Pakistan win, conspiracy theorists lose
It doesn't take much to disabuse a country. In the sub-continent, you could do it by winning a match, writes Avirook Sen.
It doesn't take much to disabuse a country of the notion that it's been had. In the sub-continent, you could do it by winning a Test match.
Pakistani cricket fans, who were dreaming up reasons for their team's repeated losses as they perspired profusely under the thick blanket of goodwill (originally intended only for warmth), are beginning to believe that this series isn't 'fixed'.
And that Umar Gul's spell on day one had more to do with Pakistan's victory than Bush or Musharraf or Vajpayee.
Before this 9-wicket win, Pakistan’s losses in the series were being viewed as 'diplomatic concessions', made to please Uncle Sam, no less. (This, no doubt, is approximately the way a lot of Indians will view the loss in Lahore.)
But at least on this side of the border, the clichés about the best team winning have now made a comeback — a refreshing change, when conspiracy theories are all you hear.
Pakistan's win in Lahore came primarily because the team displayed at least two of the three qualities that Jinnah expected from his countrymen. They showed 'discipline' in the field — no one more than Gul, who wrecked the Indian top-order on the first day.
They had 'faith' — in their ability — despite the massive defeat in Multan. (The third quality, 'unity', is too much to expect within a Pakistani cricket team these days. But they have won, haven't they?)
Although the mood has lifted, it isn't that the conspiracy theorists have gone out of business. The popular TV spoof show, 'Loose Talk' continues to feed off them.
A leather exporter says he has information (it isn't clear how) that a draft Kashmir solution is ready: "Just needs signatures and a draw in the last Test.” And some of the more vocal former cricketers, even while saying the series is "definitely not fixed" offer nuanced responses.
But Lahore didn't celebrate Thursday's win as it might have. In fact, it didn't even celebrate the way it did when India won the final ODI. The final days of the Test were poorly attended despite some of the stands being thrown open (free) to the public.
Some blame the heat. Some, the fact that the fizz went out of the series once the one-dayers were over. Others persist with the theory that 'goodwill cricket' isn't the best spectator sport.
Pakistan's win seemed almost necessary in the context of all that's going on. On the street they're now predicting a draw in Rawalpindi. They're also hoping that some day, real peace will bring back the good old grudge games.