The entire cricketing world had pinned India to win the Champions Trophy Final against arch rivals Pakistan on Sunday, 18th June at the Kennington Oval. Often in sport what you least expect will most likely happen. Especially in a final there are certainly no favourites. It is all together a different ball game. It is all about which eleven can handle the pressure well. This is a pressure game, more so even with India and Pakistan contesting it, there is a lot more to it than just cricket. There are emotions. The players will always deny the fact and repeatedly state that it is just another game, but somewhere in the back of their minds they know, they always do. As fate would have it, Pakistan cricket team held their nerve a lot better than India ever did during the entire course of the match and became only the fourth country ever to lift all three ICC trophies.
“Dark Horse” Pakistan cricket team shines bright
Playing with purpose is not something that you would often associate with the Pakistan team but that is exactly what they did on the day. Coming into the tournament they were precariously placed at the eighth position in the ICC ODI team rankings and so even the most enthusiastic of the Pakistan fans would not have hoped for too much. Their first group stage match was against India and it is always said that your first game of a major tournament usually sets up the rest of the tournament. Pakistan were literally hammered. They did not look like an international one day side by any stretch of imagination and were taken to the cleaners by a more professional Indian side.
As they say, Pakistan and unpredictability are considered to be synonyms. Post their opening game they were a changed side. Some honest conversations, some harsh words of reality and some difficult choices finally did the trick for them. At the centre of it all was their captain, Sarfaraz Ahmed – who is one of the most underrated cricketers going around today and can become one of the best modern day leaders. In many ways he is similar to M.S. Dhoni – no flash, all patience. Their next two matches against South Africa and Sri Lanka. In both virtual knockouts the team came to the fore, showing intent and playing to win and not just making up the numbers. The semi-final clash with tournament favourites and hosts England was extremely convincing that this incredible run was not just a flash in the pan and they really did mean business.
Fakhar Zaman, Amir steal the show for final
There were two players who stood out for the team especially in the final. Fakhar Zaman and Mohammed Amir. Zaman was not in the playing eleven for the first match but ever since his inclusion he has been the change that has ensured Pakistan got a solid and quick start each time. He became the perfect foil to Azhar Ali’s cautious approach at the top of the order. For Mohammed Amir all I cay is that life has come a full circle for him. His career took a complete u-turn here in England not too far away from The Oval and he came back and played like an absolute dream in the final. Cleaning up the top order of the Indian batting order is never a minor feat let alone when it consists of players like Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli.
A lot of the credit for this performance has to go to Mickey Arthur, the coach and Ahmed, the captain. However, there is one more person who deserves the credit and he is a man who does not play international cricket anymore, former captain Misbah-ul-Haq. He is the one who picked up the pieces post the fixing scandal that threatened to derail Pakistan cricket. He built up a core group and gave them the freedom to play and the results are now showing.
Pakistan were somewhat in the same boat as West Indies prior to the tournament but now it can be safely said that it is a fresh beginning for them and they look a much brighter and better side post lifting the trophy.
Image courtesy: NDTV