Pakistan v Sri Lanka, ICC World Twenty20 final, Lord's June 21, 2009

Beyond the realm of victory

Dileep Premachandran looks at the enormity of Pakistan's Twenty20 triumph, and how much it means to the country during troubled times

This is no Cinderella story. This is about the ugly sister who woke up to find that she had a glass slipper on her feet. Remember that this is the team that has no home series to look forward to in the foreseeable future, the country that had the ICC Champions Trophy taken away from it and given to South Africa. These are the players who were prevented from playing in the IPL, and the same side that was annihilated by South Africa and India in warm-up matches. But less than three weeks on, they are champions of the world. Their fans, who have had to put up with so much over the past few years and whose support has been so steadfast and magnificent, deserve this perhaps more than the players do. This was their moment, one that they won't ever forget.

Younis Khan jokingly called himself the 'Second Khan' at the post-match press conference. In truth, this victory could mean even more than the one in 1992. Back then, despite their inconsistency, Pakistan were the glamour boys of international cricket, big drawcards wherever they went. These days, they have become the pariahs. The players, caught in the crossfire of global politics, have seen their opportunities to shine dwindle, and watched with both envy and curiosity as those with less talent scooped up million-dollar contracts and endorsement deals.

The parallels to 1992 are unmistakeable though. Pakistan don't like doing things the easy way. Not for them the easy stroll in the park, not when they can scramble across an obstacle course that would test an SAS commando. Back in the day when everything smelt like teen spirit, Pakistan lost three of their first five games and would probably have been eliminated but for the Adelaide game against England being rained off. The revival started with convincing victories over Australia and Sri Lanka at the WACA, before back-to-back wins against highly fancied New Zealand put them into the final. Wasim Akram's mastery of swing did the rest.

The mandatory lousy start here included a 48-run thumping by England, and a botched run-chase against the Sri Lankans in the Super Eights. But emphatic victories against New Zealand and Ireland clinched the semi-final place that had eluded the likes of Australia and India, before South Africa, who looked pretty much the complete side, were caught cold by the Shahid Afridi show. There was a re-run in the final, with Abdul Razzaq also chipping in to prove that there really is no substitute for big-match experience.

Afridi and Razzaq were in the squad when Pakistan put up a decent Twenty20 total in a World Cup final at Lord's in 1999. Unfortunately, it was a 50-over contest, and Australia chased down the runs with embarrassing ease. Two years ago, they hauled themselves out of a mid-match ditch to come with a lofted hit of victory against India, but Misbah-ul-Haq's attempted paddle found the fielder and not the rope. Often, a couple of feet is all that separates the sporting immortals from the also-rans.

Watching the lap of honour after the game, I was reminded of one of sport's true Cinderella stories, of the Danish footballers who landed up at Euro '92 after cutting short their summer holidays. Yugoslavia had been banned, and the Danes offered an eleventh-hour invitation. They rode their luck to the final, against a German side that had made its way there while building up their traditional head of big-tournament steam. The final was a mismatch, only it was the mavericks that bossed it against the examplars of consistency.

And like the Danes, Pakistan's support has illuminated this competition. Some might have found the horn-blaring celebrations at Trent Bridge a little foreign, but it's exactly that sort of passion that has kept the game going in Pakistan despite all the trials and tribulations. Lunatics that target even sportsmen may be holding parts of the country to ransom, but the spirit of 1992 was in ample evidence at Lord's today. In times of trouble, the inheritors of the Kardar-Fazal-Imran legacy invariably find a way, and while the world may not yet heed Younis's impassioned plea to go and play there, it's once again been reminded that you ignore Pakistan cricket at your peril.

Dileep Premachandran is an associate editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • KHURRAM on June 24, 2009, 6:20 GMT

    This victory by Pakistan reminds me of great Wimbledon final between Goran Ivanisavic and Patt Rafter in 2001 Ivanisavic was holding wild card entry into the tournament with three previous final defeats and in a tense and see saw match he evantually came through, after the match Ivanisavic said when asked how did he managed to hold his nerves, he said "I dont know I just said to God oooo please God dont do this to me fourth time again". There is no point in mentioning that enough mess has been thrown to Pakistan Cricket over the last couple of years be it from ICC, BCCI or the terrorists in Lahore. But just when Pakistan was on the Brink of falling into the centre of a hurricane we managed to pull off this win and with stood the storm. This is the fairy tale of our cricket our nation and our country, just when one think we are done and burried we came out blazing. I have no hopes and desire that we will remain the champion team in future but this myth will go on and on.

