PHOTO: ICC Champions Trophy

We all love an underdog, don’t we? Whether it be a movie, a book or fiction. We all love someone who sets out to prove everyone wrong. Rocky (1975), Moneyball and Slap Shot will probably be known as the ultimate underdog movies. The main reason perhaps why this specific genre is almost always a hit is mainly its ability to play with your feelings. Remotely attracted towards the appreciation of hard work, we love it when someone fights. Fights with everything they’ve got till the last breath. They might yet have their off days but you can always bet on them to give it their all. The same could be said about this Pakistan team. Anything is possible with Pakistan.

Coming into this tournament, Pakistan were nowhere near to being the favorites to win the tournament, let alone reach the final. Ranked 8th, relatively new captain and a young squad to go with you would’ve thought the most Pakistan would do in this tournament is somewhat fight in the group stages. The first match showed that more than anything else. Lackluster performance against is probably not the ideal way you’d want to start a global tournament. That match had everything lacking from a Pakistan perspective. From batting to fielding to the strength of this team, the bowling, everything was non-existent. Pakistan suffered a heavy loss by 124 runs. After that match, you could see it, you could see everything the team lacked, which unfortunately was in every department. Pakistan had been heavily criticized before the start of this tournament for their ability to not adapt to modern cricket. Big hitting, attacking batting with an addition of superb fielding is what’s needed to survive in modern cricket. But Pakistan has been not able to reach that level which was once again on show in that match against India.

Underestimate Them At Your Own Peril
PHOTO: Shadab on the ground

So, what do you do when you can’t play the other teams game? You make them play yours. Pakistan is a crazy anomaly, absolutely awful at times and the next moment ridiculously amazing. Transitioning from one to the other between matches or even a matter of 3 deliveries. This was one of those times. 

Pakistan came out flying against South Africa. They looked like a team on a mission. A mission where if you do what you’re good at, you will not only survive, you will flourish. Bowling first Pakistani bowling showed what its about by taking five wickets for just 118 runs. South Africa’s mighty batting line up had crumbled. Some may say Pakistan was lucky with the rain but they looked in control when rain interfered as D/L method gave Pakistan a 19 runs win. The performance continued in the do or die match against Sri Lanka. Bowling first again, Pakistan choked Sri Lanka in the middle overs, forcing them to play unwanted shots which led to quick wickets in the depth overs. The chase was another one of times where Pakistan batting collapses. But there captain Sarfaraz Ahmed, guided them over the finish line with the help of Muhammad Amir, who was at the end of deserved praise from the captain himself post match. An eighty five run eighth wicket stand saw Pakistan cross the finish line and into the semifinals. Semifinal berth earned Pakistan a battle against the tournament favorites, England. Playing in their own backyard, England was tipped to win the tournament after its immaculate batting performances coming into the tournament. But Pakistan were having none of that. Winning the toss Pakistan put England to bat first. Once again it was the Pakistani bowlers who shined.  Choking England in the middle overs, Pakistan limited them to 211. Pakistani batting on the other hand, stepped up this time. No messing around Pakistan reached the target with 2 wickets in hand and 12.5 overs still to be bowled. Onto the final they went.

Who waited for them in the final? You guessed it. India. It was a rematch. Both teams now in full flow, arch rivals were going to go neck to neck in an attempt to win the trophy. India looking to repeat their performance against their rivals from early in the tournament, whilst Pakistan was looking for redemption. India won the toss, depending on their batting prowess and ability to chase, they put Pakistan into bat. Pakistan went in with fearless mode. Spraying the ball all over the park throughout the innings. Centuries, half centuries they had it all. India after bowling well in the last 5 overs restricted Pakistan to 338. If you look at the Indian batting line up, you’d think it was going to be a walk in the park and it was just that, a walk in the park, just that it was for Pakistan. Indian batsmen succumbed to the pressure from the first delivery. 3 wickets upfront and Pakistan had bamboozled the opposition batting. A quick fire flourish from Hardik Pandya gave India some hope, but it was never going to be. Pakistan had bowled out India for just 158 through some brilliant strategy and implementation. With that, Pakistan are champions. From underdogs to top dogs. Outclassing the opponents in every department.

Underestimate Them At Your Own Peril
PHOTO: Pakistan Cricket Team

The team with the new captain, young players had won a global ICC event and they had put everything into it. The new boy Fakhar Zaman showed no fear or nerves. Attacking the opposition from the moment he stepped out. And he had Azhar Ali for company. The player who was ruled not capable of playing ODI cricket had made a comeback and shown brilliant will power. Pakistan finally has a found am opening pair with brains, fearlessness and caution. Babar Azam has shown potential, a consistent performer who can be depended upon. Senior players like Shoaib Malik and Muhammad Hafeez will remain in important part of the group with their ability to steady to rocking ship. Sarfaraz, the captain himself is always an aggressor, a much needed prospect lower in the order. Then there are the bowlers. Anything said about them isn’t enough. The strength Pakistan is known for, the bowling. It didn’t let us down this either. A mix of swing and pace up front from Muhammad Amir and Junaid Khan, accuracy in the middle orders from Hassan Ali. How can we forget Shadab Khan? 18 year old with absolute confidence in his abilities who has shown superb temperament early in his career. Fakhar Zaman winning man of the match in the final and Hassan Ali winning man of the tournament says a lot about the youngsters in this team. This victory is nothing short of a team effort. This victory is exactly what this country needed to revive its ODI cricket. A country that doesn’t have the best of domestic cricket, their T20 league is only two years old and most of all hasn’t had international cricket in their home for 9 years, shows that if you work hard, play to the best of your abilities, nothing is impossible. Call this team inconsistent, unpredictable or even unreliable but underestimate them at your own peril.