Pakistan cricket team has never been great, but definitely they are the greatest unpredictable side in the world. Having won one World Cup in 1992 under Imran Khan’s captaincy they have proclaimed themselves as, “The Cornered Tigers.” I would say they were lucky to have escaped from the jaws of defeat in the earlier round matches and managed to win a couple of crucial games before reaching the semi-final. I am not sure how many of our bloggers have watched that entire 1992 WC live or even seen it on video. Perhaps most of our bloggers were either toddlers (it is 19 years now) or, they were not big enough to remember it very well. Therefore, I would like to recap some of the facts for our readers which will help them in understanding the Pakistani perspective about this 2011 ICC WC.
During the 1992 WC, one of the most crucial matches that earned Pakistan a single point was against England in which they were all out for 74 in forty overs. Lucky for them, the rain gods saved them from a certain defeat, the match was abandoned and both teams got a point each. Pakistan lost a few other matches against India, (so far Pakistan has never beaten India in any of the world cups) South Africa and West Indies. Against WI, despite Ramiz Raja’s pathetic 102 runs they were comprehensively beaten rather butchered by Haynes and Lara who won the match by 10 wickets.
Pakistan beat Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka during those days were not so fearsome as they are today but, that WC did a lot of good to that team that the next WC in 1996 was won by them. Zimbabwe were considered as minnows 20 years ago and they are still minnows. The only other well known top team that Pakistan beat in the 1992 WC was Australia. But, Australia in that WC despite having the Waughs, Boons, Jones, Healys, Marshs and Borders were off colour and out of form and the Kangaroos lost most of their matches except for the most crucial match from Pakistan’s perspective and that was against their arch rivals West Indies. The result of that match was so important for Pakistan that their loss against the West Indies meant, Pakistan the so-called cornered or wounded tigers would have been caged and dispatched back home.
New Zealand played all their round matches at home and they won every single match against every single team that they played in that tournament except for the last round match that they played against Pakistan. And, Pakistan were fortunate not to play against New Zealand earlier on because, they were unsettled which is so typical of them to start as losers. The last round match they played was with some authority and conviction. First they undid the New Zealand aggression plan by getting them out for only 166 and then, despite playing a slow innings Ramiz Raja’s second hundred of the tournament and Javed Miandad’s crafty innings they won the match easily.
The win against New Zealand worked like a tonic for the team and New Zealand had to play the semifinal at home. And in the semifinal it was Inzamam ul Haq who announced his arrival in the world with a swashbuckling 60 and Miandad once again played the anchor role with a fifty plus and remained not out. And, Moin Khan’s couple of sixes did the rest to end New Zealand’s short lived euphoria of beating almost all the teams at home and losing against Pakistan and exiting out of the tournament.
England was one of the most consistent sides in that tournament and they were beating their opponents with ease except for the shocking defeat at the hands of Zimbabwe but, they had more wins to reach to the semis and in the final they started on a very solid note with Pringle sending back both the openers, Amir Sohail and Ramiz Raja (between the two of them they scored 3 centuries in the tournament) and suddenly Pakistan were facing an uphill task with 2 wickets down for only 24 runs. It was Imran Khan who took the initiative and came at number 3 and Miandad at number 4 and between the two of them they took the total to 163 before Miandad getting out after scoring another solid 50 plus and Imran remained top scorer of the match with his priceless 70 runs and exceptional batting at the time when it was needed most.
The partnership of Imran and Miandad was indeed very slow, first 100 runs were scored in 30 overs and the next 149 runs the team scored came only in 20 overs. The effect of the solid partnership resulted in boosting the confidence of Inzamam and Wasim Akram, between the two of them 52 runs were scored in the last 5 overs. A total of 249 doesn’t appear as a dependable or a total to defend but, in those days it was just about average. (The highest total of the tournament was by Sri Lanka against Zimbabwe, the later scored 312 and set a target of 313 to win and Sri Lanka won that match. England had earlier scored 280 against Sri Lanka and beat them by 106 runs.)
After setting a target of 250 for England, the biggest dent that Pakistan made on England’s psyche was getting Ian Botham out on a duck in the second over that put England on the defensive. Hick, Stewart and Gooch also departed early and Pakistan were on the top but, Neil Fairbrother and Allan Lamb were threatening and only to be outsmarted by Wasim Akram who got Lamb and Lewis on two consecutive balls which are the hallmark of Wasim Akram’s bowling. Not only him, but the whole nation remembers the two beauties that he produced.
The summary of 1992 may sound like the summer of 1942 the only difference is Pakistan had a lot to talk about it even 2 decades after it happened whereas the poor kid of the movie may not have talked about the soldier’s wife who left him behind abruptly and all of a sudden by making his dream a reality and then leaving him to crash for the rest of his life in memories that only he can cherish. But, that is only a movie.
Coming back to the 2011 World Cup in the sub-continent and talking about the game of cricket from Pakistan’s perspective, it would be a folly to expect an encore or a repeat performance from the team with so many combination and permutations at stake. Pakistan’s best chance to win the WC for the second time was when they were in the final in 2003 but, they threw away the match and, whatever the reasons may be I do not want to discuss them here now. So, expecting Shahid Afridi’s team to surprise all other teams is a “fishful” thinking.
Afridi is boasting about his side as, dark horses or “the most dangerous side in the world” is another example of brainless blabbering and a complete braggadocio. At a time when he has to keep his mouth shut and display humility by under playing with words in front of the media, he is boasting about the unpredictable future. Everyone knows that Pakistan are underdogs and they should keep that to their advantage and surprise the teams rather than claiming to be dangerous and capable of winning the cup. He can talk whatever he wants to in the dressing room to raise the morale of his team but, not in front of the media. If Pakistan fails like they did against Ireland in 2007 they will be a laughing stock once again. This time the format is different but, the team is just the same they are capable of losing two or three matches in succession to find an easy way to exit out.
My suggestion to Pakistani fans is, DO NOT keep any hopes from Pakistan winning the world cup, just hope that they take each match seriously and try to win it, take the first step and then the second and so on rather than trying to take a leap all at once. They must consider every match, be it against the minnows very seriously and win with a big margin. They can achieve this if they do not lose their focus from the game. Improve their fielding, play aggressive cricket and play their natural game.