Sunday, February 21, 2016

Pakistan's abhi nahin toh kabhi nahin wins

Pakistan cricket has forever prevailed due to individual brilliance. Over the years, we have had the privilege of witnessing some great match winners take Pakistan home with the ball and the bat in matches Pakistan had no business winning. This never say die attitude is synonymous with Pakistan cricket and it has resulted in so many victories in ODIs and Tests that it is quite remarkable. I was reminded of this way of playing cricket by Pepsi’s latest marketing campaign that has justlaunched. Its tagline - Abhi nai toh Kabhi nai - completely resonates with the way Pakistan has played its cricket and won games from desperate situations. There are so many victories in Pakistan cricket history that can be attributed to moments that echo Abhi nai toh Kabhi nai; here are 5 of my favorite ones.

1.      Javed Miandad’s last ball 6 in Sharjah

No Pakistani, nor any Indian, can ever forget that last delivery from Chetan Sharma in the AustralAsia Cup Final in Sharjah in 1986. With 4 needed to win off the final delivery of the match, Javed Miandad had only one option – to swing it for a four or a six. Javed Miandad’s swing at a full toss from Chetan Sharma that went sailing over the mid-wicket boundary has been etched in the memory of every Pakistan cricket fan. Chetan Sharma probably still has nightmares about that day 30 years ago.

That last ball 6 had an even bigger significance than just that win in the final. Till that match, Pakistan and India has squared off in 16 ODIs, with India winning 8 and Pakistan 7. That 6 changed everything for Pakistan. It was arguably the most defining 6 in Pakistan’s cricket history as it helped sustain a psychological edge over India for the next decade and a half, scarring an entire nation. Over the next 15 years, Pakistan and India played 61 ODIs with Pakistan winning 39 and India 19.

2.      1992 World Cup Win

Another memorable event that no Pakistani fan can ever forget. It remains Pakistan’s only ICC World Cup win to date. For all of us it was a cricket world cup, which came four years ago and will come again four years later. But for Imran Khan, Pakistan’s beloved skipper, it was a lot more than that. It was his last chance at holding the World Cup trophy, it was his last chance to build a cancer hospital, it was his last chance to realize a dream.

Having lost the semifinal of the World Cup in 1987 after being one of the favorites to win the title, 1992 was Imran Khan’s last chance. But the start of the tournament was far from ideal for Pakistan who after 5 games sat on only 3 points. Everyone and their mother had ruled Pakistan out of the World Cup and only a miracle could save their campaign. However, there was one man, actually two, who believed that Pakistan still had a chance - Sunil Gavaskar and Imran Khan himself who trusted his team to go all the way.

Three wins on the trot and a result ensuring that the West Indies will not advance, and Pakistan found themselves in the semifinals. The rest, as they say, is history.

3.      The near-century that was worth 10 tons

Inzamam Ul Haq had scored a test century in every test playing country except South Africa, so when toured there in 2007 he knew that it would be the his last chance to conquer the only nation he had not in his career. With Pakistan 1-0 down in the test series and having bowled South Africa out for only 124 in the first innings of the second test, the stage was set for a rare test win in South Africa, and for Inzamam to capitalize on his bowlers' performance.

But Pakistan being Pakistan collapsed to 135-6 by the end of day 1. Inzamam, slated to bat at number 6, had not walked out to bat after the fall of the 4th wicket. He didn't either at the fall of the 5th in the penultimate over and sent in night watchman Mohammad Sami. The next morning Inzamam walked out to bat, at number 8, with Sami and only Shoaib Akhtar, Danish Kaneria, and Mohammad Asif to follow.

Pakistan managed to add another 130 runs to their overnight total with Inzamam contributing 92 of those runs. Unfortunately he missed the elusive century, but had he not run out of partners he would have surely got there. That unbeaten knock of 92 was as good as any test century that Inzamam had ever scored. It is one of the best knocks I have ever witnessed in a pressure situation.

