What Woolmer Promised ...
By Nadeem Akram

Once upon a time, not too long ago though, there lived in the land of the pure million upon millions of unsuspecting and gullible people who believed in anything and everything but themselves. These simple folks had little going for them: politicians short-changed them, the 'bum' hype dissipated long before the dust settled in the new world; hollow promises and meaningless slogans proved to be just that. All that they had going for them was Bob and his pledge to turn the improbable into a possibility. Bob had promised the nation to deliver what all other spin-doctors could not: a living and breathing 'Team Pakistan'. All Bob asked in return was for the folks to look the other way while he and his cohorts went about chopping one young lad after another in order to find the winning combination.

The nice people of the land of the pure believed that Bob could resurrect the freak that once obliterated Goliath in his own backyard and wrested the prized trophy from the clutches of the infidel, which they believed belonged to the men in green in the first place! Bob enjoyed absolute authority, not to mention a forgiving and benevolent employer, to carry out his experimentation with impunity. He had to make this thing work come what may. No questions asked. A career trampled here, a compromise made there, was of little concern to Bob and his benefactors as long as the little people believed that they had a thing or two coming their way. And so it went on for a while and then the spell was broken. David met Goliath and history for once did not repeat itself. The eternal enemy gave the dream team a run for their money and it was them who had the last laugh.

And that was not the end of it. Our Frankenstein kept on losing a limb or two even when facing an adversary even Bangladesh could have beaten with a hand tied behind their back. Few eyebrows were raised initially, then a few heads shook, followed by whispers which turned into protests and Bob, for the first time, felt that the next head to be rolled could be his. That forced Bob to go back to the drawing boards and see what could be done to make this thing up and running. He found himself between a rock and hard place. No one likes to be pinned against the wall least of all Bob who had everything going for him. Despite his good table manners and cockney accent, Bob was having a hard time convincing the ones who mattered that it was only a matter of time when his 'It' would be up and running.

His team building mantra was losing air and he knew it. He needed a miracle; divine intervention that would get him a new lease of life. Bob was asked to brave his concoction against the best of the very best. Bob had it all figured out by the time he boarded the flight to Down Under. If they lose it would be dismissed as a defeat against an impregnable foe and if by a miracle he manages to pull one out of the hat, he would go down the history as the man who made Frankenstein come to life. It was a win-win situation for all concerned even for the burly clubman who got a second life when Bob was busy making compromises. So Bob led his troops to the slaughterhouse, without losing one night of his beauty sleep knowing well that all that could be lost would be a career of a youngster or two and if Kamran Akmal to be one of them so be it! All he had to do was to Wool'em and he would home free! What went down under is known to every red-blooded greenie living in the land of the pure and like myself most of them voluntarily divorced themselves from ever setting an eye on the one-eyed monster that beamed the terrible scenes of the greenie monster being ravaged and pillaged by the Aussie attack and shamelessly grasping for straws while drowning in the sea of ignominy and shame.

But kudos to Dr Bob and his company, they never took a defeat seriously and went on with their experimentation till the end. If the top order faltered, fresh meat was offered for the taking. Heaven forbid if the tail failed to wag, they had it removed with surgical precision all in the name of finding the right mix, whatever that means. What Bob did not do, which he should have done, was to get rid of the cadaver used, as the middle-order that he inherited from his predecessors and for some odd reasons so jealously guarded by him. May be his salvation lies in protecting the holy cows, after all cows are known to be the cause of many riots in this part of the world. It would be futile to recap the misadventures of Dr Bob and his accomplices in their quest to murder our national pride, which by the way they have done with utmost of ease, thanks to their inability to think and their incapacity to plan but that is another story.

Any mention of a number of things that went wrong during the last two games played in Australia would mean increased consumption of Alka Seltzer and since it is a suspect drug by many standards I would spare the readers the agony of taking one at the expense of their mental ease. Suffice to say that we are a nation that continues to suffer at the hands of men who do not enjoy our blessing to wear our national colors. Much as we would like to be heard when Dr Bob or whoever decides to play Taufiq Umar, who has not played a single international shot in the last ten months, or Muhammad Hafiz who averages just over 17 with a strike rate of 51 per 100 balls to replace Salman Butt or Yasir Hamid is not meant to be. If lessons need to be learnt, we need not to go to look towards the Western hemisphere, there are plenty in our own neighborhood. Ganguly stuck with Kaif and Yuvraj despite their earlier failures and look where they are compared to Imran Farhat and Yasir Hamids of our ilk.

If Tendulkar can be forced to open or not to open an inning if the team requires so, I am at a loss to understand why Yohanna or Inzamam would shy away from batting at number three? Why is it that we sacrifice a wicket simply because these gentlemen are not at ease to face the new ball? Time and again it has been proven beyond doubt that no matter who you play at number three, it is inevitable that either Yohanna or Inzamam would be there to face the brunt of the new ball because none of the sacrificial lambs offered to opposition are good enough to provide the much needed cushion for the holy cows of Pakistani cricket. So why bother sending Younis Khan or Muhammad Hafiz? But then we are not to question why? Learning from our mistake is simply not our forte. However, we yearn to devise and most definitely like to improvise, which works at times but then it does not most of the time.

The tour Down Under was just that, most of the time! I am tempted to go on and on and pray for the fat lady to sing and rid me of this pain, but I dare not since the last she sang was not a pleasant experience for all of us Pakistanis, if you know what I mean! I am not at all qualified to question the know-it-all since I am neither an ex-cricketer nor a bureaucrat not even a sports journalist; I am merely an ordinary Joe who represents the much-touted silent majority. I am the person who pays for all those silly commercials that run beyond their allocated time. I am the Allah Ditta or Khuda Buksh Jokhio who spends hours braving heat and police batons only to sneak a glimpse of our heroes exiting the airport lounge. We are the ones who risk our lives climbing electric poles and water tanks to hoist our national flag because we are proud to be Pakistanis. Therefore, it is us who need an explanation and not the hoity-toity executives exchanging pleasantries in their well-furnished offices in the cultural capital of the country!

Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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