Did Misbah and Younis deserve to bid adieu amidst empty stands?    AFP
Did Misbah and Younis deserve to bid adieu amidst empty stands? AFP

The spotlight was on the heart of the world of cricket, where moolah is minted on and off the pitch. New-age cricket, wrapped under sponsors names, hogged the limelight and TRPs. At the other end, two volatile sides that are shadows of their pristine past tussled in the traditional format.

To marketers, West IndiesPakistan versus IPL is akin to a David-takes-on-Goliath affair. In jam-packed stands, men in pyjamas play in kits where sponsors logos overlap each other to an extent that you are left wondering what the original colour of the jersey is supposed to be. Thousands of miles away in the Caribbean Isles, Test cricket continued amidst empty stands. The only focus here: Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq, giants of the game, played their last Tests.

Fandom is the stepping-stone to a career in cricket journalism; and fandom begins with hero-worshipping. Before buttoning the pretentious cloak of the intellectual in the press-box with a laptop, there was this me whose room was once studded with stickers and posters of the Tendulkars and Gangulys and Akrams and Warnes and Laras of the world. The intent of eating chewing gums was either to replicate Shane Warne or collect cricket cards. The incentive of buying biscuits was to collect the trivia books and stand a chance to go to a World Cup. The repeated try-agains never deterred spirits.

The many avatars of me from another era form a group of passionate journalists. The online ones have by-hearted the gospel of page-views; if you are working in India, you know what takes precedence around this time of the year.

But what about the fan that made you a journalist?

The moment

May 13, 2017. The midnight approached. Misbah and Younis were at the crease when the former attempted a slog sweep off Devendra Bishoo to perish. A career, one of a gentleman, an icon, a great, came to an end. As he took the long walk back, I jumped off my seat leaving my work unfinished and rushed to the television to witness the long walk back.

Misbah hugged Younis. The West Indies players, each one of them, congratulated the Pakistan skipper. The moment had not sunk in. Pakistani fans at Roseau broke into an emotional celebration. The television camera zoomed in on Misbah s wife in the spotlight

Not all captains call their team a family. The Misbah fan in me yelled within in disbelief, Is this it? The slower he walked back, the calmer I felt. It meant the longer he would remain on the cricketing whites. As he walked through the guard of honour, I consoled the fan in me, He will be back during when Pakistan will field.

Engulfed in the scenes, I watched with three of my colleagues and

Oh wait Hardik Pandya is winning it for Mumbai Indians. As Misbah took the slow, long walk back for one last time, I took a short sprint to my seat to live report how Umesh Yadav had played the delivery. Really? I asked myself.

Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders were battling it out at Eden Gardens for the No. 1 spot in the IPL points table. This was important. After all, our bills are paid by catering to the interests of masses. Eden Gardens was filled with four times the city of Roseau s population. In fact, Eden Gardens can accommodate the entire 73,000-odd population of Dominica, whose capital Roseau was the venue for the Pakistan-West Indies Test.

The reality remains: in the cricket heart of the world India, more eyes watched Umesh batting when Misbah faced a ball for the final time.

The world will continue to exist. The game will go on. And we will have to live with this fact.

Soon it was the turn of Younis: a legend, a role model, one of the finest batters ever. He perished trying to play the sweep. The entire IPL vs #MisYou scene is re-enacted. What was I doing? Transcribing IPL interviews post Kolkata s loss. I ran to the TV screen to feel the goose-bumps as memories of my teens flashed before my eyes.

Once upon a time, here was an avid follower of Pakistan cricket. Younis, along with Shoaib Malik, was a part of my journey from adolescence to adulthood to fatherhood. In an era where we watched the flair of Saeed Anwar, the elegance of Inzamam-ul-Haq, the chic Mohammad Yousuf and the madness of Shahid Afridi, Younis stood out on his own: he was not about aesthetics and fluidity; instead, he was a man who answered to adversities.

While I romanced grace, I did admire grit. Never a fan of Younis batting, I held Younis, the cricketer, character and human in high esteem.

Among the several flashes of recalls came his proximity to Bob Woolmer, the tragedies he overcame Seriously, will Younis be sitting at his shop counter and selling mobile phones now? a thought struck. Then there was an instant smile recalling his fight with Inzamam during a football match while training during World Cup 2003.

The Guardian had reported: Younis committed the yellow-card offence and Inzamam saw red, fairly bursting with indignation as he lurched towards his assailant, who stood his ground. There was a meaty meeting of limbs but no punches were thrown.

The opener Saeed Anwar attempted to separate them but Inzamam took a dim view of the interference and shoved Saeed to the ground before Richard Pybus, Pakistan s English coach, decided the privacy of the dressing-room was a more suitable venue for resolving violent differences

Weird, obnoxious yet lovable: Pakistan cricket and its uniqueness.

Wait I have spent a few minutes on the Younis nostalgia. The mailbox was already flooded with IPL copies to be edited. A Katappa to the glitzy cash-rich (yes, I am using this word for a reason) tournament, I bowed to the throne and resumed my duties.

Kind cricket gods

Did Misbah and Younis deserve to bid adieu amidst empty stands? But how does it matter? They played a chunk of their cricket in empty stands at various venues in the UAE, a place that they had to forcefully call home.

Day Five, their last day at office, was a Sunday: another IPL double-header. Luckily, one turned out to be a one-sided affair and the other a dead rubber. Though the pressure remained the same, the intensity was comparatively less. Cricket gods were kind enough. Purist fans will know the implication.

The generosity of cricket gods extended further. They were kind enough to script a suicidal touch to West Indies defiant effort at the fag end to ensure the stalwarts walked off the greens, draped in greens. Pakistan won a series in The Caribbean for the first time in their cricketing chronicles.

Dusk at Roseau. Dusk to two luminous careers. Dawn in the subcontinent. We had witnessed the conclusion of one of the finest Tests. Dawn for West Indies cricket too, thanks to Roston Chase.

As the two greats fade out for Pakistan, their counterparts West Indies have unearthed a special one in Chase.

Cricket gets richer due to IPL. Cricket gets poorer due to such retirements. It sort of balances out with Chase added to the credit. The game continues

As for the comatose state of Test cricket in West Indies, David finally managed to have its dominating moments over Goliath, thanks to the thrilling Test matches. And this cricket journalist is not complaining.