Monday, June 22, 2009

Pakistan...T20 Winners

The T20 final yesterday between Pakistan & Sri Lanka brought back memories of the 1992 World Cup held in Australia - New Zealand. The then Pakistan team was led by the indomitable Imran Khan, & were on the verge of elimination, when rains saved them in a match with England. they shared points as the match was washed out, & from there on the Pakistani team kept on winning against all odds, & eventually in the finals defeated the English team as well to claim the glittering trophy. Inzamam Ul Haq & Wasim Akram were the stars of the team to emerge from the shadows of the seniors.
This time around, The team has been led by another soft but firm spoken captain, Younis Khan. Again the tournament had started with losses & it seemed that the team would get wiped out soon. However, rains came to rescue once again, & the Pakistani team survived to reach the Super Eight. Here again, they lost to the Lankans, but came back strongly to defeat the Kiwis & then Ireland to claim a berth in the semis. The green brigade had by then tasted blood & were roaring on the field. They had risen like Phoenix from ashes as they consumed the tournament favourites South Africa in the semis & suddenly looked extremely capable of winning the title at the Lords.

The match started with the Lankans winning the toss & electing to bat. Over dependence on Dilshan & being top heavy in batting had to get exposed some day, & unfortunately it happened in the finals. Dilshan got out for a duck to Aamer & Mubarak sent ahead as a pinch hitter got out to Razzak, also for a duck. It was just the 2nd over of the match & teh score read 2 for 2. Jayasuriya along with skipper Sanga tried some lusty hitting, but the Paki attack was very lethal on this day. Suddenly the Lankans were reeling at 70 for 6 in the 13th over with Sanga waging a lone battle. Along with Mathews he finally stitched a partnership of 68 runs, with Sanga remaining unbeaten for a fine 64 of 52 deliveries & Mathews made a useful 35 from 24 deliveries. The total of 138 gor 6 at the end of 20 overs, was certainly worth defending, & challenging, though it was a good 2o runs lesser than what was expected of the batting order. Razzak, Afridi, Gul......all had contributed to restricting the famed Lankan batting. The law of averages had caught up with Dilshan & the Lankan batting had crumbled.

When Kamran Akmal & Shahzaib Hasan came to chase the total, the Lankans needed quick wickets to stay in the match. But the till now lethal bowling was put to sword as Pakistan went about the chase in clinical fashion. The first wicket fell at the score of 48 & the second fell at 63, but the asking rate remained firmly in control. Afridi & Shoaib Malik took them to victory in convincing fashion, as the Lankan attack could not make any dent. Afridi was a lost player in the initial stages of the tournament & there were serious discussions of dropping him. He looked completely out of sorts coming down the order, but CAptain Y Khan spoke with him, gave him confidence & the license to hit freely & asked him to come up the order. This had a radical transformation & Afridi had rolled back the years to find sublime form & become the player of the tournament. He claimed the man of the match in both semis & the finals to become the most valued player. Be it his batting or bowling or fielding, he was a man possessed. Last time the Pakistani team had missed it out to India y 5 runs, but this time they managed to retain their cool & made the most of the opportunities that came their way.
After 17 years, Pakistan had claimed a World Cup trophy in cricket, the last being in 1992. A country, which has been witnessing political turmoil, a country that has been witnessing terrorism show its ugly face time & again, a country, where no other team wants to tour to play because of safety reasons, now has a reson to celebrate. they can now stake serious claims again on hosting the next World Cup.

Its a team that most people love to hate, but its a team which keeps on producing world class mavericks, who entrall the crowds the world over. The Phoenix rises again...from the dirt.