Is Fun the Secret Ingredient for Twenty20 Success?
I want to place a proviso on this piece. The T20 World Cup is all about fun. It’s a fun-run fest. The tournament involves very little of the guile and skill that are so vital to the longer forms of the game. And so it is with this understanding that we can look upon the Pakistan side and confidently say that they are one of the very best T20 sides.
You need only look to their crushing win over New Zealand the other day for the proof. Pakistan had been performing woefully throughout this tournament. They had been crushed by better performing sides, and their own dreadful inability to do the basics well. But what they were doing was having fun, and this is the real tonic for T20 success.
Players like Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Malik and swashbuckling opener Shahzaib Hasan aren’t around for their ability to dig deep for hard-earned wins. They are there to have a good time, and they now seem to have worked out that the newest form of the game is the one that suits this the most. Chris Gayle worked this out a couple of months ago. He came out and said that he didn’t really care for test cricket, and that T20 was much more enjoyable. Gayle is almost the quintessential T20 player, combining incredible talent with a penchant for fun; he certainly doesn’t like working long and hard for a win.
So we come to the Pakistan victory. The commentators mentioned during the coverage that although it was a ‘win or go home’ game, Pakistan captain Younus Khan seemed almost jovial at the coin toss, and this was obviously the case. His team came out swinging, destroyed the Kiwi batting order for a paltry 99. However, it wasn’t grim, ‘back to the wall’ determined play that accounted for the Kiwi demolition. It was the likes of Afridi, who ran like Usain Bolt to catch a skier and then stood arms erect to the elation of the crowd. It was the likes of Umar Gul, usually a grim kind of fellow, who was suddenly flashing smiles, and taking the greatest ever figures by a T20 bowler. When it came time to chase the meagre total, the Pakistani’s didn’t just grind it out, they decided to have a good time and smash the bowlers around the park. Newcomer Hasan was mightily impressive in his strokeplay, as was dynamo keeper Kamran Akmal, and of course ‘Boom Boom’ Afridi.
The Pakistani’s probably won’t win this tournament. But they’ve learned a valuable lesson for T20 competitions in the future (of which there will be many). They’ve learned that you don’t have to take yourself too seriously to win, and now that they’ve worked it out, each game they play should be party central.
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