Pakistan’s victory in the T20 World Cup in England was a win for world cricket. The problems that the country is facing has meant that they have had the hosting of the next ICC World Cup taken away from them, no country will tour Pakistan,because of the volatile climate there but specifically because of the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team, the last team to tour Pakistan. Pakistan are in cricketing limbo, without a home and without a clear future. They needed this, and so did cricket.
Before the T20 World Cup began the favourites were seen as the defending champions India, and the always strong Australia and South Africa. After the first week the clear favourites were South Africa and Sri Lanka. India made it past the first phase but were on the whole disappointing. They failed to win any of their Super 8 games and were sent packing. The blame was put on IPL fatigue. Yet only Wayne Parnel from the South African starting 11 didn’t play in the IPL, and they seemed not to feel the effects. Australia didn’t get past the first phase, losing to Sri Lanka and the West Indies. Only South Africa coped with, and lived up to, the favourites tag. Pakistan weren’t talked about.
They did what was needed to get through the first two phases and onto the Semi Finals. And then they came alive like only Pakistan can. The best team doesn’t always win the tournament, the best team on the day does. South Africa were the best team in the competition. The team was well balanced, had defined roles for each player, and was consistent and ran like a well oiled machine. Pakistan were the spanner in the machine. The flair and talent available to Pakistan is amazing – the consistency is not. But when an individual comes off Pakistan will beat anyone. It is perhaps unfair to say that Afridi single handedly beat South Africa, but that’s what it would have felt like. His batting had been terrible in the first 10 days of the World Cup, but pushed up the order in a gamble that paid off spectacularly, he got Pakistan to a total that was just enough to send South Africa out of yet another semi final. This was no South African choking. They fought and battled to the very end, but on the day they were beaten by Afridi with the bat and ball, and Umar Gul’s death bowling. No other team would have gotten to within 7 runs of Pakistans total batting second on that pitch.
In the final against the other then unbeaten team, Sri Lanka, Pakistan bowled and fielded as a team. On the rare occasions that they manage to do so they are very affective. Again it was Afridi with the bat, having found his form and confidence, that took Pakistan a step further than they managed two years ago in South Africa.
While it may seem that Pakistan stuttered into the semi’s before awakening in time to march towards the title, a look at the stats shows that they were in fact the best bowling team in the World Cup, and ended with the best economy rate as well as the leading wicket taker. They didn’t start spectacularly but they the were effective and did the job in the end.
Pakistan cricket has been in the news for all the wrong reasons for the past year or so, let them revel in the limelight of a job well done – and deserved.