June 19, 2009 Leave a comment
Watching Pakistan beat South Africa in the semifinal of the World Cricket T20 Championship last night was like watching a soaring eagle make a swift swoop from its perch to capture an unsuspecting prey with its claws. Throughout the match, South Africa struggled to loosen the stranglehold which Pakistan had placed around their neck, but in vain. In the end, they were agony filled short by seven runs from the penultimate target of 150 which many pundits had predicted would be easy pickings for South Africa. While the streets of Karachi and Lahore erupted with euphoria over reaching another World Cup final by the Pakistan team, Johannesburg and Capetown had deserted and dejected fans pouring out of pubs as their team once again failed to reach the final of a major cricket tournament.
This time round, it was not the weak or choking South Africa, rather an extremely determined and strong Pakistan side that made the difference. True, Pakistan started this tournament as one of the also rans and no one predicted they would go beyond the Super 8s let alone reach the final. Of course, on the way, they had lost to Sri Lanka and England making them as one of the weaker sides to compete. But Pakistan, as we all have learn to love and predict, is well, quite unpredictable. It has the talent to bounce back from any situation and the team has a never die attitude which makes the games extra special.
The transformation of Pakistan began somewhere in the middle of the the game against Sri Lanka. The initial 10 overs that they bowled to Sri Lanka were well, something nothing to be written about. Starting with conceding 18 runs in the first over, the combination of extras, rudementary fielding and half vollies let Sri Lanka race to over 80 runs within the first 8 overs. But as soon as the spinners were brought in to bowl, the match turned as Sri Lankan batsmen failed to cope with the spin and the run rate slowed down to a halt. Pakistan did eventually lose the game by 19 runs but the game could have easily swung in their favor had they controlled their line and length in the initial overs.
From then on, they did not let any team take any advantage of them, beating New Zealand, Ireland and now South Africa in quick succession and each time more convincingly than before. Their bowling, fielding and even batting began to click. Players like Afridi, Yunus, Kamran Akmal began to contribute with the bat while Ajmal, Afridi and Gul continued to mesmerize the batsmen with their bowling.
It is ironic that the best and most talked about teams have not made it the final. Heck, Australia was knocked out in the preliminary stages and well India, the tournament favorites, never seemed like winning a game in the Super 8s.
This year, BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) prevented Pakistani cricketers from playing in the IPL (Indian Premier League) hoping to score a few political points against their arch rival neighbor. Hence, Pakistani cricketers were the only ones not to feature this May in the IPL, while the best of the world competed out and honed their skills for the upcoming T20 World Cup in June. The world expected Pakistani players will be too rusty and too out of shape to even make any impact during the world cup.
Rather the opposite happened. The very lack of competitive cricket has made Pakistani team even more hungry for victory. While Dhoni and his men seemed lethargic and tired, Pakistani cricketers seem to have a new spring in their feet and a vigor to win from any situation. South Africa and New Zealand have found that out the hard way. True they were rusty in the beginning but once the shine returned, all that is glittering is gold. Pure gold.
Go Pakistan Go! Win us this World Cup. This nation deserves a few tears of joy as it has shed plenty of them for sorrow that has besieged it these past many years. We are praying for you.