The all-encompassing city that embraces one and all, saw the return of test cricket. With their two famed sons not in the eleven, out for varying reasons, it was a real test of patriotism for Karachi and Karachites again (as it usually is). It started with two journalists from cricket’s biggest website fretting about lack of crowds in Karachi. One was in a way appealing with his tone, asking fans to come to see a local player bat. The other used a semi-racist trope to highlight the need to use the local player as an attraction. The age-old Karachi stereotype from people who don’t comprehend the complexities of this volatile city.
But the cricket on the field was pretty special. With Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Abbas, and Naseem Shah, we saw a return from to the Pakistan model, a far cry from the UAE model. But perhaps more of a surprise was the batting. A Pakistani top four scoring four tons, for the 1st time ever.
Each has had a contrasting journey which culminated as test cricket really returned to Karachi and to Pakistan. After the Pindi washout, we needed a narrative and boy did we get one. Let’s look at how Karachi presented an itself to four very different people and cricketers in the most Karachi way possible.
Shan Masood – It is hard to find some as privileged (fans might call him lucky) as this left-handed opener in Pakistan Cricket’s history. The PR machinery, English education (cricketing and otherwise) the eloquence with which he speaks reflecting his affluent background, influential father associated with the PCB, individualized coaching under some of the best coaches in the world and a belief that his will be handed more opportunities; Shan Masood, as they say in Urdu ‘Mouh me chandi ki chamch le kar paida hona’. After a stop-start career primarily down to his own inconsistency and selection committee’s petulance, it finally looked like the Multan Sultan man was cementing his place in the test side. With half decent South Africa and Australia tours behind him, things were looking upwards.
And two dismissals later, he was supposedly under pressure again. Abid Ali’s belated but heroic introduction to test cricket just amplified voices for the underdogs. With Fawad Alam signing autographs in the stands, the shadows loomed largely. A failure here and the drums will start sounding. His record against England i.e. Jimmy Anderson was Mohammad Hafeez vs. Dale Steyn like.
So the 135, couldn’t have come at a better time. As the eight to ten thousand danced in the isles, Shan Masood would have felt a sense of relief. Once again, Karachi had served the needs of the privileged, like it always does.
The Jugaru Underdog
Stories like Abid Ali’s make for great Bollywood films. A humble, and perhaps even shy boy, with just one special talent, dissed by those in power comes back to put an egg on their face. Especially the coach who had played his part in keeping him out of the side, and is now coaching the opposition. Yet he is humble and thankful. Oh, it is also due to patriotic and religious drive. What would be any film without that?
After his hundred in the Pindi test, Sri Lanka studied his batting. Mickey Arthur would have done his homework. Bring him on to the front foot and target those front pads he could have demanded of his bowlers. His most potent weapon Lahiru Kumara obliges. Abid had a problem on his hands. What can he do?
He decides to do the most Karachi thing possible. Take the bull by the horns, risking his wellbeing. With Kumara tried to attacking his pads again, he decided to bat outside the crease. Remember, these were thunderbolts at 145kph or thereafter.
The opener succeeded and how. Karachi set the stage for the jugaru underdog and by the end of his innings, thousands in the stands were applauding his genius.
Babar Azam – these two words should really be enough? Tests were the one last format he needed to conquer and conquer he did. Poor old Abid Ali would have felt perhaps a little bit envious. The appreciation he got for his magnificent, match-defining innings, was overshadowed by Babar Azam’s reception.
It showed that status of this man. For years now, Karachi had adored the tenacity of Younus Khan. Sarfaraz for all intents and purposes was an embodiment of Karachi. Rugged, disrespected, always punching above his weight, fighting for what rightfully is his.
But now, we have a new King of Pakistan Cricket and surprise surprise it is not a bowler. How can Karachi object when the decision is already been made in Pakistan?
Azhar Ali – we’d rather that you don’t.
One thing Karachi recognizes is sheer will power. That Azhar has in abundance. Having replaced a local favourite and coming in with a poor recent record, the captain looked as powerful as Karachi’s Mayor.
Yet, in the 2nd innings, with a comfortable enough lead, Azhar had the perfect platform. He scratched around for a while but then was away. If Azhar’s tenure turns out to be a success, its building blocks would have been put here in Karachi. Adoringly the city would have looked at Azhar as it has for the millions and millions of people who are born here or come here with a dream to succeed. And succeed they do.
But we’d rather that you don’t changed only a little bit, perhaps.
Despite all the hostility, the demands of patriotism, the moaning, and the stupidity, Karachi just continues to deliver. Continues to be the saviour for doubters, for admirers, for kings, for strugglers, for the underdogs and the privileged.
A city like no other!