A sea of green at Edgbaston

In Sports
June 01, 2024



SLOUGH, ENGLAND:

My saintly other half, who is forever on the hunt to plan outings that will jazz up our lives, one day announced, ‘Exciting news! I’ve booked us all tickets to watch Pakistan play England in Birmingham!’

My interest in cricket died a brutal death with the downfall of the short-lived (but thrilling) Lime Green Era circa 1999-2004. So the other half’s exciting news was not met with the enthusiasm he had expected.

However, he got the requisite enthusiasm some moments later when I realised that a two-hour one-way trip to Birmingham, followed by T-20 match would mean no cooking for the day. Perhaps we stop for nihari on the way back! Yes! All was falling into place. The day arrived, and we all donned our Pakistan cricket shirts (in a burst of patriotism, I also dug out my neon green earrings). off we went, procuring 2 backpacks’ worth of junk food along the way. Even the rain held off. The prospects were – literally – bright. 

A sea of green 

At Edgbaston, if you could in your mind’s eye construct a sky-high metal barrier and dry up the grass a bit, you may as well have teleported to National Stadium in Karachi. As the stands burst at the seams with about a billion fans in green chanting “Pakistan Zindabad” in sync, there was no mistaking the pressure on the shoulders of our esteemed Pakistani athletes. 

The only thing that gave away the fact that we were not in Pakistan was the posh blond man sitting two rows ahead, and his two companions. I felt a mild pang of sympathy for them, although our cricket team swiftly erased this traitorous misplaced pity and redirected it back where it belonged: inwards. 

As Shaheen Shah Afridi began his run-up, with the crowd poised on the edge of their seats trying to navigate his ball stump-wards with the sheer power of their minds, Rania, my third-born, piped up, “I don’t understand cricket.” 

Seeing as we were still on ball one, I gave a long, patient spiel on how six balls make one over, and how the players swap over from end to the other once every over is completed. “But what is the point?” she asked. 

I should have swapped seats and placed her next to her father, but he was neck-deep in the middle of a thesis on why Haris Rauf should be booted from the team. Saddled with a wife who can’t remember any player’s name since Moin Khanand a child who has reached the age of 10 without knowing what an over is, he was making the most of finding a kindred spirit in Birmingham. 

“Was that you I saw in the crowd when Iftikhar took Bairstow’s catch?” asked a cousin on a WhatsApp group. 

I have no idea what I was doing when Iftikhar took Bairstow’s catch. I was most likely looking for honey-roasted peanuts in the wrong backpack, or maybe rethinking my decision to leave the Kindle at home. In any case, the only thing I knew about Iftikhar was that the crowd desperately tried to rename him Chachoo. 

Broken hearts 

Despite the overs ticking away, the Marco Polo-esque cries of ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ continued unabated. “This is a really good match,” said Zara, the middle-born, who knows as much about cricket as Rania does. 

I blame her delusion directly on the two hopeful youths who started off Pakistan’s innings with the repetitive charming prediction, “They can definitely do this!” The overs dripped away and the players fell by one, but their deluded optimism remained constant. “It’s okay!” they would cry. “All they needed is fewer runs, more overs, and more players! Just five sixes and we’re back in the game!”

Not even the smirk radiating from the back of the blond man’s head could dampen the enthusiasm of the misguided young men who believed in the power of five sixes. In any case, the blond man stood up and did a little dance every time England did well. Nobody hit five sixes. He danced a lot that day. 

As the match drew to its inevitable sad conclusion and we reached the car, Rania, still desperate to improve her understanding of cricket, said, “I still don’t understand. You keep saying that they swap over after every six balls, but what is a ball?” 

“Oh my God,” said Rayan, her supportive brother. “A ball is a ball. How can anyone be so clueless.” 

The scene was set for the two-hour drive back home. Three tired kids, one angry at the scoreboard, one clueless about balls, and one sad that the peanuts had finished. What a merry drive back home! Our designated driver was spent. “I have a great idea,” he said. “Let’s just pick up some naan and we can have it with last night’s baingan for dinner.”

From dreams of picking up nihari to heating up last night’s baingan in the microwave – I don’t have the words. 

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