No team plays with the ‘unpredictable’ tag as much as Pakistan does. On some days, they can annihilate perhaps the most formidable team if their bowlers stick to tighter lines. And then there are days when monumental batting collapses see them snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The Pakistani team symbolises the two extremes. One moment, they’re formidable, the other, they’re helpless. The outcomes keep hovering between these two extremes and the emotions of their fans keep fluctuating like those numbers on a heart-rate monitor.
Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once said: ‘Success could be defined as moving on from one failure to the other without losing your enthusiasm. For only in failure, can one learn about one’s shortcomings and improve themselves before making an attempt to conquer their next objective’. The men in green seem to have turned this thought into action. The Pakistanis entered the tournaments as underdogs. Their loss against India on June 4 in their opening fixture in this edition of the ICC Champions Trophy saw them being written-off from the list of contenders. But, destiny clearly had other plans.
Thumping wins against the Proteas in their second group stage fixture and an extremely unlikely victory against the Sri Lankans saw them book a place in the Semi-Final, but the best was yet in store. A synchronised effort in the all important Semi-Final clash against the Englishmen saw them marching into final of the tournament. A clash against arch-rivals India in the final again saw them being labelled as ‘underdogs’, but a herculean effort saw them upsetting the Indians by a margin of 180 runs on the big day.
In a tournament that began with a terribly shoddy performance, and then a turnaround of epic proportions, the men in green saved their best for the last. The inclusion of Fakhar Zaman and Junaid Khan gave purpose to the men in green, who until then, were staring their way into oblivion. Fakhar Zaman’s inclusion in the playing 11 meant Azhar Ali could take his own sweet time to get things underway at the other end. Fakhar scored 31, 50, 57 and an all important 114 in the summit clash against India. This fearless approach ensured a steady tart for the men in green.
It’s quite difficult to assess the men in green in the build-up to an ICC event. A closer look at their limited overs side sheds light on the fact that they have a considerable amount of experience within the side. A person looks that their side, there’s Azhar Ali, who can play patiently in order to lay down a strong foundation. There’s Fakhar Zaman, who had been in a rich vein of form in the latest edition of the Champions Trophy and can hit the ball hard right from the word go. The middle order is packed with Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik. Both these players can play quality strokes in the middle overs. They can bowl a considerable amount of overs as well. Sarfaraz Ahmed, the skipper, can make some useful contributions while batting down the order. He perhaps possesses the calmest of heads in the dressing room. His innings against Sri Lanka in a virtual quarter-final clash saw Pakistan booking a berth in the Semi-Final.
The bowling line-up looks as good as ever with young seamers stepping in. There’s Mohammad Aamir, who can tear the opposition apart when he bowls line and length and swings the ball. There’s Junaid Khan, who is no less dangerous than Aamir with all those variations coming in, and then there’s Hasan Ali. The youngster has had a wonderful time in the Champions Trophy, 2017 taking 13 wickets in the tournament. He has used the Yorker quite brilliantly throughout the tournament. The Pakistanis can play cricket as good as anybody, and yet, one looks at their side and says: ‘They are not quite up there’. But surprisingly, the Pakistanis have this habit of punching weights well above their heights.
Their win against a batting-heavy Indian side in the final of the Champions Trophy has come quite against the run of play. Cricket in Pakistan has seen some of the darkest hours in the history of the game. A terror attack on the Sri Lankan touring party saw all cricket playing nations avoiding a tour to Pakistan. Pakistan cricket team found a new ‘home’ in the United Arab Emirates. Several controversies including the infamous spot-fixing controversy during Pakistan’s Tour of England in 2010 saw the team going all the way down into the gutters.
Despite the sorry state of its affairs, the team has produced some excellent cricketers. Hasan Ali, Fakhar Zaman, and Mohammad Aamir are shining examples. It would be fair to say that they didn’t have the strongest of teams, but it would be equally fair to say that the best teams around don’t always end up winning trophies. England, who began the tournament as favourites, saw their hopes of lifting an ICC trophy being crushed by a resilient Pakistani side.
Like an old Gimson & Co. Steam engine, the men in green took their time to get things underway, but once they did, they saw everything falling into place. A team that was criticised quite heavily for its sheer lack of application in the first game against India came out all guns blazing thereafter. Neither logic nor science would be adequate to derive the reason behind this turnaround of epic proportions. For the time being, let the world enjoy this beauty in unpredictability.