Khawar Latif Khan |
From the time when, arguably, Pakistan’s strongest cricket team ever, lost the final of World Cup ’99 – and did not only lose, but was humiliated on the field – till now, this cricket-loving nation’s cricket has endured anything and everything which was there to be endured.
Batting collapses, check.
Foundering bowling, check.
Fielding blunders, check.
Captaincy failures, check.
Match-fixing charges, check.
Division and segregation in the team, check.
Being knocked out in the first stage of a tournament, check.
Cricket being driven away from home, check.
Not making, and then barely making, into an ICC tournament, check.
Heck, the death of the coach in the middle of a tournament, check.
Not a single person – back home or anywhere in the world – was expecting them to leave as champions, especially after the non-cricketing display of cricket in Edgbaston.
18 years… 18 years is the time in which a kid (the likes of Afridi and Tendulkar) is born and raised and makes his appearance on the international stage. 18 years is a time greater than the average career of legends and cricketing giants. 18 years is the time period including 4 World Cups and 6 Champions Trophy events. 18 years is how long Pakistan Cricket waited to see its men in the final of a 50-over ICC tournament.
Pakistan did get to kiss the Test mace for a short-time period. It did become the Asian champion in the meantime. It also held the T20 trophy, once. Apart from these three events, there was little to be cherished. Until now…
When the lowest ranked team in the tournament, with the wounds of corruption and match-fixing opened yet again, a young captain, a coach who was still struggling to find the right tactics, and no hopes whatsoever, started its Champions Trophy campaign earlier this month, not a single person – back home or anywhere in the world – was expecting them to leave as champions, especially after the non-cricketing display of cricket in Edgbaston. Seeing them being placed with the World No. 1 side, the defending champions, and Lankan Lions (who were much like them, but still a little better), one laughed and said, ‘Pakistan? Not even in the semis!’
Their second game of the tournament and the knockout phase had already begun for them…
What happened then?
It was as if someone had turned the rankings upside down.
World No. 1 side, defeated (Rain, rain, don’t go away! Come right now, this very day!).
The Lankan Lions, sent packing (Thankfully, someone feels more pressure than us!).
The experts, analysts, pundits, gurus, specialists, observers, spectators, former legends all had the same opinion: Pakistan doesn’t stand a chance.
But wait, it was not all luck. They stepped into the semis, against the hosts, runner-ups of the last event, and the favorites to clinch the trophy this time: England. The display of cricket we witnessed that day was out of this world. It was as if they were playing a practice game and the English players were programmed machines, having no idea of their home conditions, being controlled by the Pakistani bowlers and, later, the batsmen (the batsmen!).
Predictions? ‘India.’ Who will win the final? ‘India.’ Who are your favorites for the big game? ‘India.’
The experts, analysts, pundits, gurus, specialists, observers, spectators, former legends all had the same opinion: Pakistan doesn’t stand a chance. They have the golden bat holder, they said. They have the best batting order and one of the best bowling line-ups in the world; their fielding is exceptional. India is the dream team of cricket.
The young guns, though, had a different plan. It was not the side India had faced earlier in the tournament. It was no longer the lowest-ranked team in the ICC Champions Trophy. With over half of the team playing their first final of an event, and that too against India, when they walked out on Sunday, the intense atmosphere at The Oval was not enough to shake their confidence. They lost the toss; who cares.
They’d lost by 124 runs in Edgbaston; they paid back with an added interest of 56 runs.
Fakhar Zaman (thanks to Bumrah’s no ball) became Fakhar-e-Pakistan. Muhammad Hafeez started smacking the ball all around. Muhammad Amir (oh! that ‘ordinary’ bowler) made the world remember that he was from the same land which had produced Wasim and Waqar. Hassan Ali did what he had been doing throughout the tournament. Shadab, that 19-year-old kid, was as confident as if he’d been playing finals for ages. Sarfraz knew exactly what he was doing, as he’d done in the 2006 U-19 World Cup Final.
It was Pakistan’s day. They’d lost by 124 runs in Edgbaston; they paid back with an added interest of 56 runs. The pundits were proved wrong. The predictions were all disproved. The experts were all shocked. This is what Pakistan is capable of.
If you’re a Pakistani, and you love cricket (even if it is just a little bit), then yesterday was surely one of the best days of your life.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.