Pakistan had gone into the final at Sharjah having won all its league matches while Sri Lanka had won only one and had qualified for the final by virtue of a better run-rate. Obviously Pakistan was the firm favourite. But cricket often confounds the experts. Sri Lanka played its best cricket and Pakistan its worst, leaving the Pakistan cricket public both disappointed and bewildered.
Did Pakistan wilt under the pressure of being favourite or was there an element of cock sureness that induced complacency? One thing is certain. Sri Lanka looked fired up. It also looked a team that had done a lot of soul-searching and a lot of planning. Pakistan it seemed was going to play it by the book.
Once Sri Lanka got over early nervousness and went on a run spree, Pakistan did not appear to have a back-up plan. Pakistan's fielding had earned it fulsome praise and there was effusive mention of "young legs" dashing around. There are two aspects of fielding. You are not only expected to stop the ball but to catch it when hit in the air. It is this second aspect that seemed to have been forgotten.
At a conservative estimate, four catches were dropped plus a couple of missed stumping. Forget about the half-chances the Sri Lankans, miraculously, snapped up. You drop a catch and that is unfortunate, you drop two and that is a misfortune but four? That is unpardonable. It represents a break-down of focus and concentration.
And they were relatively simple catches and not blinders. Geoff Boycott's Mom would have caught them! The Sri Lankans did not even bother to say "thank you" and they took the gift and rode their luck and piled on a score of 298, well beyond their wildest dreams. Sri Lanka had planned to pace its innings and had started slowly, gather momentum and then go for the big shots. But with catches being dropped, the batsmen just made hay as the Pakistan bowlers appeared to lose heart.
Still, an asking-rate of nearly six an over was not impossible on that shirt-front wicket and there was no need for a mad rush. All Pakistan had to do was to bat sensibly, the urgency needed did not amount to panic not to treat all the 50 overs as slog overs.
Shahid Afridi plays the way he does. He hit the first ball he received for six but was "suckered" into hooking and getting a top edge. Imran Nazir seems to have his feet in concrete blocks or someone has told him that the laws of cricket do not allow a batsman to use his feet. He has no footwork. Surely he would have seen how Marvan Ataputtu and Mahela Jayawardena batted. I was surprised to see Humayun Farhat come in instead of Saeed Anwar. Saeed Anwar was the in-form batsman. He needed to bat through the innings. He played beautifully but Pakistan kept losing wickets regularly including that of Inzamam-ul-Haq, a soft dismissal.
The team to tour England will have been selected by the time this column appears but I would certainly have Moin Khan in the team and give some serious thought to Ejaz Ahmed and even Aamir Sohail. I presume that Wasim Akram, Azhar Mahmood and Yousuf Yohanna are automatic selections. Or are they?
This brings me to Shoaib Malik who has been reported for a "suspect" bowling action. Michael Holding made a meal of it while doing the commentator and he was completely out of order. It is not the job of a commentator to act as judge, jury and executioner. Television slowed down the pictures, froze them while Holding explained in painful detail why his action was illegal.
It is the job of the umpire to report the bowler to the match-referee and until the ICC decides, the matter is sub-judice. Television is watched by millions of viewers and the commentators would be mindful of their responsibilities. They are there to describe the proceedings and they are not expected to be judgmental. There should also be a code of conduct for the commentators.
Cricket is already plagued by tabloid or 'pop' print journalism. I expected better from Michael Holding. Even Ravi Shastri got in a cheap shot when Afridi came to bowl in one of the league matches. His fellow-commentator mentioned something about Afridi's change of pace and Ravi chipped in "and also change of action."
The Indian Sports Minister got all tangled up when trying to justify why India was not playing against Pakistan at cricket but was playing hockey. She made the rather alarming disclosure that many of India's Test cricketers supported the Indian government's refusal to allow its team to play against Pakistan.
She did not disclose their names and I am surprised that she was not pressed to do so. I would certainly like to know the names of the players who do not want to play against Pakistan. I think she would be better advised to say nothing on the subject.
Silence is golden. But I am sure the Indian cricket public must have watched the Sharjah final on television and in their hearts had wished that their team was playing. Still, the tournament in Sharjah was a huge success. And that should give India pause for thought.