'The 1992 World Cup defined my cricket'

Shahid Afridi on the lessons Pakistan's victorious campaign taught him about life, and how Imran Khan's attitude moulded him as a captain

"Pakistan winning that World Cup taught me the most important thing I could have learnt about failure" © PA Photos

I will always associate my earliest memories of the World Cup with the lovely month of Ramzan and getting up well before dawn. That particular time in the morning is supposed to be quiet, calm and slow, but in 1992 it was lively and buzzing because of the cricket World Cup. Everyone around me, friends and family, would get up in excitement, as much for the sehri (pre-dawn meal) as for the matches being telecast live from Australia and New Zealand.

I was barely 11, maybe 12 - an age when I had already begun to understand the game and had started playing cricket in the streets. Whatever I was able to grasp about the game at that time, I didn't think that Pakistan was going to go all the way. They lost a lot of games in the early stages of the World Cup and my excitement around the tournament started to go down. I lost my optimism and sense of thrill. But suddenly, after we beat New Zealand, things started to brighten up.

Though it was 23 years ago, I still remember about 80 or 90% of the tournament, mainly because of how our team hiccuped its way through the event. But at the end of the day, we ended up the winners.

The 1992 World Cup is what defined my cricket and the cricketer in me. I then started to hear tales about Imran Khan's leadership and stories about him from other players, and that began to shape my thoughts and dreams. Even on many occasions, although the situation was not good for Pakistan, he was one man who never let his players feel defeatist. It was as if his unflinching belief had led Pakistan to the title.

So many players in the dressing room told me how surprised they were at Imran's belief that they were going to win the World Cup, even though the team was far from it. After losing a handful of matches, he would not even think about defeat, so much so that the players could well have been asking themselves, "What is kaptaan saying? We are losing and he is still talking about us winning the World Cup".

"I grew up with the memories and stories of 1992. About leadership, courage, belief, fighting spirit. I applied these lessons in my career and it helped me when I captained Pakistan in 2011"

Pakistan winning that World Cup taught me the most important thing I could have learnt about failure. That failure is actually another opportunity that can eventually lead you to success. So I am never afraid of failing. I look at Imran bhai and the decisions he took then, including batting at No. 3 in the final. Cricket always teaches you many lessons to never be afraid of failure.

I grew up with the memories and stories of 1992. About leadership, courage, belief, fighting spirit - that inspired me. I applied these lessons in my career and it helped me when I captained Pakistan in 2011.

Since 1992, each World Cup has left unique memories in my mind: the 1996 Pakistan v India quarter-final in Bangalore; my first World Cup in 1999, which saw the arrival of Shoaib Akhtar, and how I had to receive treatment for an injury the night before the final. Then we had a disappointing game and after the defeat in the final, all our hard work in the tournament went in vain.

The next two World Cups - 2003 and 2007 - were nightmares. Bob Woolmer's sudden death just shook us in 2007 and put the entire tournament in perspective. We had to stay back for a few more days, everything was against us, the media reporting around Bob's tragic death was dirty and created chaos and anxiety in the minds of our families. There was a sense of fear all around. No one wanted to be alone in their rooms and everyone bunked together two or three to a room - even a senior player like Inzamam-ul-Haq. It has to be one of the worst World Cups I can think of.

Being captain in the 2011 World Cup was an important part of my career, as I had to lead a squad at a low ebb. Pakistan had lost its hosting rights and we were recovering from the ugly spot-fixing scandal a few months earlier. Nobody expected much from Pakistan, no one thought we could do anything good. I had to lead the side with care and tried to encourage the boys to abandon negative thoughts and fight hard, to be in the present. We managed to achieve something that nobody had expected - we lost in the semi-final. Overall it was a good experience for us. Pakistan played cricket like they always did - going for a win. I was proud of my team.

Now that we're going back to Australia and New Zealand for the World Cup, my life, I think, has come full circle, from the memorable month of Ramzan in 1992.

As told to Umar Farooq

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on January 26, 2015, 6:25 GMT

    The India vs Pakistan semi final in 2011 was probably the best game of cricket I have ever seen .