For over 30 overs, Inzamam toyed with Pollock, Ntini, Nel, and Kallis as he maneuvered the strike like a batting wizard. He played 4 or 5 deliveries of every over before taking a single and he continued the same practice for 36 overs. Never have I seen any batsman play with the tail with such authority. That knock was as good as scoring 10 centuries in South Africa.

4.      Two 6s in the final over to beat India

In the Asia Cup encounter against India, Pakistan were comfortably placed on 200-4 in 43 overs while chasing a target of 246. But nothing is ever comfortable in Pakistan cricket. From that position, they were soon 236-9 in 49.1 overs; 5 wickets lost for 36 runs in 6.1 overs; another 10 to get and only 5 deliveries and the last wicket left. But there was one lifeline for Pakistan - the one and only Shahid Khan Afridi.

Junaid Khan walked out to face the second delivery of the final over following the fall of Saeed Ajmal's wicket. Just like Tauseef Ahmed did in 1986 to give strike to Miandad, Junaid Khan took the all important single to bring Afridi on strike. Pakistan's cricket fans typically have their hearts in their mouths every time Afridi is on strike, so one can't even begin to explain what the feeling was when Afridi came on strike.

The next delivery could either go boom or bust; that is just how it is with Afridi. For someone who had failed umpteen times to finish off games with the bat, it was an ideal situation to fix. In just two deliveries, Afridi corrected mistakes committed over two decades! With two sixes off the third and fourth delivery of the final over from Ashwin, Afridi repeated history and took Pakistan to an improbable one wicket win.

5.      Two Ws combine to win at Lord's

Pakistan's cricket folklore is full of stories about Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis combining to destroy opposition and leading Pakistan to wins in matches Pakistan had no business winning. There are so many ODIs and Tests that Pakistan has won in come from behind situations thanks to the two Ws. They have done it at home in Pakistan, in Sharjah, in New Zealand, in South Africa, in Australia and in England. They have defended meager totals, initiated collapses, and won games out of the blue for Pakistan.

All of this they have done with the ball.

However there is this one match that the two Ws won for Pakistan with the bat. It was the second test of Pakistan's tour to England in 1992. Pakistan had dominated the test from day 1 and were all set for victory after bowling England out twice and setting themselves a target of 138. But as is the case with Pakistan on so many occasions, nothing is simple.

Chris Lewis dismissed Rameez Raja, Asif Mujtaba, and Javed Miandad (all three for a duck) to leave Pakistan reeling at 18-3, which soon became 68-6 and then 95-8. That is when Waqar Younis joined Wasim Akram at the crease. The two had partnered well with the ball, but this time they had to try and do it with the bat.

While Wasim, with a test hundred to his name, was still known for his batting; Waqar Younis barely was. But Waqar fought hard. The two Ws stayed at the crease till the very end putting together an unbroken 46 run partnership for the 9th wicket with Wasim unbeaten on 45 and Waqar unbeaten on 20 leading Pakistan to a 2 wicket win.

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I can keep writing about Pakistan's abhi nai toh kabhi nai moments in cricket. There are so many of them when you go down history, but the above 5 are my favorite ones. What are your abhi nai toh kabhi nai moments related to Pakistan cricket? Share your memories with us in the comments section.

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  1. Jamshed Azhar said...

    I'd add:

    1. Asif Mujtaba and the tail against Australia (I think 1986).
    2. Asif Bhai again, this time the last ball 6 to tie. Hugely underrated player! Not a win but somehow better.
    3. Abdul Razzaq's one man nuclear arsenal laden attack on South Africa in Abu Dhabi. I bawled like a kid. Yet another player we wasted.
    4. Shahid Afridi in India with Musharraf watching. Modern day folklore that even had to be quoted in "In the line of fire".
    5. Wasim / Waqar vs. New Zealand defending 125. Deadliest Pakistan battery ever.

    I could go on and on...

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