THE uncertainties of a limited over game at any level is such that even an unbeatable team is beaten into submission as was the case a couple of days ago when Pakistan convincingly thrashed England in the first semi-final of the ongoing ICC Champions Trophy to leap into the final, to be played against India on Sunday.
That certainly is going to be an event of the English summer with two arch-rivals sizing up against each other to once again test their strength in this competition. The first round was won by India, no doubt, but that does not guarantee India another victory because Pakistan, now pumped up with wins against South Africa and Sri Lanka earlier on, has started to look like a dangerous prospect.
That reminds us, of course, of their march to victory in the 1992 World Cup at Melbourne against England in similar situation. Their one win in five games in that competition did not bode well for them but then they got on the roll by beating Australia at Perth and Sri Lanka as well humbling the unbeatable New Zealand twice to get into the final and win it under Imran Khan.
This Pakistan outfit does not have a similar bunch of experienced players around them but they surely are a promising lot who are young and fit with ability to spring surprise as they have done so far under Sarfraz Ahmed to get into the swing of things to suddenly emerge from behind to stake a claim for the coveted trophy.
If Sri Lanka can beat India and Pakistan can beat Sri Lanka and England too, then anything would be possible. What Pakistan would now need is another good day in the office to dent India’s pride.
What, however, saddens me is the fact that despite what Pakistan has achieved so far in this tournament, a couple of our former players in their comments on various TV channels have been outrageously disdainful, disrespectful and quite derogatory and ridiculously absurd.
Our team at the moment is focused on a job at hand and they need our backing and support rather than insinuations and mud-slinging by a couple of former players. It is sad that when associated with the PCB, these players behave like a dumb sloth and when out of it they use their poisonous tongue to degrade their own players.
Pakistan players and authorities need to ignore these silly reactions and continue backing Sarfraz and his men, whether they win or lose.
The way Pakistan has bowled and batted in the last couple of game provides us with the hope that they would continue in the same vain to outgun a mean machine like what India is at this level.
But there always comes a time when even the best can look like the worst. It is a question of how well you play on the day and Pakistan needs to have one more day of that glorious outing which did wonders for them against England.
The Oval gives both the bowlers and the batsmen an even opportunity to influence the result of a game. So far Hassan Ali, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Amir and even Ruman Raees have been penetrative enough to reduce a big-hitting chap like Ben Stokes to a strokeless wonder which no doubt put England on the back foot.
Depending on the weather conditions on the day and the toss, the final could be a humdinger. There will be no shortage of support though for both the teams and the swooning fans would turn out in strength to back their heroes.
Pakistan’s record in such ICC tournaments may not be as eye-catching as it should have been but there are always moments when things turn round the other way to send shock waves in the opposition.
India has a formidable batting to boast with Shekhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli in top form and experienced Mahendra Singh Dhoni around with Ashwin, Jadeja and Youvraj Singh in attendance and a couple of medium-pacers who also can make the difference.
But I have seen even the best sides slump under pressure and that is what Pakistan should look for to keep India in check from the first ball to achieve what many believe is beyond them.
Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2017