No-Look? No, Look! Look At Saim Ayub, Pakistan
Evening sky 0 – 1 Saim Ayub
“That has gone many a mile! What a shot that is off the hook!” The ball sails through the air into the inky sky. The camera follows the ball as it falls into nature’s court.
The setting sun might have been busy painting a canvas with the most stunning shades of amber and crimson, but it had just been challenged by a 21-year-old boy standing in the middle of a cricket field poised on one toe, balancing the other one high up in the air, his head bowed, eyes lowered – an enthralling vision of bravery. Your turn to serve, proud evening sky.
He isn’t done there, though. Another boundary comes off his bat the next ball just like they had come in the balls prior to that shot that left us all in awe – for perhaps, the hundredth time. We had seen him play that shot in the domestic tournaments. And we had seen it make appearances in the Pakistan Super League. But this was international cricket, and there it was again, that outrageous shot. He has to depart soon after, though – his excellent innings cut short by an unfortunate run-out. He walks back, having scored 27 off 8 deliveries. A strike rate of 337.5. Three sixes in that short outing. A powerplay start straight out of a T20 textbook.
He is disappointed. Understandably so. Pakistan are disappointed. Understandably so. Who knows, the result might have favored the Men in Green had he stayed a while longer, looking as confident as he was. So sure of his shots. So sure of his abilities. Execution near perfection. And not an ounce of doubt in his mind. Not a glimpse of second thoughts in those determined eyes while he attacked the opposition in all corners, playing his most natural game, completely comfortable in his element. The fact that he had just been given a chance by breaking Pakistan’s “best opening pair” (in T20Is), as the captain had called the Babar-Rizwan pairing, in a press conference a day earlier, did not seem to bother him. He did not know pressure. This was his game, his format. And he knew how to play it.
He had already taken four catches in the field before giving everyone that small peak into a T20 batting masterclass. A glimpse at what powerplays for Pakistan could look like in the future if they utilize the resources at their disposal smartly. The innings was also a reminder of an innings by him against the same opposition last year. He had walked out to bat at 4 in that first T20I in Lahore in April last year and scored a quickfire 47 before, like today, being run out. Maybe the only way of getting him out when he is looking that good is by running him out? It is a nice thought to think. A nice idea to believe. And a nice sight to watch when the boundaries flow naturally off his bat.
But be wary of putting him on too high a pedestal yet. Let him be. Let him play his game the way he wants to. Let him evolve into the best version of himself without the pressure of high expectations. Let him enjoy and own his game. And while he does that, enjoy watching him play that glorious no-look shot very often. Because while he refuses to look, you must. You must look at his shot. Watch him balance himself on one toe. Record it. Screenshot it. Save it. Print it. Plaster it all over your room’s walls. And savor it. That man, right there, standing still like a magnificent statue while the ball flies out of the field, is your man, Pakistan. Protect him. Adore him. And let him color your future bright.