By Hammad Ali
Growing up, I’d always harboured a special love for the simple predictability and reliability of numbers. A 6 will never magically turn into a 10 without reason, nor will a subtraction sign break your heart and turn into an addition sign. Numbers, statistics, maths — these were all simple, predictable. So initially, when my love affair with sports first began, this passion for statistics only grew. I began speaking in batting averages, bowling averages and strike rates, studying them with a diligence my mother still wishes I’d invested in schoolwork instead. In my childlike naivety, I believed that in knowing these stats, I could predict the results of the sport I was watching. I thought memorizing every statistic available on a certain team or player would somehow help me predict how they would perform. My motivation, not surprisingly, was completely selfish — I enjoyed walking around with a smug smile on my face, telling people that they were wasting time and energy with their misplaced hope for players and teams numerically doomed to underperform. I relished that hint of moral superiority; the kind a vaguely self-righteous man feels when he wakes up to pray at dawn, then walks to the mosque to make sure everyone knows what a grand sacrifice he has made.
Of course, this all happened before I gave my heart to the one team that would make a habit of breaking it: the Pakistani cricket team.
My love affair with sports began slow and steady: a casual amusement, an enjoyable distraction. Somewhere along the way, though, this was replaced with a strange sense of “patriotism”. It was oddly thrilling, getting sucked into the competition as 11 men performed in an international arena clad in the bright green of our flag. The feverish, rabid obsession of everyone else’s love for the national team started to rub off onto me. I especially found a role model in one man: Inzamam-Ul-Haq. Inzamam represented everything I could believe in and look up to: a nice, somewhat quiet, moderately heavy set guy who’d somehow made a name for himself as an international athlete in a sport that favoured the quick, lanky and brash. Plus, most importantly, he was predictable in his performance; managing to come out brilliant just about every time he came on to the pitch. (This might not be true but I have the absurd habit of only remembering the good things about the teams and players I love).[pullquote] I enjoyed walking around with a smug smile on my face, telling people that they were wasting their time and energy with their misplaced hope for players and teams numerically doomed to underperform. [/pullquote] There was something I had not accounted for as I became more and more invested in our cricket team though: Pakistan is, and always has been, an anomaly in the world of statistics. They were the undisputed world champions at being utterly unpredictable, regardless of what their statistics and years of experience might say. If you were to pick out a stranger who’s never heard of cricket and hand him a bat , then have him face one of the best bowlers in the world, there is more than a 90% chance he’s going to miss. Put that same person in a Pakistani jersey, throw him in the spotlight, and you’d have the same success rate, if not worse. But you’d be foolish to bet against him, because you simply can’t predict when that measly, unexpected anomaly will occur. You never know when the tables will turn, and those 150 runs will magically grow into 230 in the space of 10 overs, without relinquishing a single wicket. You won’t know what hit you when, against all odds, he’ll end up demolishing one of the world’s best batting lineups in the metaphorical blink of an eye. Only someone from the Pakistani team could achieve that.