June 21, 2009. If ever Pakistan's survival depended on a cricket match, this was the day. Ostracised by the cricketing world after the attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore just months earlier, Pakistan were fighting a battle on many fronts when they arrived in England for the 2009 World Twenty20.
The players were still reeling in the aftermath of the Lahore tragedy. What was to become of Pakistan cricket? Will an international team tour the country ever again? Will Pakistan be able to pull itself out of the darkness of March 3? Will the Sri Lankans be able to forgive?
For a cricket team, these were perhaps too many extras to deal with as the tournament kicked off on June 2.
Nineteen days later it was these very two teams, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, who strode out to the center for their respective national anthems in the final at Lord's. Neither deserved to lose.
But as maverick star Shahid Afridi struck his Vitruvian Man pose at the end of a tense Sunday evening, cricket had served a greater purpose. Pakistan lifted the trophy but Sri Lanka had not lost. It was cricket's defining moment - it was more than just a game.
The Bible of Cricket, Wisden, put it aptly:
Now came a high every bit as uplifting as winning the 1992 World Cup - perhaps more so given the world's unwillingness to travel to Pakistan in the wake of the Lahore terrorist atrocity in March, an attack which injured seven Sri Lankan cricketers. The victorious captain Younis Khan made an impassioned plea for international cricket to return to Pakistan, as well as announcing his immediate retirement from Twenty20 internationals.
|The two teams that deserved to be in the final the most. - AFP|
Cornered Tigers term victory 'bigger than 92'
“It's a major turnaround in a sense that over the last six to eight months whatever has happened in Pakistan it has sent wrong messages. Nobody was rating this team, but the way they have made a comeback there's no example in our sporting history.”
“We are always slow starters, but once the team started playing as a unit, I knew it would go all the way and lift the World Cup. It's a great achievement.”
“The bowlers played a vital role in winning the tournament. Umar Gul, Afridi and Saeed Ajmal bowled superbly throughout.”
“This victory comes as a morale booster for a nation beset with political and economic problems,”
It was an emotional occasion for a side who have been disenfranchised by terrorism, unable to play matches at home, destined to roam the world in search of cricket to sustain interest and their development.
No one, not even those who would have seen as cathartic a Sri Lanka win, will begrudge them their triumph in front of a fervent crowd, the noise of which will have disturbed the St John's Wood Sunday for some hours afterwards.
Back then it was Imran Khan's famous talk of "cornered tigers" that inspired them to victory after just one win in their first four matches. This time skipper Younis Khan spoke of WWE wrestling. Enjoy yourself, was the message. Have some fun.
Unpredictability has always been one of Pakistan’s biggest banes, and not too many were convinced of their ability to repeat the cricket they played in their semifinal win over South Africa.
Sydney Morning Herald
Against all the odds and in defiance of the terrorists who ravage their homeland, Pakistan has lifted the world Twenty20 trophy at Lord's.
Man of the moment, Shahid Afridi, in an exclusive with Dawn
“We started off with losses in the practice games followed by defeat in the opener against England. However, the positive development was that not a single player lost his morale. The squad was united, each player had the identical aim [of winning the title for Pakistan] and this thing helped us in the latter stages.”
“The senior players took the responsibility at the right time while at the same time the exuberant juniors performed impressively which worked well for us.”
Younis the leader
“Younis never considers from which province or city a player is coming. Quality performance is the top criterion for him to decide whether a cricketer deserves a place in the national team.”
Rediscovering batting form
“I discuss everything [related to the game] with Younis frankly. I thought I had no advantage in batting down the order in the world event. So, I asked the skipper to promote me which proved to be prolific.”
Younis Khan on Pakistan's triumph
“Imran Khan was my hero and I had dreamt of lifting the World Cup and being remembered as a World Cup-winning captain after I leave the sport.
“It is indeed a huge achievement for us and I'm glad to have given this gift to our troubled nation.”
“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.”
“I would say to the world, please come to Pakistan and play. I am very proud of my nation, I'm a proud man and this victory is good for all of us.”
Relive Umar Gul's record-breaker against New Zealand
Pakistan's World T20 in statistics
Three batsmen in top 10
Kamran Akmal - 4th highest run scorer with 188 runs from 7 matches
Shahid Afridi - 7th on the list with 176 runs from 7 matches
Younis Khan - 8th on the list with 172 runs from 7 matches
Three bowlers in top 10
Umar Gul was the tournaments highest wicket-taker with thirteen wickets from 7 matches. He also became the first bowler in the history of T20 cricket to pick up a five-wicket haul with his 5/6 against New Zealand
Saaed Ajmal ranked 3rd on this list with 12 wickets from 7 matches
Shahid Afridi, man of the match in the final, ranked 5th on this list