On June 21, 2009, Pakistan became World T20 champions by comprehensively thumping Sri Lanka by eight wickets at Lord’s. The win came as a soothing balm to the battered souls of Pakistani fans after the Lahore attacks on the Sri Lankan cricket team and suspension of international cricket in the country. Sarang Bhalerao revisits a defining moment in Pakistan cricket history.
The sight of Imran Khan lifting the World Cup 1992 in Melbourne is part of Pakistan cricket folklore. For the next 17 years there have been ecstatic moments, talented players have come and gone, resourceful youngsters have promised a lot but another major world title eluded them.
Problems: The dope attacks, mysterious death of cricket coach, the indifferent performances of the team, the administration being in the news for the wrong reasons. To compound the matters, the Lahore bus attack on the Sri Lankan team came as a devastating blow to Pakistan cricket. The International Cricket Council (ICC) banned hosting of any internationals in Pakistan. The Champions Trophy 2009 was shifted to South Africa from Pakistan.
A streak of inspiration was needed from somewhere, for desolation was intrinsically linked with Pakistan cricket. The resplendent moment came when Shahid Afridi sneaked a leg-bye off Lasith Malinga. Afridi raised his arms. It was ‘Mission Accomplished’. It meant a lot to a nation who had had endured all that they did. The nation was over the moon. What gave people immense satisfaction was the manner in which Pakistan won the final match. No hiccups. Throughly professional.
Before the match there were numerous discussions about how to contain Tillekaratne Dilshan —easily the batsman of the tournament. Mohammad Aamer, a 17-year-old prodigy, was unfazed bowling to Dilshan. The first ball was not a warm-up ball by any stretch of imagination. It was a sharp bouncer. The barrage of bouncers continued, presenting Dilshan with a challenge. The moment Dilshan accepted the challenge he was caught in a trap. A weak pull shot got the top-edge which was caught at short fine-leg. Sri Lanka’s run-machine contributed nothing.
Abdul Razzaq bowled a probing line and length. He was rewarded with three wickets — Jehan Mubarak, Sanath Jayasuriya and Mahela Jayawardene. Afridi didn’t give an inch; Saeed Ajmal’s variations confounded the batsmen while Umar Gul’s pace kept Sri Lankans on their toes. Gul, whose mastery with the reverse swing befuddled South Africa in the semi-final, got his only wicket of the match bouncing out Chamara Silva.
A seventh wicket unbeaten stand of 69 between Kumar Sangakkara (64 off 52 balls) and Angelo Mathews (35 off 24 balls) offered a glimmer of hope for the island nation. Yet, the total of 138 was not what Sri Lanka had intended at the start of the match.
The hero of Pakistan’s run-chase was Afridi, who had scored three-ducks in the tournament. At Lord’s, Afridi’s sole aim was taking Pakistan to the total of 139 without any jitters. Sri Lanka hoped for a comeback after the fall of Shahzaib Hasan’s wicket. At 63 for two in the 10th over, the game was even. But Afridi never let the bowlers get on top of the situation. He rotated the strike and employed controlled aggression —proof of the uncharacteristic restraint is Afridi’s first boundary, which came off the 20th ball of his innings.
When Afridi finally navigated through the turmoil in his mind and conundrum of toning down the aggression, he looked assured and took Pakistan to the target. There was a sea of green Pakistani flags at cricket’s Mecca and the Pakistan players joined the celebrations, running around the ground with the flags.
“This victory comes as a morale booster for a nation beset with political and economic problems,” said Imran Khan.
Rameez Raja said the 2009 triumph was greater than 1992 win.
Pakistan’s President, Asif Ali Zardari, congratulated the team and announced an award of Rs 1 million for captain Younis Afridi. The rest of the squad became richer by Rs 500,000. Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani said “I will myself greet the team at the PM house.”
The waves of joy engulfed Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad and all parts of Pakistan. The victory meant a lot for the beleaguered nation. It was the best thing the cricket team — ambassadors of Pakistan could have done — bringing smile onto the faces of the people of the nation.
Sri Lanka 138 for 6 in 20 overs (Kumar Sangakkara 64*, Angelo Mathews 34*; Abdul Razzaq 3 for 20) lost to Pakistan 139 for 2 in 18.3 overs (Shahid Afridi 54*, Kamran Akmal 37) by 8 wickets.
Man of the Match: Shahid Afridi
(Sarang Bhalerao hails from a family of doctors, but did his engineering. He then dumped a career in IT with Infosys to follow his heart and passion and became a writer with CricketCountry. A voracious reader, Sarang aspires to beat Google with his knowledge of the game! You can follow him on Twitter here)