If there’s one thing Pakistanis are arguably more passionate about than their chai, it’s got to be cricket. And you know what’s been the background score to our cricketing rollercoaster? No, not just the heart-thumping boundaries or the heartbreakingly close wickets. It’s those unforgettable cricket anthems that play in the back of our minds, perfectly encapsulating our emotions as the players take the field. Interestingly, these songs also became synonymous with the situation of how well or how bad Pakistan was doing back in the day it was released.
Remember the times when ‘Tu Hai Kahan’ would start playing, and we could practically feel the wind rustling through Shoaib Akhtar’s luscious locks? Peak Wasim Akram running in like a cricketing deity and making the bowl dance? It was like the peak of Cricket. It was like an all-star team with every player on it a larger-than-life star. While we had this epic crossover in the team, the same kind of awesomeness was going on in that World Cup anthem as well. ‘Tu Hai Kahan’ was a collaboration by Strings, Haroon, and the late great Junaid Jamshed? Insane is the only word that even begins to describe it. Pakistan didn’t win, but despite the unbeaten run, the loss to Bangladesh, and the dismal final – it was a World Cup that was supposed to be ours, but at least we got something good out of it.
2003’s ‘Hai Koi Hum Jaisa’, again by Strings, is another one which is a guaranteed bop, despite the worst showing by the team.
This whole write-up is making me realize something. Strings were really the Young Stunners of the boomer era, weren’t they? Now before y’all flip, hear me out alright? A 2-man act, musical trendsetters, with more collaborations and endorsements under their name than anyone we’ve ever known, both having worked with some major competitor brands and everyone in the creative who was working for them came to the collective realization that these people are physically incapable of making bad music. And thus, every brand at every event would just go to them as the easiest and safest choice. Strings are the undisputed goats of anthems though, so we can’t really fault anyone for that, can we?
Fast forward to the late 2000s, And well, it’s like the collective amnesia of cricket fans everywhere. We don’t talk about what happened before or after 2009. Remember ‘Tum Jeeto Ya Haro‘? Yeah, that catchy tune that became our cricketing mantra? It was basically a wordplay version of “It’s the taking part that counts.” Because wins? Nah, Bro. We don’t do that here. We were so incredibly bad back in the day and got so used to losing, that someone had to come up with a creative brief of ‘Make us feel not so bad about being losers’ and decided to hire Jawwad Ahmed to sing it.
It invokes a feeling of intense and sudden hit of depression, sadness, and tears when listening to this song. The horrendously dropped catches, the brothers whose name ends with the letters MAL and starts with an A, the trademarked collapses, the grouping and politics in the dressing rooms, the spot-fixing scandals, the still fast and furious bowling unit (shout-out to my mans Umar Gul, Junaid Khan, and Wahab Riaz) which did everything to stop the inevitable but to no avail.
Fast-forward to 2009, when cricket stars aligned, and we actually saw some light at the end of the cricketing tunnel. Amir’s magic, Guldozer’s toe crushers, Saeed Ajmal’s spin wizardry – it was a case of everything coming together at once. Even Afridi doing his thing with Hafeez making it look easy, and under the take-no-prisoners approach of Younus Khan’s captaincy steering the ship. Ah, 2009. Even if you got all the writers in the world to get together and write a better story, they couldn’t – Starting from that cursed scoop played by Misbah vs. India in the 07 finals. And the anthem?
Oh, boy! Call’s ‘Badal Do Zamana’ had us all singing along. And that chorus? ‘Badal Do Zamane Ko’ – it’s a whole mood, a vibe, a trip down memory lane. Personal anecdote alert: Did you know that the 2007 anthem by Call was titled ‘Hum Se Hai Yeh Zamana’? And the ’09 one was named ‘Badal Do Zamana’ – and the boys actually delivered on that promise.
The Rise of the 4 Pillars
Fast forward to 2017 after a few spot-fixing scandals, terrorist attacks, no international cricket in Pakistan, a lot of politics, and way too many heart-wrenching losses later, there we were again, standing on the precipice of Champions Trophy 2017. Little did we know that this would be the very stage where the stars would emerge – not just twinkle, mind you, but shine brighter than the floodlights at a night match.
Saiffy Bhai’s team, well, it wasn’t exactly flawless; we had our fair share of quirks and quibbles. But hey, did anyone expect it to be so darn iconic? Nah, didn’t think so. And yet, there it was – THE stage where Stars were not just born, but where they decided to blaze a trail, bulldoze their way, and leave the world in awe. We were a squad of underdogs, made fun of and ridiculed. But oh boy, the hiccups they faced turned into high fives, fist pumps, and roars of victory. The destructive sensation: Fakhar Zaman who made centuries look fun. There was also Shadab Khan, the teenage leggie with a spring in his step and a googly that could outsmart a Rubik’s Cube. And guess what? He would become one of the four pillars – a bowling all-rounder prodigy who’d send wickets flying like a wizard casting spells.
Pause for dramatic effect, because things get even more riveting; a few years later, entered Shaheen Afridi – he was not just a name; but a force of nature. Delivering yorkers & bouncers like a cricketing superhero, and the batter? He’s just a pawn in his chess game. We also stumbled upon the brilliance of Mohammad Rizwan – the short guy who swings the bat with the kind of precision that would make a surgeon jealous. Stepping up when the fan-favourite Sarfaraz Ahmed exited, Rizwan did more than just fill the void behind the wicket; he owned it.
And last but definitely not least, the seemingly unsuspecting guy named Babar Azam who was having a helluva junior year. His harmless demeanour fooled people because the moment he stepped foot onto the field, he would turn into a warrior – wielding his bat like a mythical sword, turning even the fiercest of deliveries into strikes of run-making magic. He was him. He was the one. The promised prince. The boy who was to revive a sleeping giant that was the Pakistan Cricket team.
You’re probably wondering, what even are the ‘four pillars’ exactly? I’m glad you asked.
‘Bobby,’ ‘Rizzu,’ ‘Shaddy’ & Shaheen. The 4 horsemen of the apocalypse. The generals reporting for duty under the king. The ones tasked by destiny with the heavy burden of being the centrepiece of the revival of Pakistani Cricket.
Now, let’s talk about that moment. Picture it: 2021, A sold-out Dubai International Stadium; the occasion? A match against India at the grandest stage of them all. The stadium pulsated with tension, anticipation, and rivalry, but soon the echoes of ‘they cannot play him’ were heard all around the globe. Our boys didn’t just play; they conquered, they soared and humbled a goliath rival team by putting it to sleep and boy did they do it with flair.
For the first time in decades, we didn’t need to remember the music. We didn’t need to play ‘tum jeeto ya haro’ or something because this time, the only music to our ears was the deafening sound of a cheering Pakistani crowd. But here’s the kicker – we didn’t win that World Cup, we didn’t even win the next one, but it was about something bigger back then. Something intangible yet so profound. They gave us something money can’t buy: Hope. When we were neck-deep in the abyss of despair the New Zealand and England boards left us in by cancelling their tours to Pakistan last minute, they emerged – Babar and his boys. They were like a beacon of hope, a lighthouse cutting through the fog of doubt.
Suddenly, the big teams wanted to play us, the critics had to bite their tongues, and the aura of invincibility was back. The pundits now seem to recognize us as one of the favourites in every tournament we play.
What’s there left for them to do?
One Semi Final loss, One final loss, and a million broken hearts later …
The cup is yet to be lifted.
The story is yet to be finished.
The prophecy yet to be fulfilled….
But even if they don’t, tum jeeto ya haaro suno, hume tumse pyar hai! (Except this time, we mean it)