World Cup 1992: When Pakistan cricket was revolutionised

Only two of the players from the 2015 World Cup have made the team this time, but Pakistan will be hoping not to make the same mistakes while trying to write a new chapter of history.

Pakistan skipper Imran Khan with the 1992 World Cup in Melbourne. The team rallied brilliantly after a lot of adverse situations in the event.   -  Getty Images

Four semifinals, two finals and one cup later, Pakistan is keen on breaking the shackles with back-to-back ICC tournament wins under Sarfaraz Ahmed with a stable batting order, strength on the bench and favourable conditions. Ranked among the favourites, this may be the most characteristically un-Pakistani side we’ve ever had coming into the tournament.

The journey started when Pakistan walked into a tournament — the first of its kind in the cricketing world in 1975 — with just three ODIs under its belt out of a total of 18 that had been played in the world, not knowing what to expect under a freshly appointed captain. It fought valiantly, nearly beating the behemoths who would go on to win the tournament, but alas, it could not breach the group stage.

Set to walk into the next one better prepared, there was a sudden announcement that Asif Iqbal, who hadn’t led the side since the second game of the last World Cup, would get his chance at redemption. It was a better outing this time as Pakistan managed to knock the runner-up of the last tournament out but was outplayed in the semifinals by the defending champion which bagged its second title. It was nearly an action replay in the next tournament, except this time the title went to arch-rival, India.

In the 1987 tournament, the joint hosts, India and Pakistan, were the hot favourites. It was expected that they would finally clash on the grandest stage. But ‘upsets’ in both semifinals of the tournament doomed Pakistan to its third consecutive exit in the semifinals.

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M. S. Dhoni, the Indian skipper, and Shahid Afridi, the Pakistan captain, at the toss of the 2011 World Cup semifinal in Mohali. Pakistan lost, but it has figured in four semi-finals. Pakistan has also not beaten India in a World Cup match.   -  Getty Images

 

The captain, Imran Khan, retired from ODIs but was convinced to come back and lead the side in the 1992 event. There was a shaky start to the campaign and all seemed lost after its first five games in which Pakistan managed to bag just one win. Most embarrassing among these was the loss to arch-rival, India, in its first ever meeting in a World Cup. The fat lady was ready to hit centre-stage but luck topped with some excellent cricket all around turned Pakistan’s fortunes. It outclassed the two favourites of the tournament and bagged its first ever World Cup. A standard was set and Pakistan would forever be known, from that point on, as ‘the cornered tigers.’

The team that emerged from that tournament would completely revolutionise cricket back home, producing superstars alongside off the field trouble.

The 1996 tournament still haunts the memories of even those unfortunate enough to read it. Captain Wasim Akram had to be replaced at the last minute in the quarterfinal, the wily death bowler, Waqar Younis, was taken to the cleaners and the tempestuousness of the stand-in captain, Aamer Sohail, lost it the command over the chase.

Although filled with its fair share of lows, the 1999 contest saw Pakistan reach the final of the tournament. But it failed to get past the group stage in the next two editions. Pakistan did pretty well to reach the semi-final of the 2011 tournament under Shahid Afridi, which it lost to arch-rival and host, India, after succumbing to pressure yet again while ending the three-time streak of Australia along the way.

Heading back to the promised land in 2015, Pakistan lived up to its reputation, being unpredictably inconsistent. It gave Australia, the host and favourite, a run for its money in the quarterfinal but let the match slip.

From vague comparisons to the 1992 side to criticism of merit from the people who last watched this event exactly four years ago, every World Cup attempts to build hopes, masking the ground realities. Only two of the players from the previous cup have made the team this time, but Pakistan will be hoping not to make the same mistakes while trying to write a new chapter of history.