A balmy victory


Their volatile unpredictability that makes them so dangerous in international cricket’s newest and shortest format apart, few would have given Pakistan a realistic chance of crowning themselves World T20 champions. After all, the state of cricket in the troubled nation wasn’t dissimilar to the state of the country itself. Ostracised as an international venue following the attack in Lahore on Sri Lanka’s national team in early March, Pakistan cricket was left without a home. In that regard, it was perhaps fitting that they triumphed at the home of cricket, Lord’s, against an opposition that had shown great courage and character in its first international assignment since the Lahore attack.

Pakistan’s cricket has always oscillated between the sublime and the ridiculous. They can turn up all guns blazing one day against the best in the world, then play like novices the next against even the weakest of the weak.

It is precisely not knowing which Pakistan will turn up that makes them such an exciting team to watch. Early on in the World T20, the team was on self-destruct mode, trounced by England in the group stages and beaten by Sri Lanka in the Super Eights. The spark of inspiration so desperately needed arrived from Umar Gul, the reverse-swinging paceman whose world record five for six annihilated New Zealand. It triggered a turnaround that culminated in Younis Khan holding aloft the World Cup nearly 10 years to the day after Australia had crushed Pakistan at the same venue in the 50-over World Cup final. Gul might have been the catalyst,  but Shahid Afridi became the toast of the nation, winning man of the match awards in the semifinal and the final.

For Pakistan as a whole, this triumph couldn’t have been more timely. In times of tension and strife, of bomb blasts and numerous lives lost needlessly, the title comes as a soothing balm. This win should spur those running the affairs of Pakistan to clean up the mess back home, starting with hunting down the perpetrators of terror attack on Lankan cricketers. For world cricket, too, it’s nothing but good news because no sport can thrive unless the balance of power keeps shifting. The cricket world, though, will welcome the resounding success of the 20-over bash with mixed feelings. Over the years, Test cricket has successfully survived various challenges, and while it will only benefit from the innovations thrown up by the T20 format, the 50-over game could face extinction unless it rediscovers itself quickly.

 

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