March 26, 2012 marks the 20th anniversary of the 1992 World Cup final which fulfilled the dream of Imran Khan and his army of unpredictable talents. Arunabha Sengupta revisits the historic day.
Two weeks earlier, captain Imran Khan had remarked that the Pakistan team was at the rock bottom of their morale. It had taken fortuitous drops of rain to restore life to a withering World Cup campaign, forcing abandonment of a crucial match after they had been bowled out for 74 in the group match against England. With that vital point, and peaking in the last bit of the round robin league, they somehow managed to scrape through to the knockout stage.
Now they faced the same English side again to play for the crown of the cricketing world in front of an 87,000 strong crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).
The start could not have been worse. Derek Pringle dismissed the openers Aamer Sohail and Rameez Raja with just 24 on the board. But Imran, eager to make his swansong crescendo into a victorious drum-roll, came in at No 3. He was joined at the fall of the second wicket by Javed Miandad. The only two survivors from the first edition of the tournament in 1975 added 139.
It was a crawl at first, not helped by the cramps of Miandad that forced him to ask for a runner. At the halfway stage, the score read just 70, but the acceleration was on its way. When Miandad fell trying a reverse sweep and Imran was dismissed off Ian Botham, it was 197 for four off 44 overs.
Inzamam-ul-Haq, having announced his arrival in the semi final, played another blinder of an innings, scoring 42 from 35 balls and Wasim Akram, using the long handle to good effect, plundered 33 off 18. The last six overs yielded 52, and Pakistan set a perfect round figure target of 250.
The English innings started with Botham given out caught behind off Akram, a decision that did not seem to make he Englishman very happy. Alec Stewart followed soon after.
Greame Hick and Graham Gooch steadied the innings before Mushtaq Ahmed spun his magical web around them. Hick, who had shaped to square cut a short of length delivery, stood amazed as the googly spun in and trapped him leg before. Gooch, who had employed the sweep to perfection against the Indian spinners on his way to a century in the semi-final of the 1987 tournament, perished trying the same shot against the leg-spinner.
Akram returned for a fierce spell to disturb the stumps of Allan Lamb and Chris Lewis and a fighting Neil Fairbrother top-edged a swipe off Aaqib Javed. Fittingly, it was Imran who took the last wicket with his by now slow medium-pace, with No 11 Richard Illingworth holing out to mid off.
It was the 18th of Ramadan and iftari was approaching. However, the Pakistanis back home, who had relentlessly prayed for the team all through the holy month, cared little about breaking the fast, and came out onto the streets in throngs, celebrating the triumph.
The festivities were somewhat marred for the team when the captain chose to talk about his obsession about building a dream cancer hospital during his victory speech: “I want to give my commiserations to the English, but I want them to know that one of my greatest obsessions in life (is) to build a cancer hospital. I am sure that this World Cup will go a long way towards completion of this obsession, I would also like to say that I feel very proud that at the twilight of my career finally I managed to win the World Cup."
However, the reception the team got when they arrived home more than made up for it.
(Arunabha Sengupta is trained from Indian Statistical Institute as a Statistician. He works as a Process Consultant, but purifies the soul through writing and cricket, often mixing the two into a cleansing cocktail. The author of three novels, he currently resides in the incredibly beautiful, but sadly cricket-ignorant, country of Switzerland. You can know more about him from his author site, his cricket blogs and by following him on Twitter)