Pakistan CT17 win: Better than 92 even?

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There were two kinds of Eids being celebrated on Monday. The first, of course, was the third day of Eid ul Fitr celebrated across the Muslim world. The second, was a more personal Eid for Pakistanis, as it marked the one year anniversary of the country’s triumph in the Champions Trophy.

The Champions Trophy was the only men’s ICC event – senior or junior – that Pakistan had never won. In its eighth edition, after nearly 20 years separating the first one in Bangladesh in 1998, that aberration was removed by Sarfraz Ahmed and his charges.

That the win came against arch-rivals India, and with great panache too, made the win even sweeter. That in their first game Pakistan had been given a thorough drubbing at the hands of the very Indian team which it so effortlessly dominated in the final game did not just make things a tad bit better, it made the tournament poetic.

The Champions Trophy win last year was perhaps the biggest moment in Pakistan cricket since the 1992 world cup – bigger even than the number one test ranking, the 2009 T20 World Cup, falling to number 7 in the test rankings, losing against Sri Lanka in the UAE or any of the other moments in between – good or bad.

The 92 World Cup, of course, is special. If there are two things that have captured the imagination of the average Pakistani about his own country, it is the victory over England in the final of the 1992 Cricket World Cup.

The one thing that will undoubtedly make any Pakistani paint themselves green and white, wave a flag and shout ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ is the memory of the 1992 World Cup. Even the cricket illiterate have a certain affinity for the images of Imran Khan lifting the crystal trophy and as such that little moment occupies a special place in the collective heart of the nation. Heck, even Mian Nawaz, cricket fan that he is, would never wish that the win had never come.

There is something about the 92 World Cup that just ticks. For one it has to do with the optics. The ’92 World Cup was a flashy affair. For the first time cricket was being played with a white ball and in coloured clothes. The Packer revolution had left its mark. The official world cup song and images of entire teams on cruise ships created a buzz in the cricketing world. Nothing of the sort had been done before and the world was excited.

A world cup is always special, but this was a limited edition. Cricket was trying to become sexy, and under the captaincy of the dashing Imran Khan, Pakistan became the perfect ambassador for the game’s adopted identity.

Then there were other reasons. For starters, the rain miracle that got Pakistan to the quarters seemed an act of God at par with Javed Miandad suddenly finding form again. We were also apparently fighting for a greater cause: Imran Khan’s cancer hospital.

But for all the reasons that the 92 World Cup is special and irreplaceable in the hearts, minds and collective memory of the nation, on its own merits, the Champions Trophy of 2017 might just take the cake of being our finest moment. Sure there are similarities between the two, so far as there are in all underdog tales, but boy was one year ago today a real underdog story.

Coming up from the bottom-ranked team to become Champions of the world, this tournament was the sort of things that sports movies are made of. Barely making it to the tournament? Check. Young and inexperienced? Check. Initial slump and humiliation? Check. Sudden rise against all odds? Checks. Expectations to falter at the last moment? Check. Dangerously close moments in the game? Check with Fakhar’s no-ball and Kohli’s drop. Win nonetheless? You bet that’s a check.

But in that entire process, Pakistan did something magical. It was all so insanely unrealistic that we just kept waiting for something to go wrong, but even when it did, we somehow got back up and gave as well as we could take. It was nothing short of a fairytale, and in time we might just come to realise that it was nothing short of 92. Right now, we maybe just can’t see it because even one year later it is all so unbelievable.

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