  • Faisal on June 23, 2009, 20:10 GMT

    I am really amazed at how the non-Pakistanis have greeted this victory of Pakistan. This is true human brotherhood, after all we are all humans with same stuff running through our veins. But, in this victory the Pakistanis should be humble as we know after the day comes the night. Sri Lankans and South Africans also deserved it as those two teams really layed well, but I think feeling that Pakistani Cricketrs had about being ignroed and humiliated on and off the fled, have made them stroner. At this level all are very good players, so it is not about the talent, it is about how much you want it. This time the Pakistanis wanted it more than anyone else and that spurred them on. The media had a contributing hand to this victory also, because I am pretty sure, when these players were reading about them being called a "lauhable stock", they would have been getting more determined otherwise they would have crumbled under pressure.

  • sub on June 23, 2009, 19:31 GMT

    Even I am an Indian i wanted Pakistan should win this world cup as Pakistan people should be relived(at least) from their internal issues.When Pakistan team came to semis i was thinking this matches should be similar to 1992 world cup.Finally they made it as 1992 final.Congrats pak team

  • david on June 23, 2009, 19:12 GMT

    Very fair and balanced article. Pakistan team deserves all the compliments from all the cricket fans all over the world. As was said before the semifinal between SA and Pakistan, it was a contest of Science against arts. Science is cool and calculated, rigid and principled, while arts has more human and emotional touch. So Pakistan's victory is triumph of human energy and zeal over Robotics. It shows to us that Man still rules over machines.

  • wakas on June 23, 2009, 18:45 GMT

    First of all thanks to Allah for this victory. Congrats to all the team and supporters of Pakistan. I have waited all my life for this as I have been watching cricket since I was 11 when we lost in the final 1999. I always wished I was a bit older so I could get to see the 1992 world cup. I am on the top of the world at the moment. Pakistan team has given this great gift to the nation and to its supporters. What made us win was the prayers of so many people that was with the team. You could see how much religion played a part when all the most of the player done the Sajda. I always had hoped that we would win but we always messed up at the last minute. But this time we proved to be too good, performing in the last few matches. A moment the world would never forget. Stand up, Stand back the Champions are back. Inshallah we will win many more.

  • Assad on June 22, 2009, 19:30 GMT

    I love your articles, Dileep they are unbiased and show your respect and warm appreciation of Pakistan cricket. This is in stark contrast to the article by Sambit Lal in which it is too obvious that he is desperately trying to hide his disappointment at Pakistan's victory. Congratulations to all Pakistanis on this amazing victory, let's hope we carry this momentum into our test matches and one dayers in Sri Lanka.Life is good again, we're the world champions!!!!!!!!Pakistan Zindabad!!!

  • Pradeep on June 22, 2009, 15:08 GMT

    fitting that a team like Pakistan that is going thru all that it is ,but still had fun playing the game ,won the tournament. great leadership by Younis. Of course i am sad it wasnt us Sri Lankns partying last night..but pakistan ( unusually) worked to plan and was led by Younis brilliantly. they deserved the win 100%. SA was probably the best team, but the final was played by the most exciting two teams, and not the boring overly professional machines. what better testament to the beauty of the game of cricket!!!

  • fahad on June 22, 2009, 14:51 GMT

    Wonderful article. And thank you to all the indian fans on cricinfo. Hopefully next time it will be an india pakistan final again. Although this time I think it was fitting to have a srilanka pakistan final. As an article on cricinfo mentioned earlier, this final pointed two middle fingers at the terrorists who wanted to destroy everything we hold dear.

  • Fasih on June 22, 2009, 13:47 GMT

    Great article...really moved by your thoughts for Pakistan cricket!Kudos to you too for writting such a piece...the victory itself means a lot for every Paksitani whereever they are.It is true that sports is a great way to bringing people closer.Hats off for the entire Pakistani team for coming through as well deserved champions in difficult circumstances.A job well done!

  • Him on June 22, 2009, 8:50 GMT

    Congratulations to Pakistan! From underdogs to top dogs! Very reminiscent of the 1992 World Cup. And given the suffering of ordinary Pakistanis in current times, this certainly is more than a sporting victory. Inspired (and inspiring) performance from Younis Khan's team. Most of all from Afridi...great display of skill, power, spirit and temperament!

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