The unthinkable before the tournament, desirable before the finals and the wow moment after it has had the Pakistani team overcome all odds to win the ICC World T20, after beating Sri Lanka in a rather lop-sided final at Lord’s.
No IPL, no problems!
There had been a lot of talk of how the players from the rest of the world would have benefitted from featuring in the IPL, the T20 format of the ‘domestic’ competition obviously supposed to help those who were a part to earn those bucks. As things petered out, Pakistan did not have any representation in the tournament due to political reasons, and they were left with having to feature in their own domestic T20 competition.
As I see it, T20 cricket is in such a nascent stage of its ‘career’, that it is difficult to have favourites or discount someone on the evidence of immediately prior T20 engagements. So while India had all their players, and South Africa managed eight of them too in the IPL, both crashed out early from the tournament. Apart from the big bucks, the Pakistanis hadn’t missed out on anything by not being a part of the IPL; an excuse not a lot of other players may be able to use as a veiled means to pocket the riches!
Be Afridi, be very Afridi!
Whatever that banner in the crowd wanted to convey is in all probability beyond the author of the placard too, but if there was one man who changed the fortunes of this team in not only the finals, but also the entire tournament preceding the Lord’s game, then it has to be Shahid Afridi. His run-up to the tournament had been mired with a total lack of confidence in his batting abilities, but his bowling came across as something he had been working on during all those cricket-drought months.
A promotion to the number three slot thanks to a captain who understood the man’s game and the influx of ICL-return Abdul Razzaq to the middle order saw Afridi explode in two successive and vital games, rather than pressing that self-destruction button that he has been so famous for. A little matter of bowling his four overs for 20 runs and capturing one wicket.
Bye-bye ICL, bye-bye Sri Lanka
Abdul Razzaq exploded back into the tournament with a three-wicket haul that broke the Sri Lankan back at the top. Bowling to a 7-2 field, he lulled Jehan Mubarak into playing a stroke that saw him playing an away going delivery to the empty leg-side region, while both, Sanath Jayasuriya and Mahela Jayawardene were done in by the bounce. Razzaq had made his comeback to the Pakistani setup a worthwhile one!
From one Khan to another
The last World Cup that Pakistan had won was in 1992, thanks to a brilliant leader in Imran Khan. This time around, the format may have been a trifle different, and to quote Arjuna Ranatunga, “a format that needs no skills, only luck for a captain”, yet, the influence of Younus Khan cannot be undermined at all. After having termed the tournament as a fun-series with nothing to fret over losing, Younus Khan came back well to rally his team-mates; most notably get the best out of the likes of Shahid Afridi and Kamran Akmal, who had looked as lost as a child to begin with.
The field placements in the finals were impeccable, so was his cool demeanour. T.Dilshan’s dismissal after softening him up with short stuff looked as planned as the New Year’s celebrations in Sydney, while that to get Mubarak to play across the line with only two fielders on the leg-side was a master-move that yielded immediate results. Needless to say, his calming influence in the field was a huge boost to both, the young and the experienced, and his treatment of ex-captain Shoaib Malik was a high point as well.
Mendis, Murali put to sword
In another well-planned manoeuvre, both the Sri Lankan spinners – Muralitharan and Mendis – were not allowed to settle down; Mendis smashed away as soon as he came onto the attack, while Murali’s third over going for more than twice what his first two had cost. Unfortunately for the Lankans, they had lost far too many wickets by the time Afridi and Saeed Ajmal had come into the attack, and they had no option but to pat down a few deliveries every over and eschewing the risks off the others.
Suneer is a freelance cricket writer and can be reached at suneerchowdhary (at) gmail dot com