The people’s champions

All good things must come to an end. This is rightly explained in sports where only one team wins. It is not about the loss that people grieve, but the lost opportunity to keep moving. The Pakistan Cricket Team’s run at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 (T20 WC 2021) was nothing short of spectacular. The team exhibited cohesiveness and unity that was not seen in years. They played in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) where they proved their mettle and became a part of the national team. Given the resources and the limitations, Pakistan Cricket Team remained unbeaten in its group. Losing to Australia in the semi-final was a heartbreak. Cricket fans across Pakistan were sad and shaken—but they were not angry. They were happy that the boys in Green made an impact during this World Cup and they lost after putting up a fight.

For the nation, our biggest and the most important match was on October 24 against India. Emotions and expectations were at their highest. What transpired was nothing short of a fairy tale. Pakistani bowlers restricted India to 151 in 20 overs. Shaheen Shah Afridi took two early wickets to put India in trouble. Hasan Ali took two wickets, while Shadab Khan and Haris Rauf took one each. Pakistan’s batting line-up has been troublesome when we recall our history. But it was not during the T20 WC 2021 and especially not in this match. What openers Mohammad Rizwan and Babar Azam were able to accomplish was a sight for sore eyes, a miracle, an unexpected treat indeed. Without breaking a sweat or showing any sign of weakness, they used their bats to create poetry. Every time the ball hit their bats, the sound was akin to a note struck in an orchestra. It was a melody echoing across Dubai—it was a dance we thought our batsmen had forgotten to perform. The duo of Rizwan and Babar was the band that played each chord to perfection. Rizwan’s unbeaten 79 (55) and Azam’s unbeaten 68 (52) were enough to cement Pakistan’s win over India by 10 wickets. Pakistan beat India in a WC match for the first time and that too in style.

Pakistan then set its eyes on New Zealand. It had to avenge the Black Caps for abandoning their tour to Pakistan in September 2021. Pakistan won the match comfortably by 5 wickets in 18.4 overs. Pakistan went on to beat Afghanistan, Namibia, and Scotland to lead its group and face Australia in the semi-final. The loss against Australia is great, but neither the team nor the nation is angry. Babar Azam’s post-semi-final speech to his team in the locker room speaks volumes. He called for his team to remain united. He said they lost as a team and every player knows their weaknesses. Indeed, they shall rise as a team once again. Thank you Pakistan Cricket Team for giving the nation a reason to live, to smile, to laugh, and to cheer for the boys in Green. They went to the UAE as a team, they will return as the people’s champions. Godspeed Team Green!

Muhammad Omar Iftikhar
The writer is a Karachi-based author, columnist, and fiction writer. He tweets 
@omariftikhar

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