When you are an underdog in a high-octane tournament final and your highly-regarded opponent is the defending champion, hardly anyone has any expectations of you – except of course your cricket-mad 200 million-plus compatriots. There was considerably less pressure on Pakistan, especially after the side had already lost to the Indian side in their opening game. From then on, Sarfraz Ahmed’s boys in green were never expected to get past the semi-finals, let alone the 2017 Champions Trophy finals. Apart from their fans at home and abroad, the Pakistan team was largely written off as it was ranked eighth in the constellation of star-studded teams. Yet Pakistan seemed to get better with every match they played. India was outclassed in all departments and the 180-run margin of victory was so impressive that it left a lot of cricket pundits shell-shocked. Our neighbours across the border must have felt pain. We understand that — for we have been there too.
Sarfraz and his men were playing for their pride and determined to cut their opponents to size. A mighty difficult dream to chase considering that India – the world’s top-ranked side in Test cricket – and England and South Africa before that have been riding roughshod over other teams, securing massive victories in most forms of the game. This is not to say that Pakistan played the role of giantkiller in the tournament. Mercurial though it may be, the Pakistani side has a huge reputation to live up to: on their day the boys in green play absolutely brilliant, flawless cricket and that’s the side that everybody is afraid of getting stuck against. On some other days, however, their fans have sometimes wished they hadn’t showed up at all. This time it was India that failed to turn up for a game of cricket. In rolling over India in the final, Pakistan also managed to end a long losing streak against their chief rival. Savour the win, Sarfraz and the boys!
Published in The Express Tribune, June 19th, 2017.