The word ‘unpredictable’ has been attached inextricably with the Pakistan Cricket for a long period of time. Their performance graph fluctuates pretty rapidly. They might seem invincible and egregiously ordinary in two consecutive days at the same venue.
Ever since the retirement of Misbah-ul-Haq, their entire team seems to be in a quagmire. Under the captaincy of Azhar Ali, their way of playing seemed so anachronistic as if they never left the 90’s. They did well in the quintessential test format but struggled in the limited overs. The dearth of power-hitters with the ability to improvise, death bowlers who can fusillade Yorkers inexorably, quality spinners and acrobatic fielders, and above all an appropriate strategy to survive in modern cricket harshly let them down.
Pakistan commenced their conquest for the Champions Trophy title as a team ranked eighth among the eight competitors, even below the Bangladeshis. They quite literally hit the rock bottom when they were pulverized by their arch-rivals in their very first game. Adding to their predicament, two of their most reliable pacers, Mohammad Aamer and Wahab Riaz were ruled out due to injury. Everybody, even the heartiest supporter of their team wrote them off.
If we take a walk down the memory lane, we would discover that there is a certain reason they’re considered as the Dark Horse in every tournament despite being in poor form. Right from the verge of being eliminated in 1992 WC down under, they pulled off an extraordinary feat by winning their only World Cup title under the captaincy of Imran Khan. They won the 2009 World T20 title under similar circumstances, after being banned from hosting any cricket match and losing comprehensively against India in the warm-up game. Therefore, what happened in this edition of the Champions Trophy isn’t that random at all.
Two years ago during the world cup hosted by Australia and New Zealand, a particular advertisement became a cause célèbre. The advertisement was about a Pakistani cricket lover’s excruciating wait to see his team defeating India for the first time in World Cup. It became a sensation is social media in almost no time to the ecstasy of 1 billion Indian supporters. Social media, being an inextricable part of our life nowadays, plays a telling role in forming a team’s image and with one after another deriding memes along with their mordacious comments can make a certain team look like an amateurish one. The selfsame thing has been happening with Pakistan until now with gradual exacerbation.
When Mohammad Aamer shattered the Indian top-order in his first spell, he not only vanquished India but rejuvenated the moribund art of quality fast bowling in the arena of limited overs cricket. With every uprooted stump and the faintest of edges Pakistani bowlers reclaimed the position of bowlers in a format where their kind is diminishing.
In naked eye they defeated South Africa, Sri Lanka, England, and in the end India to claim their first Champions Trophy title. But were these are the only oppositions they faced? Then what about the insults and derision that has been continuing for years? Probably this is the reason Neville Cardus once said, “There ought to be some other means of reckoning quality in this the best and lovliest of games; the scoreboard is an ass.”