It all started in 2011. Pakistan was to play World Cup 2011. The country hero and superstar, Shahid Afridi was the captain of the team. Just a year before the World Cup 2011, they were tagged as cheaters and a bad image of Pakistan was made all over the world. More than that, Pakistan lost 2 main bowlers, Asif and Amir in that spot-fixing case. Imagine a squad for World Cup without two of your main bowlers who were beyond destruction for every batsmen. Pakistan goes with Umar Gul or what people nickname him as the dangerous ‘Guldozer’, Shoaib Akhtar and Wahab Riaz as the main bowlers. The bowling line-up was always the key factor for Pakistan. It’s like Pakistan is a factory which keeps on producing quality fast bowlers. On the other side, Hafeez was the best all-rounder back then. Consistent with the bat, nightmare with ball for lefties. Shahid Afridi, the BOOM BOOM! The hope of 20 million people. On the other side, Saeed Ajmal kept on aging and kept on getting better. He was probably the best off-spinner in the world back then. Pakistan started the World Cup campaign and boy, the world lost itself. In fourth or fifth match, every had Pakistan as the favorites for lifting the trophy. Things were completely different, it was not the Pakistan everyone saw a year ago. Then out of nowhere Shoaib Akhtar decided to retire in the middle of a World Cup. Well that was kind of obvious after being smacked for 26 runs in a over. It turned out to be the last over of his International cricket career. Pakistan filled with sheer class and passion went out on field in every every match and dominated the field, well except the one against New Zealand. Pakistan became the first team to defeat Australia in a world cup match after over 8-9 years. Yes, Australia’s winning streak was demolished, by Umar Gul and Co. Australia was restricted under 200, boom! In quarter-finals, Pakistan faced the West Indians! West Indians did not have a much better record in World Cups after the 2004 Champions Trophy but Chris Gayle, Darren Sammy and Bravo were on top form. But guess what? Yes, you guessed it right. West Indies were bowled out for 112 in the 44th over. Pakistan won by 10 wickets and were set face India in the semi final. It turned out to be one of the worst match in the history of Pakistan cricket as the electrifying Pakistani cricket team was not charged enough to chase 264. Misbah was highly criticized, he was even labelled as ”Tuk Tuk”. That tremendous world cup for Pakistan was ended up with a defeat in the semi final. Afridi was the leading wicket taker of the World Cup 2011 and later on he resigned as the captain and Misbah was appointed as the captain of T20 and One-day international team. He was appointed as the test captain before that, in 2010.
The start of Misbah’s One-day international career as a captain was not good enough. The players could not resist pressure and Pakistan would lose matches which at one point they were almost winning. But Asia Cup 2012 was a positive factor when Pakistan won it after a nail-bitting final, Pakistan won by one run! Aizaz Cheema was the hero and Misbah was clearly the man behind the success, the way he organized a scattered team was very appreciating. But over the years the Pakistani players were victim of many things. They were not taken seriously, they were not much respected. They went on few tours and could not produce positive results. It was more like a disaster for the cricket of Pakistan. Everyone thought that just like Hockey, Cricket would fall down from it’s merit and popularity due to poor performances by the every single player. When everyone was hopeless, the green shirt was not. It’s a legacy! A legacy which will stay forever! It’s not about how good Pakistani team is, it’s about how they upset the world. And when has Pakistan not upset it’s opposition? After every downfall, the green shirts tell the world they are alive and the factories of Pakistan have produced enough fast bowlers to demolish the batting line-ups! In 2013, after defeating India 2-1 in a One-day Internationals series, Pakistan ended up becoming the first Asian team to defeat South Africa in South Africa by the end of that year. The same team, which was broken and shattered due to poor performances for 2 years was getting back on the track. Saeed Ajmal was a match winner in almost in every match. In a world where 300 was chased easily, Either the spinning trio or the fast bowling trio could easily defend 230-250, one of the most craziest factor which only, Pakistan is consistent on.
