Monday Jun 19, 2017
Like the majority of Pakistanis, I have been a die-hard supporter of the men-in-green as far back as I can remember. The team has provided me with some of the best memories along with the harshest of heartbreaks.
I'll be the first to admit that in the last five years, the team has been nothing but a source of disappointment. Watching a match was a struggle and, oftentimes, I found myself turning away from the TV after witnessing the token Pakistani collapse.
Heading into the Champions Trophy tournament, I had zero expectations from the side. Ranked eighth, the entire world had counted Pakistan out of the tournament and, after their 124-run defeat against India, it was all but certain that everyone was right.
But in typical Pakistani fashion, the boys gave it their best with their backs to the wall.
The turnaround began when Lady Luck shined down on Pakistan and the green-shirts were able to secure a win against South Africa through the DL method. Luck remained our friend as some terrible fielding by Sri Lanka led to a Pakistani win in a must-win match. The heroics by Sarfraz and Amir deserve a mention as their partnership led to a change in mindset for the team.
And then came the semi-final against tournament favourites England. No one expected a Pakistan that is except Pakistan themselves.
From the get go, Pakistan played an aggressive style of cricket which hadn't been seen since the mid-90s. The bowlers ripped through the English batting and the Pakistani batsmen backed by Fakhar Zaman had little trouble in chasing down the meager target. The final with the arch-rivals had been set and Pakistan were now just one win away from completing the ultimate underdog story.
India were expected to make quick work of Pakistan; Kohli and his boys were too much for Pakistan's bowling lineup. 'The Pakistanis would collapse as usual, we have a mental block against India'. These were some of the remarks I kept on hearing in the run up to the final.
But this wasn't the same side which met India at the start of the tournament. The Sarfraz-XI had a renewed sense of purpose, and a new aura of confidence.
Batting first, the openers played aggressive cricket. Fakhar Zaman and Azhar Ali played shots all over the field, leaving the Indian team baffled. While Azhar was run out shortly after his fifty, Fakhar Zaman put in a performance for the ages, scoring his maiden century while unleashing his bat on the Indian bowlers. The middle order kept the momentum high and Hafeez, who had been silent for several years, finally roared out loud, scoring a timely fifty to take Pakistan to 338.
The stage had been set for the Pakistan bowlers and, after a long time, their bowlers had a formidable total to defend.
Mohammad Amir, who had been unlucky ever since his return to international cricket, finally had the performance the entire nation had been waiting for. Running down the pitch like a bullet-train, Amir bowled a magnificent spell, picking up three key wickets including that of Indian skipper Kohli.
The men-in-green kept on firing on all cylinders as Indian wickets fell like dominoes.
Finally, the boys had done it. All odds had been defied, all doubters proven wrong. From being ranked eighth to hoisting the trophy at the end, this Pakistan team showed the world that when the going gets tough, the tough get going.
Thank you team for making me believe once again. Thank you for making me fall in love once again and providing another memory which would bring a smile to my face for the rest of my life.
India, I leave you with this: