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'Pakistan still matters in world cricket'
Ramiz Raja and Osman Samiuddin on the Twenty20 champions and the road ahead for them (08:17)
June 23, 2009
ICC World Twenty20 2009
'Pakistan still matters in world cricket'June 23, 2009
It was a victory few anticipated. Pakistan came within a whisker of winning the inaugural World Twenty20, and given the way they started off in this year's tournament, few would have predicted that they would repeat their run in 2007, let alone go one step further. But Pakistan pulled off the impossible with a resolute captain, emerging stars and old warhorses who finally rose to the occasion. They announced their intentions by dumping favourites South Africa out of the semi-finals, and then a clinical, measured performance - not normally associated with an unpredictable Pakistan - saw them pull off an eight-wicket victory over Sri Lanka in the final.
Pakistan's cricket has suffered, given the law-and-order situation in their strife-torn country. But this win, as former Pakistan captain Ramiz Raja says, underlines the fact that cricket can overcome all adversity. Against all odds the Pakistan team pulled off the unthinkable. Cricinfo's Pakistan editor Osman Samiuddin analyses the big gains that for the Pakistan team from their victory.
Osman Samiuddin: The way the team has come together under Younis Khan's captaincy has been a big positive. I think Younis' captaincy - although he is not going to be captain in the Twenty20 format - and his control over the team was a big positive. This is pretty much Pakistan's most significant win since the 1992 World Cup; in some respects it's probably a bigger win than that. There are too many positives to take out of this - Shahid Afridi's form, Umar Gul's emergence as probably one of the best young fast bowlers in the world, the emergence of Mohammad Aamer, and Kamran Akmal's form. There are so many things that Pakistan can take as a positive and it just shows the world that Pakistan still matters in world cricket.
On the field there were some doubts whether Pakistan did really have the talent. But the emergence of guys like Aamer, Ahmed Shehzad and Shahzaib Hasan has shown that you can never discount Pakistan on the field. One thing that will help them now is that they can draw the line under the careers of some players and move on. Some players have played more games for Pakistan than they should have and are still getting selected, and Pakistan can now move on with these new players.
It wasn't an auspicious start for Pakistan. They lost both their warm-up games, to South Africa and India, and then lost their first league game to England by 48 runs. They pulled off a comprehensive victory over minnows the Netherlands, but were still struggling to get all aspects of their game in sync. They then faced New Zealand in a do-or-die battle, and according to Ramiz Raja, Pakistan perform best when under pressure and it was in that game that things seemed to fall in place for them.
Ramiz Raja: I think the fact that they were able to develop the right combination was crucial. Early on, they were struggling. The opening slots weren't getting a lot of runs; the middle order wasn't really gaining in momentum - there were no boundary- or six-hitters in the middle order. And suddenly in that all-important tie against New Zealand, Younis Khan fielded the perfect combination. Then Shahid Afridi was sent up the order even though he had made three ducks in the tournament - that was a brave move that paid off. So the greatest thing that Pakistan did was to develop a sound combination. After that victory against New Zealand, the team got the confidence and it also had the backing of all the people here in Pakistan.
One of the successes in Pakistan's campaign has been Shahid Afridi. He was the second highest run-scorer for Pakistan in the tournament, with 176 runs, and he was their third-highest wicket-taker, with 11 scalps. And what was most telling was that in the games that mattered the most - the semis and final - he played the pivotal role in ensuring his side's victory, with Man-of-the-Match performances in both games. Ramiz throws some light on Afridi's transformation.
RR: Shahid Afridi is a match-winner. On his day he can beat the best, but he can beat himself also. He can self-destruct and implode, but in this tournament the fact that he bowled so wonderfully well gave him the confidence to bat well in crunch moments. The fact that Younis made him bat at No. 3 and gave him that responsibility, helped him mature. And he found his footing in Twenty20 cricket eventually. The moment he starts hitting the ball straight over long-off and long-on, which is what he tried to do, he became a very strong individual at the No. 3 position.
While it is unlikely that Pakistan will host any matches in the near future, Osman believes that England, Abu Dhabi and Dubai could serve as alternate venues. He also warns that the Pakistan team should not get carried away in the euphoria of this victory as that would mean losing all the positives they have gained from this tournament.
|"I think Pakistan have said: we have serious talent as far as Twenty20 goes. They have been runners-up once and won it now, and I think Pakistan is the most successful team in the shorter version of the game. And the fact that they have the most talented players in this format is a huge bargaining chip for them"Osman Samiuddin|
OS: As far as the team is concerned, I think Pakistan have to be careful of what happened after the 1992 World Cup. That was considered a high point in Pakistan's history, and if you look at the period after that, Pakistan unravelled completely. Imran Khan left and the influence that he had on the team, the unity, just spiralled out of hand. They did play good cricket after that, but there was never the sense that they were world beaters; there was never that unity. They have to guard against that, as well as complacency and getting ahead of themselves.
And the PCB will have to play a key role in ensuring that the gains from this victory are not wasted away says Osman.
OS: I think they can be expected to be taken a bit seriously now. Being good at Twenty20 is one thing and being good administrators is another. The Pakistan cricket administration is still beset by problems. They are having run-ins with other boards now - with the Bangladesh cricket board over the ICC World Cup. They are still not getting that support. I think it would be too hasty to draw a link between this win and the reputation of the administrators. What they can say now is that the Pakistan cricket team is still a force; particularly when you move towards cricket in the Twenty20 age, where tournaments like the IPL and the Champions League are going to be far more important than the traditional Test series. I think Pakistan have said: we have serious talent as far as Twenty20 goes. They have been runners-up once and won it now, and I think Pakistan is the most successful team in the shorter version of the game. And the fact that they have the most talented players in this format is a huge bargaining chip for them.
Ramiz echoes this very thought.
RR: Well, it's important for Pakistan now to make a separate and strong Twenty20 team. Younis has already resigned as the Twenty20 captain, so they will have to start from scratch in a sense and get their options right and get the players in for Twenty20 cricket and separate it from 50-over and Test cricket. That is how they should operate immediately. They should not be complacent about it. The job is half-done; Pakistan is making the right headlines, but they need to work even more. A champion team needs to do that. They need to prove that their win was not a flash in the pan and that they really are a strong unit.
Younis Khan described the win as a gift to the nation, and while he has resigned from the captaincy of Pakistan's Twenty20 side, it is important that his successor in conjunction with the administration, does not allow this victory to be a flash in the pan.
With Ranjit Shinde, this is Akhila Ranganna for Cricinfo
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