2013 is over, with a rough series in the middle months in South Africa to a good end with another One-day International series in South Africa and this time Pakistan won it. Pakistan later went on hosting Sri Lanka in UAE. Sri Lanka was in good form back then. They had a good combination of players. They had a strong batting line-up and a strong bowling line-up. That was a positive point for Pakistan again, Pakistan won the series 3-1, with Hafeez scoring 2 or 3 consecutive centuries. Pakistan looked in good shape and Misbah had an aim of producing a decent enough squad for the World Cup in 2015. Unfortunately with few months left, Saeed Ajmal’s action was declared illegal and he was left out of the plans to be in the World Cup squad, Pakistan suffered a big blow!. A 15-men squad was announced for the World Cup which was extremely disappointing. Rahat Ali and Ehsan Adil out of nowhere came in the squad. Hafeez was injured few weeks before the squad traveled for the World Cup and was replaced then. No Umar Gul this time. Pakistan left for Australia to play the World Cup with an unbalanced squad with no combination or chemistry linking up between the players. After losing first three games of the World Cup, things seemed very different. Out of nowhere Pakistan made it to the quarter-finals. It’s like Misbah transformed into the great Imran Khan and Wahab Riaz was caught up by the ghost of Wasim Akram. Sheer class! Unbelievable the way Pakistan restricted South Africa while chasing 237! Everyone lost their minds! Pakistan on fire! Pakistan going to face Australia in the quarter-final! While Australia was chasing 209, out of nowhere, again, Wahab Riaz got his Wasim Akram ghost up again and bowled the greatest and the most dangerous bowling spell in the history of the World Cup. The Adelaide Oval was on fire and Australia lost 3 wickets with just 33 runs on the board. Everyone was looking for Pakistan to come back until, Ehsan Adil and Rahat Ali dropped countless catches and Pakistan suffered yet another heart break and that fantasy was all over. Misbah left the field for the last time. Misbah and Afridi announced retirement from One-day Internationals. People demanded change in the team. Surprisingly, PCB announced Azhar Ali as the captain of One-day Internationals. A person who was not even the part of World Cup squad is blindly appointed as a captain which needs a lot of dedication to be on it’s proper position. Azhar’s era was short and full of disappointments. And it was not his fault at all, in fact it was sad to see a nice guy trying hard to win it but he just can’t link up the players. The pressure of being a captain was affecting his career and after a disastrous tour of Australia, he decided to resign and things were going to be quite changed.
The next captain was not just a normal person. Sarfaraz Ahmed was appointed as the captain. Without any doubt Sarfaraz was the chosen one. Sarfaraz was the one who was born to be a Pakistani captain. The way he came up in a do or die match against South Africa in the World Cup was the moment. He came and he made his place. Just imagine if Sarfaraz had not scored those 49 runs against South Africa. Things would have changed by miles. Nothing would have been same. In his first series as an One-day International captain, he showed his potential in the very first match. The energizing wicket-keeper ran all over the ground, shouting and cheering up the boys at the same time. Sarfaraz showed energy. He believed in the impossible. He believed in himself and he knew he would only win if he wants to. Sarfaraz is energetic and full of hope. He is a natural leader. He would ask his players to play their natural game, but in a right way. He won’t make them feel bad by asking them to change their way of playing.
Champions Trophy started and Pakistan entered as the lowest ranked team in the tournament. Without any disrespect but according to Pakistan’s poor record in last two years against top 8 sides, Pakistan was predicted as the weakest in the group stage. The campaign started and the first game was against arch rivals, India. Pakistani nation was pumped up for the game. Everyone’s eyes were on the players. But things were not as expected and it was hard to say that, India bashed Pakistan. The whole nation was shocked. World was shocked. Sarfraz had burden on his shoulders. Coach admitted it was his mistake to prefer Wahab over Junaid. Everyone expected bad result from there on. They forgot they are men in green. It was their biggest mistake. They forgot the legacy. Pakistani cricket team is not unpredictable! You can call a team unpredictable when it wins once in a while. It’s been 50 years since Pakistan wins out of nowhere! That’s how they play! They play in a different than others.
