Pakistan’s Champions trophy triumph was as phenomenal as it was satisfying. Nobody had expected that the bottom placed team which barely qualified for the eight-nation event will lift the trophy. In fact detractors had sharpened their knives, presuming that Sarfraz and Co will lose all three matches and they have a chance to dissect, to smash them. They were ready to bash the team management, the coach and the PCB.
Mickey Arthur’s two-year contract was up for a review after the tournament and with only a Test series draw against England besides home and away series wins against lower ranked West Indies were the bright spots. Pakistan was abysmal on the tours of New Zealand and Australia. But little do people realize that a coach needs time, to implement his strategies, his plans, his working ethics.
Pakistan lost the first match against arch-rivals India. The manner in which the team lost was miserable. A 124-run drubbing with the team failing in all three departments allowed some former players to call for chopping.
But a remarkable turnaround came. Pakistan had been jolted and awakened. A Duckworth-Lewis assisted win over world number one South Africa gave them a lifeline before an ugly win over Sri Lanka – courtesy a resilient Sarfraz Ahmed-Mohammad Amir partnership – sailed Pakistan into the semi-final.
The rest, as they say is history. Pakistan trounced and title favorites England in the semi-final before conquering The Oval with a record 180-run thumping of India.
This became Pakistan’s biggest win over bitter rivals in 129 one-day internationals. The enormity of the win lifted the whole Pakistan as the nation celebrated the win which completed their cupboard with all three ICC trophies on offer, 50-over World Cup (1992), World Twenty20 (2009) and Champions Trophy.
The win was also a relief and reward for the affable Mickey Arthur. He took some bold decisions, leaving out an unfit Umar Akaml just a week before the tournament started. It could have backfired but it only helped. The conscientious effort of introducing a fitness culture which Mickey and his team of professional coaches wanted to implement in the team also helped. Former West Indian pace bowler turned commentator Ian Bishop twice remarked that he had never seen a livelier and fitter Pakistan team. That is a big compliment in an area which had never been Pakistan’s forte.
Now the celebrations are over. Pakistan’s next task will be to build this young team for the 2019 World Cup. They were in danger of losing out on a direct berth for the World Cup but Champions Trophy win helped them assure that direct entry.