Sunday revival: On Pakistan's victory in Champions Trophy

Pakistan overcame the odds and displayed glimpses of world-beating teams of the past

Updated - December 03, 2021 04:57 pm IST

Published - June 20, 2017 12:02 am IST

Pakistan’s thumping 180-run victory over India in the ICC Champions Trophy final at London’s Oval on Sunday shredded the form book and underscored the team’s reputation for being unpredictable. Perhaps India paid the price for banking on its batting might as on winning the toss, Virat Kohli preferred to chase, which is often difficult in a high-stakes final where the scoreboard pressure can be stifling. Only once has India successfully chased a big score in a big-ticket match — Sri Lanka’s 274 for six in the 2011 World Cup final in Mumbai. But back then it was Kumar Sangakkara who had won the toss and opted to take first strike. Besides overlooking history, India was unable to counter centurion Fakhar Zaman’s brilliance and failed to survive against Pakistan’s potent attack. Wasim Akram, one of the greatest fast bowlers, has said he sees a younger version of himself in Mohammad Amir, and on Sunday Amir emphatically lived up to the faith invested in him. He stunned the Indian batsmen and ripped apart the top order, leaving the defending champions wobbling at 33 for three in nine overs. After Amir’s precise incisions, there was only one way the match was headed, as the batting wilted, yielding a total of just 158. India was outplayed on all fronts. Extras had been conceded — India gifted 25 to Pakistan’s three — and the fielding lacked the passion that Sarfraz Ahmed’s men displayed.

Stepping into the tournament, India had shades of Pakistan’s traditional troubles, especially with rumours floating about of a cold equation between Kohli and coach Anil Kumble — usually it is Pakistan that grapples with revolts in the dressing room. In any event, the arch-rivals did well to reach the tournament’s climactic end. An India-Pakistan final was the tonic that the International Cricket Council needed as viewership soared, and it backed the parent body’s earlier decision of not abandoning the Champions Trophy. The latest edition also lent hope about a revival in Pakistan cricket, as the squad ranked eighth walked away with the silverware. Ever since the terror attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore in 2009, Pakistan has been unable to have its home series in Pakistan, barring the odd fixture. Venues such as Sharjah and Dubai have been the home bases for its bilateral series. The team has mostly struggled, and its last significant triumph was the 2009 ICC World Twenty20 title in London at Sri Lanka’s expense. The tournament also had enabled a moment of redemption for Amir, who had once been banned for spot-fixing in 2010. Sarfraz spoke for Pakistan cricket’s well-wishers when he said, “Hopefully this will boost Pakistan cricket.” The absence of the West Indies, which failed to qualify for this event, was hardly noticed. Yet cricket, a sport with global ambitions but largely locked within Britain’s former colonies, cannot afford to watch pedigreed outfits lose their way.

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