Sweet revenge is on its way with Pakistan vs Australia

Published: March 19, 2015
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I hope the Pakistan team comes up with plan to explore and exploit the chink in Australia’s armour to avenge our defeat of 1987.

Pakistan has finally managed to drag itself past the group stages and reach the quarter-finals of the ICC World Cup 2015… and what a ride it has been!

The last time Pakistan was expelled from the tournament during our first rounds was  in 2007. The same happened in 2003. Therefore, fans have been susceptible to Pakistan’s progress in this tournament. And losing the first two matches of the group stages did little to improve the team’s image.

However, they did recover soon from the initial blows and developed a better team combination – which led them to winning four consecutive matches and moving further in the tournament. Pakistan has traditionally been a slow-starter in any global tournament; however, this time, the slow start has cost them as Pakistan – by virtue of finishing third in their group – is now slated to play pre-tournament favourite Australia in the quarter finals.

An aura is prevailing in Australia among fans and critics that Australia’s victory in the quarter-finals is a foregone conclusion. Pakistan lacks the firepower needed to compete with the mighty Aussies in Friday’s quarter-final match; in fact, many believe that the match will be more of a formality for Australia. Withdrawal of ace fast bowler Muhammad Irfan from the World Cup squad due to his injury has given further credence to this thought.

Umar Akmal (2nd L) shakes hands with Australia’s captain Ricky Ponting (2nd R) after Pakistan defeated Australia in their World Cup Group A match in Colombo. Photo: Reuters

However, I, for one, would disagree with these thoughts.

No matter how strong or weak a team is on paper, it is the team’s performance and fortune on the day of the match that lead to victory or defeat. The arena is what decides who wins and who loses.

In my decades-long romance with cricket, I have seen many matches take unexpected turns. One such upset was the Pakistan versus Australia match, in the semi-finals of the 1987 World Cup – and it haunts me even today. The match took place in Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore, and Australia defeated Pakistan on home-ground, even though no one expected it. Perhaps Pakistan’s match against Australia tomorrow can be a way of avenging ourselves.

The year 1987 was the first time a World Cup tournament was held outside the United Kingdom. Also, this was the first 50-overs World Cup tournament, which was hosted jointly by India and Pakistan. During the tournament, both India and Pakistan played efficient cricket and were making their fans happy. The road to Kolkata – known as Calcutta in those days – (for the finals) looked smooth and straightforward. But both hosts were defeated by their respective opponents in the tournament’s semi-finals to once again deprive a host the opportunity to grab the world title.

World champion Australian team in 1987. Photo: Cricket.com.au

Pakistan was placed in pool B along with West Indies, England and Sri Lanka. Before this tournament, Pakistan had never beaten England and West Indies in any World Cup match. However, as host, and in their own conditions, Pakistan finally broke the jinx against these opponents.

Pakistan topped its group and qualified for the semi-final, which was to be played in their own home turf against Australia. Prior to the start of the match, everything seemed to be in Pakistan’s favour. The conditions are favourable and the opposition too was not very taxing. I think the team of 1987 was most inexperienced Australian team to represent country at a global stage.

After the pool stage, there was a few days gap before the first semi-final of the tournament. The entire country was excited and confident to reach the finals. In family functions, markets as well as streets, everyone was talking about Pakistan’s possible opponent in the tournament’s final match – as no one thought Australia would defeat the national team.

On the morning of the match, everyone was excited and wanted to follow the match from start to end, but those were very different days – no national holiday was declared for a cricket match, irrespective of its importance, and the country operated as per routine.

I was in ninth grade at the time. Like many fanatic cricket fans, I too wanted to follow the match from the very first ball but I couldn’t avoid school and so had to miss some part of the match. In those days, internet and cellular phones did not exist and no student carried pocket radio with them due to fear of confiscation.

During school hours, we all were very anxious to know about the match was proceedings. A few kind-hearted teachers kept updating us about the match by writing its score on the blackboard. When I came to know about Australia batting first in this crucial match, my heart skipped a beat as chasing a total was a chronic problem for Pakistan – even in those days.

Australia, while batting first, scored a mammoth 267 runs in its innings. In those days, this was considered a great score. After that, Pakistan continued to its own downfall by conceding 34 extras.

Craig McDermott took the maiden 5-wicket haul of the tournament to kill a nation’s dream. Photo: Cricbuzz

However, the extras were not the only reason why we were defeated. During Australia’s innings, a couple of unforeseen incidents took place. In the 19th over, Pakistan’s wicketkeeper, Saleem Yousuf, got injured and Javed Miandad had to take up his position – which affected the match. Also, a few run out appeals went against Pakistan, which in the final reckoning proved to have a massive impact on the match’s result.

Also, at the score of 236, in a mix up between Steve Waugh and Simon O’ Donnell, Waugh was run out but instead of him, O’ Donnell began walking back to the pavilion. Everyone was happy to see O’ Donnell out as he was considered an explosive player. Unfortunately, his decision to walk off proved fruitful for Australia as Waugh was able to muster 18 more runs in the final over bowled by Saleem Jaffer.

Pakistan’s innings began on a disastrous note. Rameez Raja was run out early in the innings and he was quickly joined in the pavilion by Mansoor Akhter and Saleem Malik. Old stalwarts Miandad and Imran Khan started rebuilding Pakistan’s innings after initial jolts and put the fast-derailing World Cup dream back on track. Pakistan seemed to be moving smoothly towards the target once again, the crowd at Gaddafi Stadium once again started dancing and singing with a new vigour. But just when all seemed to be going according to the plan, Allan Border, the Australian skipper, dismissed Imran, courtesy a poor decision by Umpire Dickie Bird.

Imran’s dismissal at a crucial junction proved a fatal blow for Pakistan. After this dismissal, wickets kept falling regularly and the entire team was dismissed in 49 over. We handed over an 18-runs victory to Australia.

The moment Craig McDermott dismissed our last batsman, Tauseef Ahmed, the entire nation went in a state of mourning. There was hush in the ground. The dream of holding the World Cup trophy was once again shattered. Change in venue and opposition did not make any difference, as Pakistan lost a World Cup semi-final for the third time.

The nation was saddened and hurt by this defeat and it took days for a large number of cricket followers to digest this defeat – including myself.

The semi-final in Lahore was played more than 27 years ago but memories of the encounter are still fresh for me. After a long gap, Australia and Pakistan are coming face to face in a knockout World Cup match in Adelaide. This time again, the host country is overwhelmingly favourite while the visitors are the underdogs. I hope the Pakistan team comes up with plan to explore and exploit the chink in Australia’s armour to avenge our defeat of 1987. Victory in Friday’s quarter-final match will not only put Pakistan in the semi-finals of the World Cup but also considerably reduce the pain Aussies inflicted on us long ago.

I wish all the best of luck to our team!

Khurram Zia Khan

Khurram Zia Khan

The writer is the media manager of Asiatic Public Relations and tweets @KhurramZiaKhan (twitter.com/KhurramZiaKhan)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.