Throwback Thursday: The World Cups that slipped from Pakistan's grasp

Updated 31 May 2019

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The 1999 side was arguably Pakistan's best. — AFP/File
The 1999 side was arguably Pakistan's best. — AFP/File

The famous, globular, translucent relic from the early 90s in the trophy cabinet is a reminder that over 11 tournaments and 44 years, Pakistan have come out triumphant just once.

It is also a reminder that we've won four less World Cups than Australia, and trail India and the West Indies by a trophy each.

But this could have been so very different had some former versions of Team Pakistan kept their heads on a few occasions.

Unlike the current crop, these sides — one each from the 80s and 90s — had talent, leadership, experience and even home advantage, but just couldn't pull through. On the day when the 2019 World Cup kicks off, we revisit the two that got away.

1987 semi-final against Australia

The 1992 Imran Khan was 40. He was leader extraordinaire and could bat but his pace prowess had long left him. His 1987 version, however, was 35 which though still old for a quick, was capable of doing this.

A serviceable Kaptaan, prime Abdul Qadir and Javed Miandad, a young Wasim Akram, Saleem Malik — and all on home soil.

A packed house watch’s Pakistan vice-captain Javed Miandad try to pull his team out of trouble against Australia during the 1987 World Cup semi-final at Gaddafi Stadium. — Photo courtesy NDTV Sports
A packed house watch’s Pakistan vice-captain Javed Miandad try to pull his team out of trouble against Australia during the 1987 World Cup semi-final at Gaddafi Stadium. — Photo courtesy NDTV Sports

Pakistan did not exactly breeze through the group stages but still won all five of their opening matches. The only one they lost was their sixth and final fixture against the West Indies where they experimented a bit with their line-up, primarily because they had already won their group.

Their semi-final opponents Australia were no slouches either and had sealed their qualification from the other group with an identical record as Pakistan's. However, the home side still had the edge as all home sides almost always have against evenly matched opponents.

Unfortunately for Pakistan, their bowling was unit was uncharacteristically off, not taking their first wicket until the score had soared to 73. Aussie opener David Boon's 65 coupled with Mike Veletta's 48 off 50 and Steve Waugh's unbeaten 28-ball 32 helped the tourists post a 268-run target — a sizable one for those days.

It could have been even worse had captain Khan not stopped the flow of the runs towards the end with three devastating stump-shattering wickets.

On a day Wasim Akram finished wicketless and went for 54 in his 10, the real culprit, however, was Saleem Jaffar. Him and the 34 extras conceded.

Jaffar, the little-known southpaw, who some say was made the scapegoat, conceded 57 in just 6 overs, the last of which was also the innings' final over where he was plundered for 18 runs. As fate would have it, 18 also was the number of runs Pakistan would fall short by.

After both Pakistani openers failed in the run chase, skipper Khan and Miandad stabilised the ship. Both contributed half centuries but did so at such slow pace that it left the lower order with a mountain to climb.

Australian players pose with the 1987 World Cup trophy. — Photo courtesy cricket.com.au
Australian players pose with the 1987 World Cup trophy. — Photo courtesy cricket.com.au

Akram, Saleem Yousuf and Qadir, they all tried but couldn't see their side home.

Craig McDermott cleaned up the tail and finished with a five-for to take the man-of-the-match award.

Was Jaffar to be blamed or his captain who had reportedly miscalculated the overs and had to toss the ball to his weakest option in the last over? Who knows. What we know is that it was a winnable game, and possibly even the tournament.

1999 meltdown at Lord's

The 1999 roster was arguably Pakistan's most loaded and talented one till date. Apart from Wajahatullah Wasti, each and every member was a current or future star.

The team topped its group with a shock loss to Bangladesh, the sole blemish. But again it came in the final fixture and by that time Pakistan's qualification had long been sealed.

The Super Six stage was rough with Pakistan losing two of their three matches but qualification to the knockout round was still sealed, thanks to points carried forward from the previous stage.

Steve Waugh lifts the 1999 World Cup trophy. — Reuters/File
Steve Waugh lifts the 1999 World Cup trophy. — Reuters/File

Having blown New Zealand out of water in the semis, Pakistan were the favourites in the final, partly due to the Aussies' unconvincing performance in their semi-final win over South Africa and party because of the fact that they had lost to Pakistan in their pool match.

The final, however, was the most one-sided the tournament had ever seen. The Greenshirts melted away completely and were all-out for 132. The Aussies cantered to victory.