Pakistan-Australia: Alack!

By Anjum Altaf

First, the result – A disciplined, professional team easily took care of a ragged, mercurial bunch of individuals. Lightning did not strike. No miracles occurred.

As we watched the pathetic procession in the first half, lines from Macbeth came flooding back:

… a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing. 

Then, as comments began to circulate, the dissension amongst the faithful was captured by the lines that immediately followed the above:

  • [Enter a Messenger]
    Macbeth. Thou comest to use thy tongue; thy story quickly.
  • Messenger. Gracious my lord,
    I should report that which I say I saw,
    But know not how to do it.
  • Macbeth. Well, say, sir.
  • Messenger. As I did stand my watch upon the hill,
    I look’d toward Birnam, and anon, methought,
    The wood began to move.
  • Macbeth. Liar and slave!
  • Messenger. Let me endure your wrath, if’t be not so:
    Within this three mile may you see it coming;
    I say, a moving grove.
  • Macbeth. If thou speak’st false,
    Upon the next tree shalt thou hang alive,
    Till famine cling thee: if thy speech be sooth,
    I care not if thou dost for me as much.
    I pull in resolution, and begin
    To doubt the equivocation of the fiend
    That lies like truth: ‘Fear not, till Birnam wood
    Do come to Dunsinane:’ and now a wood
    Comes toward Dunsinane. Arm, arm, and out!
    If this which he avouches does appear,
    There is nor flying hence nor tarrying here.
    I gin to be aweary of the sun,
    And wish the estate o’ the world were now undone.
    Ring the alarum-bell! Blow, wind! come, wrack!
    At least we’ll die with harness on our back.

We died. Amen.

The game epitomized the relationship of the audience to faith. As a signal, before the game began, pre-teen voices started taking turns on the loudspeaker of a nearby mosque with the refrain: “All my dreams will come true, I only have to take your name.” Viewers were in the same mood – hopeful the Almighty would bless the team, at the same time fearful the outcome might be otherwise. Having left it all to the Almighty, there was a strange sense of helplessness in the air – the sort when one trusts in God but fails to tie the camel.

That kind of sums up the fate of contemporary Pakistan – running on faith with nary a thought of the untied camels. The attitude does have a short-term upside, if one could call it so – once the verdict was in there was no postmortem of what led to such a sorry display, no inquiry into the myriad problems that beset all aspects of the game. So be it, Allah did not will it otherwise. Back to business.

Amongst the agnostics, talk naturally turned to India, now, deservedly so, the only South Asian representative in the tournament. There was acknowledgment that the Australia-India semi-final would probably be the first competitive match in the knock-out stage. People agreed the Indian team played with a lot more common sense in keeping with the situation of a match as it evolved. Someone observed the Indian players also sought blessings from goddesses – but only as insurance, after having tied their respective camels.

In the end it all boiled down to God, goddesses, and camels and their relationships to one another.

Good luck India.

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