The second match of the group stage for Pakistan was against number 1 One-day International team, South Africa. South Africa might have the best players in the world but they might not have the most hard working players in the world. First, Imad and Hafeez’s spin got their top-order. It was after a long while Hafeez was attacking with the ball, only this time he was attacking with Imad Wasim not Saeed Ajmal. Few balls later the world kept quite. The reason was, Imad Wasim sent AB De Villiers on the first ball. AB De Villiers goes on a duck. A duck Imad Wasim will never forget. Again, few balls later, Hassan Ali turned on the generator by taking Faf’s wicket. Faf, who probably always sticks for a while and settles the partnership, faced no ball like that before and the next thing he knows is that the green crowd in the stadium is jumping high up in the air. He did not wanted to look at the stumps. BOOM! As if taking the wicket of Faf was not good enough for Hassan. Hassan pitched a short pitch or maybe medium pitch delivery with some swing gifted on it, outside. Babar takes the catch at the slips. JP Duminy goes without doing anything. Wayne Parnell comes in next. He was only there to go back to the pavilion. Hasan bowled something undefinable and there was nothing Parnell could do to stop the ball. The off-stump crashes, Hassan Ali jumps in the air. Same stuff went on till the end of the innings. Pakistan needed 220 runs to win. 220 to survive. Pakistanis were hopeful for a victory. Pakistan needed 220 runs to survive in Champions Trophy! Fakhar comes in place of Ahmad Shehzad. Fakhar, looks confident and why he shouldn’t be? He’s smacking Rabada out of the park as if Rabada is his childhood buddy he played cricket with. Fakhar gives a stable and steady start to Pakistan but unfortunately is caught at the slips while trying to play back foot on Morkel’s swinger. Pakistan gets the first break down. Without any addition in the scorecard, the man with the nerves of steel goes back to pavilion. Azhar goes back with a disappointment on his face. Anyhow Malik and Babar stay at the crease and add the score to the scorecard as fast as they could to be ahead of the par DLS score. The rain said hello and did not wanted to leave early. Pakistan won by 19 runs as they were ahead in the par score. Hassan Ali was the man of the match.
The third match, another do or die. Who wins, gets a place booked in the semi-final. Pakistani bowlers were again dominant. Sri Lanka were bowled out for 236. Now all eyes were on Pakistan. Everyone knew Pakistani batting line-up does not take much time to collapse. Openers gave a solid stand. Fakhar goes up for a fifty. Azhar hits the ball and ball fell in river Taff of Cardiff. Pakistan’s first wicket fell on 76, Fakhar departed with a fifty. Babar Azam departed after few overs. By 30th over, Pakistani team was 162-7. Pakistan was in trouble. Sri Lanka was eager to finish the game with a victory. Sadly, their eagerness lead them to drop important catches of Sarfaraz. Sarfaraz kept on playing sensibly. On the other side Amir kept on rotating the strike. And it’s Sarfarz! Pakistan’s golden man, has played the golden shot and goes running with emotions switched on! The warrior lead his team to the victory!
The semi-final is on. That also against the favorites of the tournament. England, who are in form like since 2 years and are eager to win a title since a terrible upset in previous World Cup. The luck was on Sarfaraz’s shoulders. He elected to field first after winning the toss and took his men on field without fear and lead them like a cornered tiger. End of discussion. Same thing repeated for the third time. England all-out on 211. It was like poetry in slow motion for Pakistani bowlers. Rumman’s countless variations and Junaid’s pace. Hassan’s swing and Pakistan’s fielding was all over the place and Pakistan won by 8 wickets, making their way to the final to face the arch rivals.
Yes, Sarfaraz was going to captain the game of his life. Nation will love them whether they win or lose. But as in for players, they don’t want to lose. They want to fight for the honor and dignity. They have finally reached the destination where they were meant to be and for them nothing else than the victory matters. It’s like they were born to fight for this and they wanted to prove themselves. The ghosts of cornered tigers came back.
It’s a sunny morning at Oval, London. An ideal whether for cricket. The greatest rivalry of cricket will be played. India’s captain Virat Kohli won the toss and elected to field first. Fakhar at the score of 3, nicked the ball to keeper’s hand and was on his way back to pavilion until the umpire wanted to check the front foot. It was poetry in motion or slow motion as bumrah over stepped and it was a no ball. It was a wake up call for Fakhar and Azhar and then both responsibly started attacking the Indian bowling line-up and worked more than hard to keep on rotating the strike. Azhar and Fakhar batted so bravely and there was nothing Indian bowlers could do. By the 20th over, Indians bowled with over 6 bowlers, out of which no one bowled properly. It was as if Indian bowlers never knew anything such as ”Bowling”. Fakhar and Azhar had a mix up between the wickets and Azhar was run out. Azhar had a big disappointment on his face. He wanted to do more than a fifty. Anyways, then comes the young Babar! People actually want him to smack every ball out of the park but he plays absolutely great. He has a strike rate of around 90 and he keeps on playing his game and does not take pressure. Babar kept on rotating the strike and on other hand Fakhar was hitting balls out of the boundary rope. The man gets his hundred in his first match against India and also in a final. Imagine coming in the team during crisis and then letting your teammates believe in you and you do exactly what everyone wants you to. Every Pakistani in the world cried their hearts out and everyone did not want Fakhar ever to be sad as he has served the country in a very crucial moment. Finally, the Indian nightmare finishes once Fakhar was caught. Malik came, tried to attack but sadly could not kiss the ball properly with his bat and was caught.
