x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Home from home and hungry for more

For these supporters 50 overs may as well be five days. Time has accelerated as patience has ebbed away. Two blocked shots and it is a full scale mutiny of the multitude. "If only Virender Sehwag was from Pakistan", one fan mutters.

In Abu Dhabi commuters wait forlornly for a taxi home, the weight of a weary day on drooping shoulders; necks craned to spot that elusive cab shoot around the corner. But it never comes. Television schedules move from drama to drama while shoes tap impatiently on curbstones. Three miles away across the desert, under the glare of floodlights stand a rank of taxis; empty and unhailed. For today Pakistan are playing cricket. The steep grass banks are chock-a-block with passionate fans, fizzing with expectancy, salivating at the thought of the feast that awaits. Three overs have gone by and only one streaky boundary. For the younger generation, weaned on a diet of Twenty20 patience is wearing thin. " We want fours", one young man shouts in exasperation. "I'll open the innings at least I'd have a swish" says another disgruntled observer. For this isn't an era of attrition. The cricketing lexicon has had to move with the times too. No longer are 'circumspect' or 'watchful' adjectives to be admired. Fans have no time for a 'drive' or 'deflection', they demand a 'heave' and a 'mow'. There is no doubt that Twenty20 has injected excitement into the sport but players not driven by adrenalin must now face the wrath of the boo boys. In their coaching every mistake is scrutinised, every risk minimised. But now a risk not taken is a crowd not stirred. And for these supporters 50 overs may as well be five days. Time has accelerated as patience has ebbed away. Two blocked shots and it is a full scale mutiny of the multitude. "If only Virender Sehwag was from Pakistan", one fan utters. No-one raises an eyebrow let alone offers a rebuke. A hero is a hitter wherever their from. A thousand people stand in unison to applaud the ball cross the boundary. The batsman has a reprieve, for now. But theirs is a voracious appetite and he will have to deliver more food for thought, over after over, course after course. The pressure rises and the pressure cracks as a hopelessly optimistic slog to leg ends with middle stump pegged back. But the crowd cheer using every cubic inch of their lung capacity. For the wicket brings Afridi to the wicket. The smasher of the fastest century of all time. The only man who can sate their unquenchable thirst for sixes. They are in the desert and they want it to rain runs. Standing on the tips of their toes, 2000 eyes home in a whirl of arms that is their messiah. He won't disappoint! He can't disappoint! He who dares loses; scooping an easy catch to mid-on. But his genius is in his intent; inconsistency is forgiven. A thousand taxis return to a waiting city still hungry. With Twenty20 vision a feast will never fill. tbrooks@thenational.ae