Cricket back on track

 

Cricket back on track
Sarfraz Ahmed lifts the trophy as Pakistan celebrate their win at the ICC Champions Trophy

Captain Sarfraz Ahmed deserves credit for the way he handled the young side in difficult conditions

By Liaqat Ali

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Published: Sun 13 Aug 2017, 3:30 PM

Last updated: Sun 13 Aug 2017, 5:43 PM

Pakistan's success in the International Cricket Council Champions Trophy in England was surprising for everybody in the cricketing fraternity, including the Pakistani team.
They entered the tournament as a bottom team and a heavy defeat against arch-rivals India in their first match on June 4 was an indication that the road ahead would not be smooth for them.
The people of Pakistan and India follow cricket religiously and the first match triggered a huge debate on television channels on both sides of the border.
The anchor of a Pakistani private TV channel had casually asked Harbhajan Singh in a programme (Takara) on June 3 that could he imagine the euphoria if Pakistan and India reach the final of the tournament and the Indian off-spinner had laughed it off. According to him it was almost impossible for Pakistan to reach the final. India was one of the title favourites and they proved it by reaching the final as they lost only one match (against Sri Lanka) on the way.
The defeat against India proved to be a wake-up call for Pakistan and after making a few changes they looked like an entirely different side, as they won the remaining matches, including the final to emerge champions.
The victory proved to be a windfall for the Pakistani cricketers, as they became millionaires overnight. They were showered with money and gifts from all corners of Pakistan.
It meant a lot for the fans in Pakistan who are unable to watch international cricket after the attack on Sri Lankan team in Lahore in 2009, and no team has visited Pakistan since then.
All the players played their heart out to win the coveted prize but there are two individuals who proved to be the key players - Fakhar Zaman (find of the tournament) hit a brilliant century in final against India and Hasan Ali won the golden ball for his 13 wickets in the tournament.
Zaman who quit Pakistan Navy to try his hand at cricket, was the main beneficiary for his match-winning innings in the final against India. The left-hander who hails from a rural area in Mardan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) was offered a plot of land in one of the poshest areas of metropolis Karachi and his life changed overnight.
Zaman was a sailor and used to play for his departmental team. His coach advised him to quit the Navy and think about cricket as his career. He stayed in Karachi and played for different clubs in the city. It was a difficult decision for Zaman to quit a government job and choose an unknown path.
He finally got the chance to play for Lahore Qalandars under the guidance of former Pakistani fast bowler and UAE coach Aqib Javed in the Pakistan Super League (PSL). He played some eye-catching innings at the PSL 2017, which earned him a place in the national team. He was one of the top performers of the PSL, which forced the selectors to make him a part of the national team. He was with the team on the West Indies tour ahead of the Champions Trophy but did not get a chance to show his talent.
Ahmed Shehzad's failure against India provided him a chance, which he grabbed with both hands. Fans hope he stays grounded and builds on his dream start to contribute to Pakistani cricket in the future.
Hasan has improved tremendously as a bowler in a short span of time. His passion and vigour coupled with dedication and hard work has helped him to cement his place in the team. He represented champions Peshawar Zalmi and was one of the top performers for them in PSL 2017. Hasan hails from Gujranwala (Punjab) and has a humble background. He has got an ideal start and it depends on him to embellish his career with focus and discipline.
Pakistan's captain Sarfraz Ahmed deserves credit for the way he handled the young side in difficult conditions. He managed to regroup the side after a heavy loss against India in the first match.
The champions were given a warm welcome on their return to Pakistan as they were showered with prizes. The fans stayed put in front of Srafraz's house in Karachi for many days to congratulate him for this brilliant victory. The wicketkeeper-batsman who will lead Pakistan in all three formats (Test, ODI and T20) is hoping to bring consistency to the Pakistani team's performance.
- liaqat@khaleejtimes.com


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