This loss is undoubtedly painful but it’s important to not take anything away from what Pakistan has achieved
Three decades, three generations, and three knockout matches against Australia have left a scarring impact on Pakistani cricket fans. There may be a gap in the generations, but the emotion and intensity of Pakistani fans remain the same to date whether it was 1999, 2010, or 2021.
Pakistan fans have been through everything from severe disappointments due to the last-minute farewell of head coach Misbahul Haq, bowling coach Waqar Younis, and PCB CEO Wasim Khan to prompt exhilaration as soon as Babar Azam’s XI stepped onto the field to start their T20 World Cup campaign against India. If someone would’ve told the fans that Pakistan is going to win against India with such dominance, no one would have believed it.
Unfortunately, our preparations were troubled due to the tour-abandoning situation caused by New Zealand and then followed by England. Pakistan decided to practice during the National T20 Cup whereas every other team was practicing at the United Arab Emirates (UAE) pitches while playing the Indian Premier League (IPL). The moment when Shaheen Shah Afridi bowled that terrific first over with the new ball, all the setbacks that we had unanimously faced were rewarded within those first six balls of the game.
The intent of Babar Azam, who captained Pakistan for the first time in an ICC tournament, was clear on as well as off the field with clear emphasis on winning the event. This ideology was reflected in all the Super 12 games as Pakistan went on to win against New Zealand, Afghanistan, Namibia and Scotland with sheer dominance.
Along with some really remarkable performances, there were a set of impressive and powerful redemptions made. Since there were a lot of squad improvements done, Shoaib Malik was one such name that came into the squad a few weeks before as Sohaib Maqsood’s replacement. Pakistan’s middle-order problems were solved as well when Malik stepped out in his famous ‘durag’ to add those crucial runs to the board and lead Pakistan to significant victories. Not to take anything away from Asif Ali’s extraordinary performance as he was equally questioned based on his statistics but Malik and Asif both proved to be destructive hitters.
It all began to come together at an ideal time for us to experience the most glorious 10 days of Pakistan cricket in a fairly long time.
It would be an understatement to say that it was like a fantasy. Pakistan cruised through the group stage and topped the charts by winning five out of five games. Teams were seeing Pakistan as a potential threat as the expert panel of teams like England, Australia, and New Zealand were calculating the NRR/Points Table to avoid an encounter against Pakistan at such a big stage. Statements like this led to Pakistani fans arranging for screenings as well as flights to Dubai to watch the finest batsman of this generation and an endeavoring captain, Babar Azam, to lift that trophy in front of what Pakistan calls its second home — Dubai.
However, none of it became a reality and instead, it became a heartbreaking memory like the semi-final against Australia when Matthew Wade hit the winning shot to Shaheen Afridi, who became the bowler to bowl the first ball to start the tournament and the last ball to end Pakistan’s T20 World Cup campaign.
It all felt like a blur as Pakistan and England who were predicted as the finalists of the tournament were knocked out in the semi-finals. Once again, it was Australia who had caused this heartbreak and it felt nothing less than a Déjà vu when Hasan Ali dropped a catch at such a crucial stage of the game, similar to Asif Ali at the World Cup 2019 and Rahat Ali in the World Cup 2015, unfortunately against the Aussies.
This loss is undoubtedly painful but it’s important to not take anything away from what Pakistan has achieved as a unit because they look stronger than ever. As mentioned earlier, this is the best squad combination that we’ve seen in quite some time now as we have our consistent openers, Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan, who lay the foundation, a set of experienced players in the form of Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik, power-hitters like Fakhar Zaman and Asif Ali who exceptionally time the ball to hit for a boundary, our economical and effective spinners like Imad Wasim and Shadab Khan who can also contribute with the bat, our “Qalandari” death bowlers, Haris Rauf and Shaheen Afridi, and lastly our fun-loving main-bowler Hasan Ali. Despite that drop catch, we shouldn’t forget that he has contributed a lot with the bowl and the bat in the past and proved to be a match-winner for us on various occasions. With the upcoming tour of Bangladesh, we are hoping that Hassan Ali makes a strong comeback. In the end, “Tum Jeeto Ya Haaro, Suno Humein Tumse Pyaar Hai”.