Indeed Mohali cricket clash has given a brute shock to Pakistani cricket fans as the green shirts lost the much hyped semi-final by 29 runs. There was much media hype before the match and people were expecting an exciting finish but the result left shock and gloom among the cricket crazy nation due to poor batting and fielding particularly displayed by our senior batsmen who had been rated very high by even the former cricket heroes.
It is quite likely that a tirade of criticism would start against the team but in our view considering the composition of the present Pakistani cricket team, their reaching the semi-finals stage was remarkable. One may point out that about a year back three top cricketers, namely Asif, Aamir and Butt were banned and criticism in the international media demoralized the entire team. Before the start of the World Cup, commentators and experts were not expecting the Pakistani team to reach the semi-finals stage. We think credit goes to the think tank, management and captain Shahid Afridi that they managed a fighting outfit which defeated teams like Sri Lanka and Australia in the pool matches and emerged at the top with maximum points. In fact before the Mohali semi-final, all the cricket pundits were predicting that the pitch would be batsman friendly and they had expected the teams to score more than 300 runs. However credit goes to the superb bowling spearheaded by Wahab Riaz that restricted the strong battling line up of India to 260. It was pathetic fielding by Pakistani side that gave four chances to Sachin Tendulkar who emerged as top Indian scorer making 85 runs. So Pakistani bowling attack lived up to its reputation and restricted India to an easily achievable target but it were the batsmen who squandered away a golden opportunity to have a shot at the trophy in Mumbai. Though the nation is highly disappointed at the performance of the team yet this is not the end of cricket as there would be another World Cup in 2015 and for that we should start making preparations right now.
March 30 was a day everyone in the subcontinent and cricket lovers all over the world had been waiting for. The semi-final between India and Pakistan lived up to the cricketing hype. It was a match full of twists and turns. When India made 260 runs after batting in the first innings, many people thought the target was ‘gettable’ while others predicted that Pakistan’s batting would collapse as has happened many times in the past. The latter prediction came true. Even as our bowlers did their job well in restricting the solid Indian batting to an achievable target, our batsmen could not deliver the goods. This is not to say that the fault lies with the batsmen alone. Our main strike bowler, Umar Gul, did not fire on the day; in fact he misfired and gave away too many runs. Our spinners did a great job of containment and getting wickets while Wahab Riaz outshone everyone with his excellent bowling. Our fielding was perhaps the worst in this match. While dropping catches and misfielding is a norm for our team, dropping four catches of an ace batsman like Sachin Tendulkar perhaps cost us the match. As far as the batting goes, our top and middle order failed yet again. The Indian team certainly played better cricket and thus came out as the winners of this crucial match. Their bowling was tight and they fielded extremely well.
Winning or losing is part and parcel of the game. What mattered was the spirit in which it was played. It was heartening to see the camaraderie between the Indians and the Pakistanis — on the field by our players and off it between the spectators. Generally it can be viewed as a match played not to the best of their abilities by the Pakistani players but it was played in the best of spirits for sure. Despite our disappointment with the end result, it was taken in good spirit on both sides. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Prime Minister Gilani’s discussions went well. Mr Gilani has invited Mr Singh and Congress leader Sonia Gandhi to Pakistan. Both prime ministers are determined to take the peace process forward.
The excitement this match created led to some post-match anger but thankfully it was restricted to a few people only. The media went overboard in creating such hype about this match when it was just a game that had to be played as a game only. The good thing is that this match and the ongoing dialogue process have restarted the process of normalisation of relations between the two neighbours. Captain of the Pakistan cricket team, Shahid Afridi, who rules the hearts of Pakistanis, was able to win millions of hearts across the border. His post-match speech and press conference was not just graceful and full of sportsman’s spirit but his charm and wit bowled over many a heart. Afridi congratulated the Indian team and their nation. He did not need to do it but he also apologised to the Pakistani nation. “I want to say sorry to my nation. We tried our level best but could not make it,” said Afridi. Pakistan is proud to have reached the semi-final in the World Cup and Afridi and our Men in Green have made us all proud.
Now that the World Cup is over, we must start the process of rebuilding our cricket team in preparation for the impending revival of international cricket on our soil. Shoaib Akhtar has bid adieu to cricket; other old warhorses should also give way to fresh blood. Our team should not be selected on past laurels but based on merit and form. PCB Chairman Ijaz Butt said that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has given the go ahead for the Indian team to visit Pakistan for a cricket series. This would truly be a welcome initiative. Cricket is a passion that unites Pakistan. Let’s bring it back to our soil.