Being a journalist, often we are expected to deliver our pieces from a neutral point of view. We have been taught at the start of our careers that by being unbiased in our reportage, we can provide the accurate narration of an incident or an event.
However, if you are associated with sports journalism, there are times, when the passionate fan inside us, gets the better of the scribe version.
Today was one such occasion.
Yes, India is my motherland and from a personal point of view, I would have loved to see Virat Kohli lifting the trophy on this beautiful evening at the Oval. But at the end of the day being an admirer of this great sport, you have to appreciate and acknowledge the fairytale of this Pakistan triumph and its consequences for their cricket.
This has been a tale of a unique resurgence, which I have experienced for a team in a particular sporting event for a long time.
Pakistan qualified for this ICC Champions Trophy as the number eight ranked One-Day International (ODI) team of the world. At the start of the tournament, especially after the humiliating defeat against Indian in their opening game, no one had given them the slightest of chances to even make it to the next round.
But defying all logic, they turned it around emphatically in their league games against South Africa and Sri Lanka and eventually ended up winning the competition by literally outplaying top ODI outfits like England and India in all three departments in the semi-final and final respectively.
Well, cricket never seized to amaze me. In fact, this Pakistan performance has given me an ‘I have now seen it all’ kind of a feeling.
However, for me, the most significant and impressive aspect of this Pakistan revival is the way they turned it around, especially after the scratchy victories against South Africa and Sri Lanka. I was in my nappies when Imran Khan’s ‘cornered tigers’ rose from the ashes to win the 1992 World Cup, but I am sure compared to that, the achievement of this Sarfraz Ahmed-led team is not a less dramatic one.
At the start of their campaign in Birmingham, Pakistan looked completely down and out. Their playing eleven was not sorted, their strategies were defensive and most importantly, the boys seemed to have the fear of another defeat against the arch-rivals – a typical Pakistan team which we have seen in recent years.
Now, compare that to the team which took the field at the Oval on Sunday.
A complete transformation, isn’t it?
Attack, attack and attack – that was what the primary game plan Sarfraz’s boys. First, we have seen the evidence of that in their batting and later, with the new ball, they came out all guns blazing with an attacking mindset.
Their bowlers, with almost 340 on their bag, were only thinking about wickets instead to containing – an approach which we used to associate with their fast bowlers from the golden era, when the likes of Waqar, Wasim and Shoaib used to run through the oppositions. On Sunday, Amir, Hasan Ali and Junaid just brought back the memories of those days.
Also, on the field, it was thrilling to watch Pakistan fielders diving around. When have you seen that for the last time?
For me, Amir’s spell of three for 16 in six overs was the turning point of the game. It was one of those ‘I was there’ kind of moments.
On the flat Oval wicket, India had the firepower to chase down 339. They just needed to play out the new ball with minimum damage. But when Amir’s lethal pace accounted for Rohit, Virat and Shikhar – India’s in-form top three, within the first powerplay, Pakistan almost had one hand on the trophy.
The rest was just the formality and Hasan Ali and co. finished it off in style to provide the long deprived cricketing community of Pakistan a new lifeline.
For any cricket enthusiast, a Pakistan team with momentum is a treat to watch. With the amount of talent this country possesses, for the sake of the game, Pakistan cricket needs to be strong and competitive. I hope the spark we have seen at the Oval, is not one off. I hope from here on the likes of Fakhar Zaman, Hasan Ali, Shadab Khan, Babar Azam and others under the guidance of their inspiring coach Micky Arthur will help Pakistan cricket to get its mojo back. I hope, this is the start of something new, something exciting for these boys.
Welcome back to the international arena, Pakistan. You were being missed.