Just when everyone had written off the Pakistan cricket team, which was quite clearly in sync with all else going steadily downstream, it has revived itself brilliantly. The cricket World Cup obsession is giving moments of greatest joys to the South Asians, as the matches are played out and the Pakistan team continues to perform extremely well. Cricket is a gift from the days of the British Raj and has been played in South Asia ever since. Everything else takes the backseat during the World Cup season. It has the unifying force that cuts across all ethnic, political and social divides. No important meetings or events are scheduled during this time. I know of a wedding that was pre-booked at a hotel in Lahore for April 2, the day when the final is scheduled where, to overcome the risk of having zero attendance, the hosts are actually making arrangement for two large screens in the banquet hall to show the match One can well imagine even the bridegroom being missing from the scene after telling his mother that one can marry any day, but the World Cup final is only once in four years. And particularly one in which your country may be playing The Pakistan team has been afflicted with one crisis after another in the recent past and was going through what has probably been the worst phase of their history. That sorry image has changed with this World Cup. They have made a fabulous comeback by beating all the biggest teams and cutting them down to size. The explosion of joy, across the country, with each win, enabled the people to temporarily forget all the other types of explosions. The label of unpredictability given to Team Pakistan is true for the larger country as well which has the potential, within it, to rise to the very top if it is allowed to follow its natural leanings, instead of being held hostage by reactionary elements. Because of the security issues India and Pakistan, traditional rivals, have not been able to play with each other for some time now. Destiny and good playing has brought them face to face in the exciting semi-finals that are to be played at Mohali, India, on March 30th. It is only a game, but an India-Pakistan match has the tendency of becoming more than just a sport with both sides making it a do or die effort. For Pakistan, a win in Mohali will lift the country from the depths of despair and give it new faith in its abilities to overcome the worst crisis. Quite like the words spoken by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on the eve of independence, A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. The game of cricket has almost become synonymous with our search for self-discovery and self-respect. For too many years all that should have been our hallmark, a tolerant, progressive and enlightened country, a beacon for others in the region, has been a playing field for those who believe in the exact opposite. Pakistanis, from all corners of the world, descended in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to support their team. These Pakistanis, who are trying to find a secure future for their children in faraway lands because of a deepening sense of desolation about their home country, also want so desperately a place of pride for Pakistan in the comity of nations. It was so evident that it is a bond they do not want to let go. They would like nothing better than for the country to revive and resurrect itself so that they can dream about returning to their roots again. Pakistanis, at home and abroad, as was opined by a columnist are tired of 'fighting the monsters from the past, of being repeatedly betrayed by their politicians and by the breakdown of national institutions and constant humiliation and persecution by so-called allies. We have to begin anew, avowing to learn from our mistakes because we cannot continue to die bit by bit. As Mirza Ghalib, the famous subcontinental poet, puts it succinctly, Hummay kya bura tha marna, Agar aik baar hota. Postscript: The stories that are coming out of Japan, after being hit by one of the worst earthquakes, speak volumes for the character of that nation and inspire nothing but admiration for them. There has been not a single visual of chest beating or wild grief. No rough word or crude gesture has been seen by those queuing up for water and groceries. There were no incidents of looting. When power went off in a store, people just put things back on the shelves quietly and left. Restaurants cut prices and unguarded ATMs were left alone. Fifty workers opted to stay back to pump sea water in the N-reactor. The media showed magnificent restraint in their bulletins. There were no silly reporters, only calm reportage. There was no honking or overtaking on roads, just understanding. People bought only what they needed so that everybody would get something. Apart from that the ability of their architects was highlighted when the buildings swayed, but did not fall and the incredible training of all the citizens, including the young and the old, who knew what to do. Japan displayed, in its massive natural calamity, the best of human values. The writer is a freelance columnist.