If you ever write off Pakistan, do it on your own peril.
Some of our armchair critics did that after Pakistan lost to India in a one-sided match. But as if that injection, that kick in the back was needed for this young and energetic squad.
Pakistan bounced back, incredibly…. incredible, because Pakistan had barely qualified for the Champions Trophy. The cut-off date for the CT qualification was September 30, 2015 and Pakistan had to play a tri-series in Zimbabwe, also involving the West Indies. Pakistan Cricket Board feared if the team loses to any of the lower ranked teams in the tri-series it would lose the eighth ranking and would be ousted from the event.
It turned out to be a wise decision. From nowhere Pakistan lifted the trophy. The win should go a long way in lifting Pakistan cricket. The first signs have appeared as number eight are now number six.
Pakistan have never been able to cash on to successes, for the ineptness of the officials who are at the helm of the affairs. But Pakistan Super League’s success since it was launched in 2016 raises hopes that besides the PSL, this Champions trophy win will lift Pakistan cricket to new heights.
The core of this young team, admirably led by Sarfraz Ahmed and backed by an efficient team management will make it a further cohesive unit so that it could be ranked amongst the top favourites of the 2019 World Cup.
This is a hope, an optimism but there remains fears that the good work could be wasted. If political upheavals affects cricket then, God forbid, all will be lost.
Pakistan’s build up for the Champions Trophy was far from ideal. The manner in which Umar Akmal was sent back left a bad taste in the mouth. There were arguments, questions and apprehensions. Have we thrown out our best slog overs batsmen? Who will hit out and give the innings the much needed impetus in the final overs? Will Pakistan win a single match in the CT?
After the one-sided defeat to India at Edgbaston on that cool Sunday, even the warmest and most passionate of sentiments were freezed. There were calls of sacking the captain, barely into handful of ODI matches. Coach Mickey Arthur was lashed out at, fitness culture which Mickey and his team were trying to introduce since last year was mocked at.
But incredibly all were proved wrong.
The manner in which Azhar Ali was sacked as captain and was not deemed able enough to play ODIs by leaving him from the squad for the West Indies ODIs and then selected for the Champions Trophy was inexplicable. It left Azhar under pressure but the ever-trying batsman showed great intent in transforming himself into a solid batsman. The fact that he scored three brilliant fifties — two against India — proved that his ouster was wrong. He proved that a technically sound batsman can be handy in limited over matches.
Fakhar Zaman and Hasan Ali were outstanding. They left lasting impressions and are players for the future. Even at 18 Shadab Khan has the heart to take a review in the final and when he was proved correct, it added to his stature that he can take decisions on his own.
Mohammad Hafeez was criticized for his lack of contributions but his innings in the final, hitting 34-ball 57 not out with three sixes and sour boundaries proved that he belonged. He is here to stay.
Shoaib Malik has been doing well ever since he has staged a comeback in the team in 2015. His brisk 16 not out may not be notable but for the fact that his quick scoring helped Pakistan get above the Duckworth-Lewis formula once rain abandoned the match.
All said and done, experts and fans must leave the door open when they criticize, for there are always chances that Pakistan will bounce back.