By Syed Khalid Mahmood
Yes that’s the root cause of all problems. Pakistan had been playing around with the New Zealanders so often during the past couple of decades in particular that nobody is now prepared to accept the fact that it’s cricket after all.
The Black Caps have had this tendency of crashing against Pakistan after performed exceedingly well against tougher oppositions. Their worst performances of the recent times have mostly come against Pakistan leading the people to believe that there was only one result possible when these two teams are pitted against each other.
It’s after nine years or so when New Zealand have managed to pull off a victory over Pakistan in an ICC tournament. It was way back in 2000 when the Black Caps had knocked over Pakistan in the semifinals of the Champions Trophy that was again considered an upset and there was suspicion of ‘hidden hands’ behind the unexpected result.
History has repeated itself as Pakistan have again lost to New Zealand in the semifinals of the ICC Champions Trophy. Everybody, in Pakistan at least, appeared to have taken it for granted that only one team was to win the day.
There was hardly anything during the course of the game to suggest Pakistan players engaged in any wrongdoing. It was just another cricket match between two evenly matched sides.
As a matter of fact New Zealand had emerged as the Group B champions and Pakistan had actually finished runners-up in the Group A after having narrowly lost to Australia in their last league outing.
New Zealand were on a high and their bowling attack was as potent as possessed by any other side having entered the competition. They had overpowered teams like Sri Lanka and England after having gone down fighting against hosts South Africa.
So New Zealand were neither Ireland nor Zimbabwe, having got there by a stroke of luck. But yes their nerves were to be tested to the maximum in the semifinals because they were up against a side that had been shattering their dreams consistently over the years.
I don’t know how the so-called experts of the game anticipated New Zealand to succumb without offering any resistance to the Pakistan’s spin duo of Saeed Ajmal and Shahid Afridi after they had successfully negotiated Ajantha Mendis and Mutiah Muralitharan earlier in the competition.
If people expected Umar Gul to take another five-for just as he had done against them in the ICC Twenty20 a few months ago, I am afraid, they were expected far too much from the lion-hearted fast bowler who obviously cannot bring about a miracle every other day.
So more than anything it’s all about mindset. People in Pakistan had assumed even before the first ball was delivered in the semifinals that Younis Khan’s men were through to the final already.
In such circumstances it’s not easy to swallow the pains of defeat. Nobody is prepared to talk about the positives. How Pakistan reached the semifinals against the heaviest of odds is not mentioned anywhere. The only thing people are interested in talking about is how Pakistan lost to New Zealand. Nearly everyone seems convinced in Pakistan that New Zealand were the soft target and they could have been hammered.
October 15, 2009