  • Dummy4 on January 20, 2015, 21:53 GMT

    Look at the fighters, Javed, Imran and Wasim in particular, by looking at the photo, you can easily smell the determination,belief and commitment of these guys and like Malik,Javed,Imran we have Afridi,Younus,misbah and these guys are playing their last world cup....so watch out the real threat---i-e PAKISTAN

  • Imran on January 17, 2015, 4:23 GMT

    Being in the same age group as Afridi, I share more or less the same memories about 1992 world cup - getting up well before Sehri, Imran 's courage and all. What I fail to understand is how 1992 world cup defined Afridi's cricket. In my opinion, he has consistently misconstrued courage and fighting spirit as carelessness throughout his career, especially while batting. Not being afraid of failure does not mean putting a cheap price (of a few runs) on your wicket, which unfortunately he has done more often than not throughout his career. If only he could have understood the meaning of courage correctly, he could have become one of the best all-time all-rounders of cricket game, which of course he is not. Yes, the way he improved as a bowler is commendable and that's the sole reason he has survived this long. Anyways, my best wishes to the whole pakistani team for the upcoming world cup.

  • anthony on January 17, 2015, 3:44 GMT

    @ Eddie 1st x1 what a beautiful story.thank u so much for sharing it.i can well imagine the warmth of the Pakistani people as I visited islamabad on a delegation in 2003 and I have never met such polite decent warm people.as an English based south African I remember vividly the 1992 world cup.it was the best ever I think and had the strongest line up as well although 99 was full of v good teams.

  • Dummy4 on January 16, 2015, 18:14 GMT

    The difference between great leaders like Imran Khan and ordinaries like Afridi is their self belief. Imran firmly believed that he was going to win the cup in 1992 even when the chips were down. Whereas Afridi in an interview just before the 2011 WC said that his team will make it to semis. That's exactly what Pakistan did and then got knocked out by India. Afridi never believed in his heart of hearts that Pakistan could win the cup.

  • Dummy4 on January 16, 2015, 17:29 GMT

    Only way if men in green can win 2015 is and has to believe in themselves that they can do it and this starts if they beat the best out of India, this will not only pump their tempo but bring the best out of them. Mark my words the writing is on the wall!!

  • Android on January 16, 2015, 16:46 GMT

    pak look ok team on paper. their only problem is that they all are not consistent enough. if they play with unity and every one takes responsibility then i am sure they can and will do really well in this worldcup. i hope hafeez gets his action sorted by end of this month. that will bring stability in team balance. and if junaid bowls as good as he was before injuries then we will have a good unit. good luck

  • Dummy4 on January 16, 2015, 13:48 GMT

    Delighted to read Shahid Afridi's views. He along with Misbah-ul-Haq, Younis Khan and Muhammad Hafeez have last chance in their cricketing career to make this World Cup memorable. If the four seniors deliver, Pakistan team can make it. Best of Luck

  • murtaza on January 16, 2015, 12:02 GMT

    If Pakistan want win the World cup they need some performances likes of Javed miandad, Inzmam ul Haq, Mushtaq And for last hurra like Wasim Akram. Overall team is "OK" if NOT best. batting line is fine but bowling... Only Irfan and sohail khan, Yasir shah has to be in the side if we are Going to play at Sydney. Wahab is NOT a good choice in australia. Good luck Pakistan

  • Damien on January 16, 2015, 9:55 GMT

    I am a very sentimental man. After Pakistan won the World Cup at the MCG in 1992, my friend and I decided to ring someone in Pakistan from the Barossa Valley in South Australia. We rang a Hotel in Karachi, and the delightful young man who answered said the Hotel foyer was full of excited people watching the Cricket and speaking with him was one of my most memorable experiences. For this reason and considering their recent form, I have backed them to do it all again. Nobody has mentioned Pakistan as serious threat for this tournament, but I think they will shock a lot of people. Good luck, as a Cricket playing Nation, their wouldn't be too many other things that would unite a Country like Pakistan winning the 2015 World Cup.

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