Pakistan’s victory in the T20 World Cup has once again made results on a cricket field appear larger than what they may represent: triumph of skill and excellence in a sporting arena.
It somehow always becomes a story of hope and redemption whenever a country, ravaged by existential problems, excels on a world stage and all of a sudden, sport is seen as a panacea for all the ills and wrongs in a society.
India and Pakistan have used cricket diplomacy to bridge the divide between the two countries, but despite its positive benefits, it has a limited role. Beyond a point it may be even dangerous to invest cricket and its players with a role not meant to be theirs.
Pakistan's victory is no doubt to be celebrated for many reasons, not the least for what it means for cricket. Despite being shunned by the world, their performance has re-emphasized the point that that the game will be a great loser if Pakistan gets marginalised due to political reasons.
Yet, it can be no one's case that all cricketing nations should start visiting Pakistan just because they are world champions now. We are living in dangerous times where the bullet appears to be the only effective means to either protest or quell that protest. In the process no one is safe, not even sporting icons, as the Lahore attack on Sri Lankan cricketers showed. Hence to believe that Pakistan's win at Lord's should change the way we perceive the world would be a very naive response to a complex situation.
Let us celebrate the win for what it is. It just goes to show that Pakistan cricketers, despite setbacks, still retain the zest and passion for a game in which they are talented and if they were to vanish from the cricketing firmament, it would be a sad day for the fans.
The Afridis and Guls of this world have, by displaying their immeasurable skills to perfection, reminded us that we need them as much as they need us. So does the cricket world, which despite its best efforts, has not been able to expand its base. Zimbabwe no longer seems to exist as a cricketing nation and Bangladesh has reached a stage where, if they were to be divested of their international status, no tears would be shed.
Pakistan's win also goes to show that there are no favourites in the shortest form of the game, which is still being decoded by fans and pundits alike. What is thought to be perfect strategy one day turns out to be disaster the next. The world is still searching for patterns which would help fans read the game and give coaches the ammunition to help teams formulate strategies.
This World Cup has also firmly planted the T-20 virus in our genes, and it may now become increasingly difficult for a fan, bred and brought up on this instant food, to appreciate and savour a delicious course spread over five days!
The cricket world may have changed forever! Purists like us can take a walk.
Pradeep Magazine Advisor, Sports