Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 21 September 2019

From no-hopers to cricket champions: Oh Pakistan, please never change

There is plenty of time yet for the Hasans and Sarfrazes of 2017 to become Wasims and Imrans, writes Paul Radley.
Pakistan continue to defy logic, such is their unpredictability. Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP Photo
Pakistan continue to defy logic, such is their unpredictability. Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP Photo

Madness. Joyful, farcical, blissful madness. Oh, Pakistan, please never change.

They were not supposed to win this. They were not even supposed to be here. They were no-hopers. They might as well have booked their tickets home one match in to this competition.

And, even then, not like this. Not with such crushing dominance against the defending champions, the tournament favourites, and their own most regular tormentors.

No, scratch that. This was the only way they could win it. In a blaze of craziness. A side who dropped out of the top eight in the world standings less than a week after sneaking into the qualification places for the Champions Trophy. Had that happened days earlier, they literally would not have been here.

They made it through to a final that pitted the Indian Premier League millionaires against a bunch of Joe Nobodies. The rich kids never stood a chance.

For nobodies, now read heroes. Not quite immortals, like the Cornered Tigers of ’92. Not yet, at least. But these boys might only be getting started. There is plenty of time yet for the Hasans and Sarfrazes of 2017 to become Wasims and Imrans.

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Fakhar Zaman, four months on from being “Fakhar Who?” Once of the Navy, now of the Champions Trophy winners. A match-winning hundred on the biggest stage he has ever played on, having played just three one-day internationals previously.

Shadab Khan, barely out of short trousers. Back in February, when the Pakistan Super League (PSL) was on, his Islamabad United coach Dean Jones said this teenaged leg-spinner was ready to play for Pakistan already. Dean Jones? What does he know about it? A fair bit, it turns out.

Junaid Khan. Remember him? He was supposed to have been finished. Far from it, it turns out. What a renaissance.

Not quite the headline renaissance, of course. Mohammed Amir. Yes, that Mohammed Amir. Had his whole career, all the deeply layered chapters of a story that still has plenty to run, been simply a preface to this day?

The lavish promise. The vivacity of youth sullied in such damning fashion. Five years in absentia. And then the return. A PSL hat-trick. A stunning cameo in the Asia Cup T20. Dropped catches, too, though. Fine spells, that went wicketless. Creeping doubt.

But then, this. For all Fakhar’s excellence, this win could not have happened without Amir.

Sure, the 339-run target was a big one. But it was a flat track, and the defending champions had in their ranks perhaps the two greatest chasers in the history of the game, Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni. At half time, this game was not done.

It was as soon as Amir had the ball in his fingers, though. Rohit Sharma, gone. Kohli, tick. Shikhar Dhawan? Chalk him up, too.

At 6-2, then 33-3, India’s race was run, despite the late and vicious defiance of Hardik Pandya.

By the end, the wickets were falling at such a pace, the DJ might as well have left “Dil Dil Pakistan” running over the loudspeakers. There was barely a gap, anyway.

“Are they the most unpredictable side in all of sport?” Shane Warne asked on commentary, as the death throes approached for India.

Hardly. We all knew it was going to end like this. Right?

pradley@thenational.ae

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Updated: June 18, 2017 04:00 AM

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