By: Omair Alavi
Last year they were in doubt for the Champions Trophy because of their pathetic performance; this year they are on top of the world due to a comeback that doesn’t happen every day. Pakistan Cricket Team stunned the world of Cricket by beating South Africa, Sri Lanka, England and finally India in the ICC Champions Trophy when even their biggest supporters didn’t believe in them. Let’s take a look at the ‘Five Star Pakistan’ and how they managed to achieve the impossible.
Sarfraz Ahmed – Captain Courageous
Pakistan has had many Captains since the inaugural ICC Champions Trophy in 1998 (then the ICC Knock Out Tournament) but none managed to steer the team into the grand finale. Had Azhar Ali been the skipper of the side, history might have repeated itself again but not this time as Sarfraz Ahmed had out-of-the-bo ideas. He steered his side into the semi-final with a courageous knock like never before and later masterminded the demise of hosts England, the pre-tournament favourites. With luck and ‘Ramadan’ on his side, Sarfraz took India by the horns and bullied them in the final, a feat not small considering the arch-rivals beat the Men in Green easily in their opening encounter.
No respite from left arm quickies
For the past 4 years, Pakistan tried pacers who weren’t good enough for international circuit; Mohammad Irfan didn’t know how to use his height as an advantage, Wahab Riaz was the left-armer with Mohammad Sami’s brain and Rahat Ali who was clueless to any plan because he had no idea where the next ball would pitch. In comes Pakistan Super League and Pakistan got Rumman Raees knocking at the doors of international cricket. The return of Junaid Khan ensured that the Amir-Junaid pair would recreate the magic they did in Australia (without much success). After the first match where Pakistan lost as there was no Junaid Khan in the final XI, the coach was compelled to select him over the super-expensive Wahab who conveniently got injured after going for 80-odd runs in nearly 9 overs. Junaid came with the stability of a genuine pacer and with Amir attacking at the other end, they proved too hot to handle. In Amir’s absence, Rumman Raees impressed all and had it been up to me, I would have selected him for the final instead of the useless Imad Wasim who bats like a tail ender and couldn’t bowl in the grand finale, otherwise, Pandya would have managed to score a century.
Hasan ‘The Bomb’ Ali
At first look, he resembles a substitute fielder no one cares about but with the ball in his hand, Hasan Ali is the bomb. He comes in, delivers the ball and when he gets the wicket, explodes in his own style. Since making his debut last year, he has been a revelation and it was about time he got into his mood in the biggest event of his career. Hasan Ali dismissed the best batsmen in the event and whenever he got the ball, he got a wicket. In an event that had the best bowlers competed for the highest wicket taker tag, Hasan Ali won the competition with 13 wickets in 5 matches. Remember the name!
Good openers come to those who wait!
Azhar Ali and Fakhar Zaman provided Pakistan with not one but 2 opening stands of over 100 in back to back matches – things that used to happen in the past when we had good, solid batsmen as openers. Their association at the top proved that Ahmed Shehzad was the weak link as he failed when the going got tough. Also, it showed that it’s about time we move on from Kamran Akmal and Co. because Fakhar provides the team the explosive start it requires. Azhar Ali’s quick run scoring surprised the Indians in the final as he changed gears when Fakhar was being targeted. After his dismissal, Fakhar blasted his 3rdconsecutive score of over 50, and when he reached his century, he ended the careers of many who were hoping he would fail.
Never underestimate the Old
Mohammad Hafeez surprised the Indian team as well as the Pakistani supporters by scoring a quick-fire half-century at number 5. He scored fours and sixes as if there was no tomorrow and people who wanted him out of the side were cheering for him. Had he got the required support from his batting partner Imad Wasim, Pakistan might have scored well over 350. Shoaib Malik also looked good throughout the event but he couldn’t convert his good start into a big total. They both can bowl as well so they might be required to be a part of the revival that can take the team into the top 5. Right now, we are the sixth best team in the world which is not a bad thing, considering we were 8th a few weeks back and on the verge of extinction from ICC Champions Trophy, this time last year.