by Asmatullah Niazi
Senior Broadcast Journalist, PTV World (email@example.com)
He covered cricket from 1995 to 2003
The Pakistan cricket team has always been called unpredictable because of its track record.
In the winter of 1995, I first saw the Pakistan cricket team practicing in the Acheson college Lahore cricket ground. The all stars of cricket were preparing for the 1996 world cup that included Javed Miandad who was playing his 6th world cup in row. Then there was Wasim Akram (Captain) Waqar Younus, Amir Sohail, Ramiz Raja Mushtaq Ahmed , Aqib Javed , Inzimam Ul Haq , Rashid Latif , Ijaz Ahmed , Saqlain Mushtaq and last but not least Salim Malik.
Pakistan were the defending champions, and were by far the strongest team in the competition. However, Pakistan only managed to reach the quarterfinals after being beaten by India in Bangalore. Wasim Akram decided to withdraw from the game due to injury, which meant that Amir Sohail had to captain the team. Wasim Akram was criticised badly and was accused of match fixing. The team had to return to Lahore after the shameful defeat. I along with my camera team and the event organizers were at the Lahore airport Hajj terminal to receive the team, but a few minutes earlier than arrival time we were informed that the flight was diverted towards Karachi as there was a huge angry crowd present outside the airport.
Arch rivals India and Pakistan have met on a number of occasions and it has always been exciting. June 18th, 2017, Pakistan vs. India in the Champions Trophy final was no different. Imran Khan who has plenty of knowledge about English cricket grounds advised the toss winning team to bat first and put scoreboard pressure on the opponents. Indian captain Virat Kohli went the other way. He won the toss and elected to field first.
Sarfaraz Ahmed, the captain of Pakistan team who was termed to be a weak captain and most of the cricketers turned analysts were shouting that he is too inexperienced to lead the team.
Sarfaraz sent Azhar Ali and Fakhar Zaman to open the innings and once again they didn’t disappoint. Their 128 run stand laid a solid foundation for Pakistan. Sarfaraz continued to adapt according to the situation. His planning was outstanding. After Azhar, he sent Babar Azam who along with Fakhar Zaman continued on his merry way, blasting India all over the park. To think this was only his fourth international match and he managed to score 114 off 106 balls is nothing short of magical. Pakistan put up a huge target of 339 runs. Sarfaraz Ahmed as expected gave the new ball to Muhammad and he bowled with superb pace and sent Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohili quickly back to the pavilion. Sarfaraz’s strategy for the Indians proved deadly when their wickets kept falling. Only Hardik Pandya’s 76 showed some resistant to the Pakistani bowlers. The Indians eventually surrendered the trophy to Pakistan after being bowled out for 158. Zaman’s maiden century, Amir’s stunning spell, and Sarfaraz’s smart captaincy guided Pakistan to a famous 180 run win. In 1996, Pakistan had much stronger and more experienced side. Very few thought they would have been knocked out in the Quarter Finals. But this time, with an inexperienced side, with an inexperienced skipper, Pakistan defied the odds and became the Champions Trophy winners.