IN overpowering India to win the coveted Champions Trophy title on Sunday at The Oval, not only has Pakistan cricket exorcised a decade-old jinx, it has also been given a lifeline to compete in the 2019 World Cup.
The handsome turnaround by Sarfraz Ahmed and his men, who played fearless cricket throughout to win four games on the trot including the final after having been humbled by India in the opening game, has had the critics searching for superlatives.
For a side in eighth place in the ICC ODI ranking, Pakistan has come full circle, after discarding the initial trepidation and thwarting the myriad odds stacked against it.
There is, however, no more gratifying an achievement than beating India in the final, after suffering years of disappointment and defeat at the latter’s hands, especially in mega events.
The brilliant show has now propelled Pakistan into sixth spot thus guaranteeing them direct entry into the World Cup.
Since the 2009 terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore, major cricket-playing countries such as Australia, England, South Africa and India have refused tours here citing security concerns; other nations including Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and more recently Afghanistan have declined invitations after initially agreeing to visit, thus compounding the isolation of Pakistan cricket.
That has forced Pakistan to adopt the UAE as its ‘home’ venue, depriving thousands at home of a chance to flock to the stadium to watch their heroes on the field, besides financially burdening the Pakistan Cricket Board.
Cricket here has further been undermined by the poor administrative policies of those at the helm in PCB under an ad hoc system that has caused domestic cricket standards to drop, besides leading to a never-ending selection rigmarole.
The recent spot-fixing scam at the Pakistan Super League was perhaps the last straw, for the league had taken off superbly and was about to be relocated here.
The Oval win will hopefully help address most of these problems. It has clearly signalled the dawn of a new era for Pakistan cricket that could see the team scale new heights.
Under Sarfraz, an astute, bold leader, this relatively young team has rediscovered the pride, the discipline and the aggression that used to be the hallmark of Pakistan cricket, especially in the limited-over format.
The win puts the skipper in a better position to dictate terms on team selection and players’ welfare — issues that are integral to the game’s prosperity. More importantly, the entire cricket world — and not just the International Cricket Council — has taken note of Pakistan’s incredible performance.
It is an emphatic reminder of the tremendous young talent available in the country — talent that has produced match winners like Fakhar Zaman, Hasan Ali, Shadab Khan and Fahim Ashraf. All this augurs well for the future.
Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2017