" Unforgettable scenes for many"
2009 is coming to an end. With the schedule of the traditional MCG test match taking place between Christmas and New year I will be unable to review the annual affairs. 2009 includes the death of MJ which took the globe by shock, the Susan Boyle saga, an Ashes victory for England, the catastrophic Lahore attacks, Usain Bolt’s world record and Pakistan’s T20 triumph. I would like to review, reflect and cherish back my favourite and most memorable of the T20WC victory which was a significant rejuvenation for the nation’s image.
Pakistan started as losers. They were clearly struggling and several bloggers and writers were bragging on about how un-innovative and lacking of flavour this side consisted of. They insisted for a change of stance for the PCB by recalling the ICL cronies. During the warm up matches Pak were comprehensively defeated by SA and India. The team morale had melted as if cricket was never born and many fans were extremely doubtful about Pakistan’s overall chances in the competition. They were expecting another flop or national humiliation of which this decade had done to the country’s image. It was declining in leaps and bounds as social and political problems descended as if the past was forgotten. I even wanted a Pak defeat so the board would realise their pathetic infra structure and make some major alterations for the better and foreseeable future. I wanted a drastic PCB realisation otherwise the lows would have continued to occur and further isolate the country’s image. After all cricket is or has been the only method of igniting and uniting for the matter, Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s nation. It was one of the only ways one could realise the beauty of patriotism which used to be a wonderful thing at this instance, not any more. The lyrics of “Hum Hain Pakistani”, “Dil Dil Pakistan” and “Pakistan Zindabad”were looked upon as meaninglessness at the time and not with the bounty of pride, unity and patriotism. In fact one may exaggerate to saying veritable disgrace. There were levels of prejudice taking place in the Western nations but yet arts couldn’t or didn’t look like rescuing the reputation of the 62 year old nation dominated by troublesome acting’s.
The first match came against England at the Oval. The anticipation was of abundance as people were gathering around in groups next to TV- sets to watch this encounter. There was a great “buzz” about it. Pakistan was struggling but England was no better which revived some hopes, kind of mine as well. Gul and Ajmal bowled well but England mastered a good total. Pak were always playing catch up with the required run rate and were unable to get hold of the England bowlers. There was certainly firepower lacking in the batting department which was a necessity for the T20 format. Adil Rashid and Graeme Swann bowled tightly in tandem and the scenario was all “too little-too late” for Misbah to come in and drive us home. A disastrous start. I for one speculate that this led to Qadir’s resignation from being the board’s selector. The lion of the nation, Imran Khan also slammed the team’s performance. Step in Wasim Bari who was temporally fulfilling the role and what change he brought in the June aftermath.
So the team morale was on a low as Pak took on the minnows Holland who had just made a major upset by beating the hosts, England. Pak couldn’t afford for one minute to take the game lightly as they had been eliminated by minnows, Ireland in the depressing 07WC. There were flashbacks of upsets in the supporters’ minds. But Pak ensured there wasn’t a repetition of 07s early elimination as they beat Holland comprehensively in a one-sided affair. Pak hit several sixes during their innings with the captain hitting 3 of them . Kamran Akmal stole the headlines with his half century but there were contributions from everyone. Meanwhile, with the ball it was Afridi who dominated the show with his canny legspin claiming figures of 4-11. He was supported by Ajmal who claimed 3 and also Malik who joined the party with one. This suggested spin was bound to be a key strength for the side as they took 8 wickets between them. The victory restored heaps of hope and really boosted the morale in the camp. Everything clicked smoothly and the victory was a fantastic “team performance” as everyone contributed and made an impact. They went out there and played expressive cricket which was impressive! I for one was feeling much better and knew that Pak may have turned a screw. I was hopeful this was a turning curve of bigger things to come. The spinners I greatly admired and knew this was an area where Pakistan could excel.
However, the aftermath of this victory was short lived as 3 days after Pak lost to Sri Lanka. Pak were on track for victory but lost wickets in quick succession towards the latter stages of the innings. Therefore, the next day was full of significance. It was a do or die situation for Pak and they took on the Kiwis. Younis Khan said that phrase with a smile on his face at the toss as if it was somewhat of a motivating analogy. This game also marked the return of Abdul Razzaq who’s all round credentials provided a balance to the side. He took 2 wickets early on but it was Shahid Afridi’s catch in Umar Gul’s opening over which really “turned the tables”. It was utterly astonishing as the ball went high and handsome and seemed to be sailing into a no man’s territory but the manner in which Afridi plugged that off was outstanding. This transformed Pakistan’s whole competition in the long term of events. From that moment onwards the magic and uniqueness started to blossom and suddenly Pakistan became an invincible and consistent unit whom dominated proceedings. I feel psychologically this had a major impact on the team because from that moment onwards the players were motivated, showing self belief, encouraging one another and showing determination to go the distance. We could tell this was to be the case as implemented by their body language and expressions. The team seemed to be united and pumped up.
