“Pakistan cricket at its best: one minute down, next minute up.”
This memorable quote from former England captain and renowned commentator Nasser Hussain is arguably the perfect definition of Pakistan cricket. The mercurial, unpredictable behaviour is what makes them one of the most exciting teams in the world — the most dangerous for opponents and their fans, alike.
Being a Pakistan cricket fan is nothing less than a rollercoaster ride — the team surprises you, both on and off the field.
Similarly, they are full of surprises when it comes to mega-cricket events. Perhaps, this stems from their lack of consistency, but whatever may be the reason, they are a hard team to love, and hate.
Ahead of Pakistan's official start to the ICC T20 World Cup campaign against India on Sunday, here are a few cricketing events that stand out.
One central theme exists in all, though. You never count Pakistan out — they are bound to surprise you.
The 1992 World Cup
This was the year when Pakistan lifted cricket's most prestigious title. It was Imran Khan, currently the prime minister, who led the team to this memorable feat in Australia.
As always, the team was surrounded by issues and conspiracies ahead of the tournament. It all started with Pakistan losing key members – Waqar Younis and Saeed Anwar who went on to become legends – of its playing XI. The team played the tournament with one pacer short, while the opening batting combination was disturbed as well.
They didn’t have a great start to the tournament, losing three games, one being washed out and managing only one win, out of five group stage matches. With co-hosts Australia and New Zealand next in line, at that moment, everyone counted them out from the title race.
But then luck and destiny smiled at Pakistan.
All of a sudden, the fortune turned around and the team started gaining momentum at the right time as they rolled over Australia, thrashed Sri Lanka, and outplayed New Zealand who were unbeaten until then.
With these victories, Pakistan scrambled into the semi-final where they were up against the Black Caps again. The moment they defeated New Zealand in the semi-final in Auckland, it was all Pakistan.
Thanks to all the replays, the final against England is still fresh in our memories.
Rising from the ashes: World T20 2009
It will always be remembered as one of the darkest years of Pakistan's cricket history, marred by a terror attack on the Sri Lanka team. They were isolated after the shocking development in Lahore on March 3.
The team was still recovering from the aftermath of the attack when they went to England.
Keeping the tradition of unpredictability alive, they kicked off their campaign with a below-average performance against the hosts. Pakistan managed only one win out of the first three matches. Similar to the 1992 World Cup, from here on, every game was a knockout game for the Younis Khan-led unit.
Pakistan's fourth match was against New Zealand, where they emphatically trounced them courtesy a memorable Umar Gul spell in which he claimed the first-ever T20 five-wicket haul.
This was the kind of victory that Pakistan needed to boost confidence.
Shahid Afridi then starred as Pakistan beat South Africa in the semi-final.
In the final, Pakistan beat Sri Lanka rather comfortably after another great show by Afridi.
The win came against all odds, and was then celebrated in emphatic fashion back home as well. An emotional side, and an emotional fanbase made the win memorable.
I'd like all the countries to come to Pakistan again. The situation is not good but it's not our fault. If there isn't any cricket in Pakistan how can we motivate the youngsters: Younis Khan
ICC Champions Trophy miracle and toppling India
Led by Sarfaraz Ahmed, the side barely made it to the tournament. They were the underdogs, the lowest-ranked team – eighth– in the competition, and struggling.
But, a few days into it, and it became a fairytale ride.
However, before it clinched a memorable win, Pakistan was steamrolled by arch-rivals India, a margin of 124 runs no less. Media bashing began, and Indians rejoiced.
But the loss came as a blessing in disguise as, like most defeats do in Pakistan's case, the team couldn't go any lower.
In the second game of their campaign, they toppled the number-one ranked ODI team (back then) South Africa. Against Sri Lanka, Sarfaraz and Mohammad Amir had to put together a stand to scrape through.
In the semi-final, they were up against the unbeaten host nation — much like the 1992 edition when Pakistan ran up against New Zealand.
Without Amir, Pakistan had to rely on a debutant (Rumman Raees).
But as fate would have it, Pakistan put out their ‘A’ game to thrash the Eion Morgan-led England by eight wickets.
With this victory, they set up a dream final against arch-rivals India, who were the side to beat in the competition.
The Indian media was quick to rule out the opposition and honestly, back in Pakistan, fans were not expecting a miracle either.
But that's the thing. The team produces miracles.
It was Fakhar Zaman who started it off as Pakistan set the stage with a competitive total.
From there on, Amir was the star.
Who could forget the drop off Indian captain Virat Kohli. And how many times do you dismiss one of the world's top-ranked batsman twice in two deliveries. That is what Amir effectively did. He induced an edge, only for the catch to be dropped. The very next delivery, fans forgot the disappointment. Amir had produced a miracle.
This turn alone was enough. India did not recover.
Pakistan won the match by 180 runs and lifted their first 50-over ICC title after 1992, and silencing everyone including those from across the border. You can never rule out Pakistan.
Do not count Pakistan out
Being unpredictable is what makes Pakistan fun to watch. But it is also this very behaviour that means one cannot ever truly rule them out — no matter what the odds.
As history shows, Pakistan can defeat any team in the world or lose to anyone from any position.
But usually, we excel in come-from-behind wins.
In 2021, what better could be a better come-from-behind win in the ICC T20 World Cup after having just been insulted by New Zealand and England for their refusal to tour Pakistan.
Our team management has seen an overhaul, and so has the PCB setup. Critics have come hard on our team composition, and no one is really hopeful.
But this is really where we excel, don't we?
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