Now here comes Hafeez. Maybe Hafeez had a picture in his mind. Maybe he was thinking or seeing every struggle he had made in his life to get here and the next he knows he slaps the ball for a straight drive. Hafeez be like he got no chills. 3 mighty sixes, 4 fours. Hafeez wants to hit almost every ball he faced. Everyone was shocked. Hafeez was playing the match as if it’s his last match. Everyone starts praising him. Hafeez turned out to be a guardian angel. He takes Pakistan to a total of 338 for 4 wickets in 50 overs. Pakistan does not want to lose their nerves now. They’ve set a decent target and they only need to work hard in the bowling and fielding department. Amir at one point must have been remembering of Rohit Sharma calling him an ordinary bowler. A lot of things must have been going on his mind. He himself went through hell. He’s been in the worse and now is his chance to bring back the roars. It’s time for him to do what he was destined to. Here he goes, runs up. First ball, a movement noticed on the ball. A new ball is swinging on a flat pitch. Next ball, again Rohit struggles. Third ball. 22 million people started screaming at once. Amir rocks! Amir on fire. Or as if Amir was controlling the fire. Amir is screaming, roaring! He’s proving himself. He powered up the Pakistani side even more. The blood running in every player and every fan is energizing. Amir’s second over. Kohli facing. Straight medium pitched delivery, but bounces with a swing and the ball is nicked, it’s toward azhar and Amir screams but this time Azhar drops! Pressure exerted on Pakistan with just one drop and Amir looks back. This time he’s every more fiery. The next ball, Kohli nicks, Shadab becomes the Superman and saves the day. Earth quake for India while celebration for Pakistan. Amir just couldn’t give a better start than that. Yuvraj Singh comes, Hits three four of Hafeez’s over. On the other hand, Shikar Dhawan is trying to settle. Here comes Amir, Dhawan facing. Beautiful line and length, Amir roars, Sarfaraz catches. Amir has his hands up in the air. He is on fire. Every single bit of him is full of fire. No one can define what he was. Hats off!
Shadab comes to bowl. 18 Years of age. Bowling in an ICC final. Bowls a beautiful delivery to Yuvraj, with a beautiful turn, more like a U-turn, Shadab appeals, Umpire says it hits the bat first. Shadab looks towards the captain and confidently says ” No it’s out, take a review”. My God! How accurate! Yuvraj really was out. The way ball turned and the way Shadab showed confidence, just heart warming. Hassan Ali is then given the ball. Hassan has been tremendous since the start of the campaign. He’s also the leading wicket taker of the champions trophy. Through out the tournament he took big wickets and same goes for today. He takes wicket of one of the best finisher in the history of cricket, Dhoni. Hassan pumps up the generator, the nation goes emotional while celebrating! Wickets keep on falling but the best one was when Ashwin nicked, Sarfaraz takes the catch and runs with tears in his eyes. This was the day he had been waiting his whole life and now he is living it.
Hassan gets ready to bowl his seventh over. He’s been on fire through out the tournament. Hassan bowls, Bumrah can’t get enough on the bat, THE BALL IS IN THE AIR … SARFARAZ TEARS EVERYTHING APART… TAKES THE CATCH, RUNS AS IF THERES NO LIMIT FOR HIM TODAY WITH TEARS IN HIS EYES!. Pakistan wins the Champions Trophy 2017. The whole nation is electrified. Some are jumping, some are crying. The country is united. Pakistan outplayed every single opponent they played in the tournament. Sarfaraz lead a group of players who did not let him down. Pakistan win a One-day tournament after 25 years.
Sarfaraz and Co. is happy and celebrating. Sarfaraz says he wants the nation to remember this forever. Guess what Sarfaraz? The legacy of green shirts is proud of you! The history will always remember how you proved the world wrong. The way you took the ex-captain, Azhar Ali and gave him confidence was something beyond beautiful. You counted on him and he did not let you down.
Over the years, fans were in search of the chosen one and Sarfaraz was the chosen one. Imagine if he had not scored those 49 runs against South Africa. He would not have been here and nothing would have been the same way. Thank you Sarfaraz and Co.
” Losers live in the past, Winners learn from the past.”