The invincibility of course all commenced with Umar Gul’s spell of 5-6. He bowled with firepower and consistency and those figures he claimed certainly speak for themselves. Such a performance demolished the Kiwis for just 99. From there Pakistan eased to victory. Against Ireland in the following encounter Pak dominated the scene. Kamran Akmal notched up another half century but it was the bowling and fielding which stole the headlines and really caught the eye. Every bowler contributed and took wickets at regular intervals with Ajmal claiming 4 of them as the Irish men were clueless to his well disguised doosra. Consequently, Pakistan entered the knock out stages as they progressed to the semi finals with some big players really beginning to come to the party.
So then came the semi finals against SA who appeared to be by far the tournament favourites. They were strong in all 3 disciplines but had somewhat of a reputation of choking when it came to the big stage. Pak had to play out of their skins to beat them. Pak clearly seized the initiative in the opening overs as Kamran Akmal got the innings off to a flyer with his flourish of boundaries. He was looking in great knick as Pak were 28-1 after just 2.2 overs. But then Shahid Afridi came to life with his batting and played a gem of an entertaining half century which included 4 consecutive boundaries but after his departure the tempo had slowed down as Pak concluded with 149-4 in their 20. Kallis was looking in tremendous form as SA were cruising when batting but when the score was 40 Aamer brilliantly caught and bowled Smith. Afridi followed it up by bowling Gibbs and De Villiers in quick succession. Suddenly, Pakistan had the squeeze on the game. Kallis was batting well but wasn’t being provided with support on the other end. Umar Gul although wicketless produced an outstanding and thoroughly economical spell as the SA batsmen were unable to get hold of him which really pushed up the required rate. Kallis departed and Pakistan fielded with tremendous intensity as SA fell short in Nottingham. The Pakistani supporters celebrated largely and were absolutely overwhelmed as were the players. They new this could be their moment of triumph. From Zero they were about to become heroes.
Sunday 21st was the date of the final played at the picturesque Lords venue, the home of cricket. The support Pakistan had was of abundance. The intensity and anticipation was astonishing. Everywhere Pakistani’s gathered to watch the game all around the globe. They wanted a victory and knew the significance behind it. Aamer bowled the first over and seized the initiative. 4 dot deliveries were followed by a wicket. His tactical plan of bowling short was a well thought one and payed dividends as the dangerous in-form player, Dilshan departed when it mattered most. Abdul Razzaq showed his class and claimed 3 wickets in his opening spell. Sri Lanka were 32-4, Pak were on top. Although the likes of Kumar Sangakara repaired the damage it wasn’t enough to defend against the immense depth of Pakistan’s batting. Kamran Akmal played another effective cameo to set the innings tone. But it was the partnership of Afridi and Malik which guided Pak home. They played a very mature innings but as the same time played the big shorts when required. It was amazing to see how Afridi could actually control his instincts but he did and did it superbly. When he hit the winning leg bye it was a sight of sheer satisfaction as if he was at the top of the world. He ran to the non strikers end and lifted his bat in one hand and the helmet in the other with his arms held up in delight for a finishing photograph. Pak expressed their emotion openly as the players charged on the playing arena as overwhelmed individuals. The lyrics of “Dil Dil Pakistan” played out jubilantly in the background. Lords was a sea of green. What drama and what scenes! An unforgettable scene for many. The story was full of irony and meaningfulness. Back in Pakistan people celebrated as if there was no tomorrow as they did in Pakistani community areas in UK and many other locations around the globe.
This victory and T20 triumph was significant because:
- It rejuvenated the nation. Previously it was in a state of political and social turmoil and the centre face of terrorist threats. The triumph finally provided the people with happiness to savour upon and united the country again with patriotism. This showed there was “light at the end of the tunnel” in a difficult period for the troubled nation. It was a dedication to the people of Pakistan.
- It was a long time since Pakistan won a major world competition. In fact a gap of 17 years.
Overall, the significance of the victory speaks volumes due to the situation of the country on a political and social front. Therefore, probably would be in the reckoning for one of most meaningful and significant achievements in sporting history which made it such a special triumph it was.