The world was shocked after the terrorist attack in United States of America in 2001. The Taliban hit the headlines as they were the culprits behind that heinous attack and one country felt the heat immensely after that disaster and that country was Pakistan. The terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, transformed U.S.-Pakistan relationships and Pakistan became one of the key players in the war against terrorism. Pakistan decided to join the international coalition against terrorism, which did not please the Taliban across the Pakistan border.
Pakistan, as a country, suffered for a decade and they are still suffering!
Inzamam-ul-Haq and Shoaib Akhtar crushed New Zealand in the first Test at Lahore in 2002, but the tour could not proceed further as a bomb blast outside the hotel at Karachi, where Stephen Fleming and his men were staying, led the New Zealand officials to abort the tour. The bomb exploded shortly before the New Zealand team were due to board their bus to travel to the National Stadium for the first day of the second Test, the last match of the tour.
Pakistan’s security came under scrutiny, but still, the Pakistan Cricket Board managed to host bilateral and multinational tournaments in Pakistan till 2009 when another shocking incident dashed the dreams of staging international cricket matches in Pakistan for almost eight years.
Sri Lanka were tourning Pakistan in 2009. The first Test at Karachi was all about Younis Khan’s triple ton, but tragedy struck before the start of second Test. Five police officers were killed and seven Sri Lankan players and officials were injured when gunmen attacked the Lankan bus which driving towards the Lahore Cricket Stadium. The attack was believed to have been carried out by Laskhar-I-Jhangvi, a jihadist organisation based in Pakistan with limited operations in Afghanistan.
That terrorist attack ended Pakistan’s credibility to host international cricket further and were forced to play their home matches in New Zealand, England and finally, they found Abu Dhabi and Dubai as their permanent venues to play a bilateral series.
The following year, Pakistan cricket was jolted by the spot-fixing saga. They not only lost the services of Mohammad Asif, Salman Butt and Mohammad Ami but also lost the respect of world cricket. It seemed, Pakistan cricket lost its way and there was no way to come back and stand up with their heads high. And when, Zulqarnain Haider unleashed another fresh controversy during the series against South Africa in 2010, surely, Pakistan cricket was doomed.
But when cricket is a matter of passion, it always finds a way out of the dark tunnel. For the Pakistanis, cricket is like oxygen and from the trash of sport-fixing and international isolation, the Green Shirts rediscovered their lost spirit and continued to carry on with men who were nowhere near Imran Khan, Javed Miandad, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis or Inzamam-ul-Haq.
It was up to a gentleman named Misbah-ul-Haq, whose international career seemed to be over by then, to bring Pakistan cricket back on track. Frankly speaking, none invested faith in Misbah, but gradually, he took Pakistan cricket to the top in Test cricket. He received great support from a lad hailing from Mardan, Younis Khan and formed yet another epic combination like Imran Khan and Javed Miandad to drag Pakistan cricket out of the mess.
Australia, England, New Zealand and South Africa’s brilliance were halted as Misbah’s men claimed the top spot in ICC Test ranking last year after that epic win at the Oval and when his men beat West Indies for the first time in the Test series in their own backyard, Misbah and Younis retired with smiles on their faces.
Brilliant in Tests but pathetic in 50-over format
Even though Misbah can be given a lot of credit for stabilizing Pakistan cricket, but all his glories came more in white clothes. In the 50-over formats, Pakistan lost their past glory and hit the rock bottom. Misbah was not an attacking captain and in 50-over formats, a defensive mindset can never fetch any good results. Under Misbah, Pakistan forgot how to accelerate and when Azhar Ali took over, Pakistan’s miseries in ODIs knew no bound. Azhar, as a captain was the carbon copy of Misbah’s defensive mindset and under him, Pakistan kept on sliding and in the end managed to grab the number eight position to register a place in ICC Champions Trophy 2017.
The fairytale in England
Sarfraz Ahmed was made the captain of Pakistan’s ODI team. He made a brilliant start by winning the ODI series in West Indies, but after the terrible display in the first match of ICC Champions Trophy against India, Sarfraz and his boys including the coaching staff digested heavy criticisms. Normally, none expected Pakistan to fare well against India as in any ICC events, India have always gunned down Pakistan and the encounter at Edgbaston was no different.
But Pakistan’s meek surrender and Sarfraz’s inability to absorb the pressure let the critics open their mouth.
While the rest of the world was engaged with teams like India, South Africa, Australia and hot favourites England, Pakistan decided to fool everyone with their unpredictable nature and whenever Pakistan’s journey becomes tough, they behave like a wounded Tiger.
South Africa, Sri Lanka and England were stunned by some unknown names like Fakhar Zaman, Rumman Raees, Shadab Khan and Hasan Ali while the skill of Junaid Khan and that bad boy Mohammad Amir memserised the very best. Meanwhile, Sarfraz shunned the defensive attitude of Edgbaston and transformed into a proactive captain. His field setting and rotation of bowlers did wonders for Pakistan and in the most important game of the tournament, the final match against India, he had to do little to gun down the men in blue as because, since that defeat at Edgbaston, Sarfraz was able to instill the attacking intent in his men and Pakistan played like the wounded Tigers.
Roar of the wounded Tigers
They are disliked by many. They are controversial. They are punched in the face and kicked on the rib cage time and again. They are deprived of so many things. They are an unrest nation. But despite so many setbacks, Pakistan, as a nation, continues to amaze us each and every time. And when the matter is about cricket, the Green Shirts never stop stunning us and the world.
How many would have thought that a number eight side in ODIs, whose credibility as a limited-overs team was under a big question mark would end up as the ultimate winner of ICC Champions Trophy 2017? On June 1, I said, Pakistan are a dangerous side and can do anything, but deep down, I never thought, they would lift the trophy. But, look, what has Srafraz Ahmed’s men done?
They just crushed the arch rivals, India, in the finals to break the jinx and surprised everyone. This is the beauty of Pakistan cricket. You cannot even guess what they are capable of. You cannot dare to analyse or predict them. They are the unpredictable species and an essential ingredient for spicing up the cricketing world.
The world has listened to the roar of wounded Tigers!