Once again we are fast approaching another Cricket World Cup. As a Pakistan cricket supporter for 40 years I wished to share my personal experiences of how we can prepare for this emotional roller coaster ride. Each time the Pakistan players walk onto the pitch our National pride is at stake, emotions run high. These feelings are exacerbated when we play our neighbours India, old wounds come alive. We all tense up, it’s not cricket, it’s a WAR! This I feel is the crux of the problem, we need to appreciate the game of cricket and enjoy it whether our team wins, loses or draws. Our players literally put their lives on the line each time they are on the field. We should not expect them to win each and every time. All strong teams have their sell by date eg. the great West Indies team of the 70’s and 80’s. They are successful for a certain amount of time then comes the decline, then they improve again.
Once we recognise cricket as a sport and not take defeat as an insult to our honour, we are able to deal with the emotions in a positive way. There is documented evidence that when teams lose there are physical and psychological consequences for the fans. Road traffic accidents, heart attacks, even domestic violence increases after a team’s loss. During competitions, passionate supporters often have a disturbed sleep pattern, poor diet, lack of focus at work, increased time off work. In some cases the frustrated fan has destroyed their TV set.
There is no fixture more intense than Pakistan v India. At extremely tense moments of the match, fans will become hyper stressed, their pulse and blood pressure will increase putting more strain on their heart. Lack of attention to medications and insulin can make diabetes control worse. To complicate matters further Asians have a higher incidence of heart disease and diabetes.
If your team wins, national euphoria results, everybody is happy. However if they lose, the passionate supporters turn against their previously loved team. The heroes go to zeroes, in a flick of a switch. Crowds gather in the streets expressing their disappointment. Depression can set in for supporters and players alike, this can last for many months.
The 1992 World Cup was the highlight for Pakistan cricket, it lifted the whole nation. In 1996 we were less fortunate, losing in the quarter finals. In 1999 Pakistan cruised to the World Cup final against Australia. We were convinced Pakistan would win, I had already predicted that Australia would be trashed and promptly informed all my English colleagues! At Lord’s Pakistan won the toss batted first and were demolished for 132. Australia raced to the total in 20 overs. Our hearts were broken, party over. I hid from my colleagues and didn’t dare talk about cricket for at least a year. It was a devastating blow.
In 2003 and 2007 our expectations were not raised as Pakistan were eliminated in the World Cup group stages.
The next low point came in 2007, T20 final against India in Johannesburg. Final over 6 runs required from 4 balls, 9 wickets down, Misbah ul Haq plays a scoop shot and gets caught out at fine leg. Again the hurt and upset was immense.
In 2011, Pakistan made it to the World Cup semi finals only to be beaten by India.
My faith in Pakistan cricket was again resurrected in 2009, as Shahid Afridi scored the winning runs at Lord’s beating Sri Lanka in the final, for the T20 World Cup.
Now older, wiser and greyer, I have learned and modified my psychological approach to cricket tournaments. In retrospect we should have been proud of the Pakistan players for reaching the World Cup final in 1999 and 2007, it was an enormous achievement. The lessons learned are to be humble when your team wins, have respect for the opposition. If your team loses give credit to the team that played better on the day, even if you didn’t support them.
With this type of self counselling I have gained a certain level of cricketing emotional maturity, although it has taken me 46 years!
I look forward to watching the exciting international talent on show at the World Cup. I wish the Pakistan team the best of luck in the tournament. Their first group match against India commences on Sunday 15th February. Remember relax, stay healthy, keep smiling, after all it’s only a game.