, it is needless to say that it is a special occasion for those who love this sport.
The work Beyond A Boundary is what enables critical analysis of the shared colonial history which prompts the men in green to make their way across the Atlantic.
C.L.R James and his contribution to political philosophy have assisted me in understanding the special connection that exists between the English- speaking island nations of the Caribbean and my own country, thousands of miles away in South Asia. It is not just the love of bat and ball that we have in common but an intertwined fate. From Kingston to Karachi cricket is not the only symbol of empire.
Instead, the very way of life, the turbulent political and economic situation, a desire to be understood by the world, to refute stereotypes, to write a history of our own that brings us together. Cricket is just a manifestation of that.
The great intellectual’s dream of a West Indian confederation is realized when the Caribbean comes together and dons the coveted Maroon.
I can only begin to imagine the dynamics of being a West Indian cricket supporter.
Although Pakistan enjoys a superior head-to-head win record in both Tests and T20s (the formats which will be tested on this tour) when visiting the Caribbean, the Windies have dominated, to say the least.
The Pakistan tour of the West Indies has been a main event of the cricketing world since 1958. While the legends of Hanif Mohammad and Sir Garfield Sobers’ fortitude and grit have all but faded from the memory of fans, it was the inaugural series between the two sides that saw the best of these two greats.
At the Kensington Oval, the 5’7 right-hander accumulated 337 runs helping Pakistan avoid a thrashing. His innings, the longest test innings ever also stands as the highest score recorded at the historic venue. The third test at Sabina Park saw Sir Garfield Sobers post 365 not out.
A world record that stood for over 36 years. It would have been painful for A.H Kardar’s side.
And painful it has been ever since.
In the eight tours which followed 1958, Pakistan has only managed to win one test series.
There were glimmers of hope and exciting competitions but Pakistan always ended up on the losing end. Especially the tour of 1977.
The pictures of Wasim Raja and Mushtaq Mohammad dancing to reggae celebrating a victory over a West Indian side led by Clive Llyod at a nightclub became a source of consolation. But even then the fearsome Windies bowling attack in the shape of Michael Holding and Andy Roberts and the high-toned batting of Gordon Greenidge saw the series end in a 2-1 loss for Pakistan.
It was not until the most recent Test between the two sides that Pakistan managed to breach the impregnable Caribbean conditions. It was the last test match of captain Misbah Ul Haq and fan favourite Younis Khan and all that stood between Pakistan’s first test series triumph in the Americas was one wicket. As Yasir Shah bowled to Shannon Gabriel only eight balls were left to play. Then a baffling shot selection by the tailender saw Pakistan make history. It is a completely different team on the show this time around with Misbah now serving as head coach. He will be eyeing another victory.
The Test series will not be the primary concern of the sides as first on the cards is a five-match T20I series. Beginning in Bridgetown on the 27th of July it has all the features of a riveting encounter. A unit of veteran T20 specialists who all but destroyed the Aussies earlier this month is taking on a blooming Pakistan, fresh from a demoralizing tour of England. The sides have been placed in alternate groups for the T20 World Cup just around the corner.
If there was ever a time to get in shape and inform, this series is the perfect chance. Who knows? After this series, the two could be taking on each other in the T20 World Cup semi-final.
For Pakistan, this is the chance to forget the losses in England and defeat the reigning champions of the shortest format and get their middle-order in order.
For the Windies, an opportunity to announce themselves to what is being labelled as the “group of death”. Back-to-back wins against Pakistan and Australia will mean that the men in maroon would fancy their chance at a third world title.
We are sure to see Cottrell’s salutes and Hassan Ali’s generators.
The world’s most successful T20 batsman in Chris Gayle against the more measured Babar and Rizwan. As the cricketing world changes gears and puts itself in T20 mode, this series will be a precursor for the World Cup.
All is to play for when Pakistan take on West Indies. This is one I have been looking forward to. May the best team win.