The only ICC trophy missing from Pakistan’s cabinet is that of the Champions Trophy. In seven attempts, the best that Pakistan has managed is making it to the semi-finals. No one – least of all the ICC – is sure about the tournament’s exact place in cricket’s index of important trophies but winning silverware can never be bad.
As Sarfaraz Ahmed’s team tries to win glory for Pakistan, here is Pakistan’s journey in the ICC Champions Trophy through the years:
A month after leading Pakistan to a Sahara Cup victory over arch-rivals India, Aamer Sohail led his team to what was then known as the Wills International Cup. This was not a particularly pleasant time for the Pakistan team, dealing with intrigues and, more importantly, fixing allegations. Sohail, who was appointed captain earlier that year, was only a month away from losing the captaincy.
Pakistan’s opening game – a quarter final in a knockout tournament – was against the West Indies. Led by Brian Lara, the Windies batted first after winning the toss.
Right-handed opener Philo Wallace struck one of his two fifties in a 33-match career on a Dhaka track that was placid enough for him to bat without a helmet against Wasim Akram and Azhar Mahmood. He ended with a career average of 21.24 but did enough in this match to blunt the Pakistani bowlers. A 58-ball 79 from Wallace at the top handed Pakistan a mental defeat during the first innings and they could never really catch up from there.
Pakistan went to Nairobi under wicket-keeper batsman Moin Khan, who was returning to lead the side after missing out on the preceding tour of Singapore due to injury.
Pakistan won the opening game against Sri Lanka with relative ease. The bowlers, led by Wasim Akram, restricted Sri Lanka to 194. Saeed Anwar scored an unbeaten 105, giving Pakistan a healthy nine-wicket win.
Pakistan’s next game was a semi-final against New Zealand. Anwar’s purple patch continued as he hit another century. The middle order, however, failed in this game and Pakistan ended up posting 252 in 50 overs. Another Pakistan cricket story of what could have been.
New Zealand got home with one over to spare and ended as the tournament winners, defeating India in the final.
This was the year Pakistan cricket provided us with the highs and lows that they are so well known for. Earlier in the year, they won a series against Australia in Australia. Later that year, they failed to qualify for the final of a tri-series involving Sri Lanka and South Africa. A first-round exit in the Champions Trophy was another indicator that the sun had set on Pakistan’s aging side. Months later, a first-round exit in the 2003 World Cup was the final nail in the coffin.
Pakistan chose to bat in their opening game against Sri Lanka and never recovered from losing three wickets for 17 runs. They managed to score 200, thanks to a fifty from Saeed Anwar and some late resistance from a young Misbah ul Haq.
Shoaib Malik became the first batsman to be given LBW on a third-umpire referral.
The score, of course, proved to be a walk in the park for Sri Lanka and they ended up winning this game by 8 wickets.
Pakistan’s next game – a consolation win over the Netherlands – is remembered for Shahid Afridi’s then joint second-fastest fifty off 18 balls.
Pakistan’s highlight in this edition of the Champions Trophy was defeating India at Birmingham ─ the venue for this year’s clash between the two archrivals.
Pakistan embarrassed Kenya with a 7-wicket win in their first game before squaring up against India for a tense win in their second group game. The fast bowlers led Pakistan’s charge, with Rana Naved and Shoaib Akhtar picking up four wickets each. Mohammad Yousuf played the anchor role in the chase, battling cramps to score a match-winning knock of 81 runs. A late-order display of fearless hitting from Afridi eased the nerves of Pakistani fans just a little, only for Afridi to get out with 14 needed.
Six years after they first knocked Pakistan out of the Champions Trophy under Brian Lara, the West Indies sent Pakistan packing again. Having won the toss in the knockout game, Pakistan’s self-induced implosion resulted in the loss of 7 wickets for 31 runs. A target of 132 runs was never going to test the Windies despite a fiercely competitive spell of bowling from Shoaib Akhtar that resulted in an injury to Lara.
Inzamam was suspended after the Oval fiasco so Younis Khan was set to captain in the Champions Trophy. Then Younis Khan resigned and Mohammad Yousuf became captain. The chairman resigned next. The new chairman appointed Younis Khan captain. Pakistan’s two leading pacers – Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif – were suspended for doping violations days before Pakistan’s opening game.
When Razzaq and Malik led Pakistan to a successful run chase in their first game against Sri Lanka, it looked like Pakistan were going to be tough to beat. But they ran out of gas, losing the next two games against New Zealand and South Africa to make an early exit.
By the time they played their last game against South Africa, the team looked jaded and out of sorts. From reducing South Africa to 42 for 5 in the first 15 overs, Pakistan managed to lose by 124 runs.
This time, Younis Khan was captain by default. Having led Pakistan to the ICC World T20 title earlier in the year, Khan was now beginning to lose control over the team with reports of infighting and intrigue. He sat out the first match due to injury when Shahid Afridi captained the side to a tense win on a testing pitch against a second-string West Indian XI.
This was Umar Akmal’s breakaway year – a seemingly alternative reality if you look at how his career panned out – and he batted admirably to see Pakistan home against hostile West Indian pace bowling.
Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Yousuf agree on very little off the field but the duo came together for a 206-run partnership to give Pakistan victory against India at Centurion. This was also young Mohammad Amir’s first game against India – one that he will remember for picking up Sachin Tendulkar’s wicket.
Four days later, Pakistan and Australia met at the same ground. For almost 80 overs, it looked like another one of those dominant Australian performances. Then Pakistan happened. From a rather comfortable 140 for 2, Australia found themselves 187 for 8.
Replay this video for another reminder of why Mohammad Asif was a genius with the ball.
Australia scraped through to a win off the last ball, much to the dismay of Indian fans – a Pakistan win could have given India a ticket to the next round.
Pakistan made a semi-final exit this year, losing to New Zealand by 5 wickets.
A young and in-form Umar Akmal was batting on 55 with 10 overs to go. He tried to paddle a Daniel Vettori ball and missed it. Simon Taufel raised his finger when replays should Akmal got an edge to that ball.
At around the same mark during New Zealand’s chase, Grant Elliot chipped the ball to Younis Khan at short cover. Khan, who was playing with extra padding on his finger because of an injury, dropped a sitter. Elliot finished with a match-winning 75.
Who knows what might have happened had either one of these two gone in Pakistan’s favor?
Misbah ul Haq survived a few scares in his captaincy and three losses at the Champions Trophy was definitely one of them. In hindsight, it looks like Pakistan never showed up for this tournament.
The first game against the West Indies proved to be a batting disaster as Pakistan folded for 170. Nasir Jamshed, 50, and Misbah ul Haq, 96, were the only two batsmen to get into double figures. This was a rude awakening for newly hired batting consultant Trent Woodhill.
The bowlers, led by a fired up Wahab Riaz, just did not have enough to defend with 170 on the board.
Losses against South Africa and India followed, as a disastrous campaign came to an end.
Imran A. Khan is a freelance journalist based in New York. He is a graduate of the Columbia Journalism School and worked as a Marketing, Media and PR manager for Pakistan Super League and Pakistan Cricket Board. Say hello @imranahmadkh