On this day: Imran Khan-led Pakistan overcomes England to seal World Cup

Imran Khan-led Pakistan secured its first World Cup with a 22-run win over England at Melbourne Cricket Ground on March 25, 1992.

Published : Mar 25, 2020 12:50 IST

Pakistan captain Imran Khan collects the trophy from the then ICC president Colin Cowdrey
Pakistan captain Imran Khan collects the trophy from the then ICC president Colin Cowdrey

Pakistan captain Imran Khan collects the trophy from the then ICC president Colin Cowdrey

They were on the ground, not down and out, but to kiss the soil in their hour of triumph, to thank Allah for his beneficence. The greatest moment in the lives of those11 men came at night, 18 minutes past the hour of ten and only a few past the scheduled close, under the bright, elevating lights of the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

The MCG did not erupt in a frenzy of the type frequently seen in Sharjah. There was more of dignified delight. But then this was the MCG, the Mecca of Australian cricket. Pakistan had conquered the world there. And it deserved to because it dared. A team that was down and out had come backroaring. Imran Khan's cornered tigers were close to extinction with only three of eight league matches left. The-only team below them was Zimbabwe. And then they soared, the victory tasting that much sweeter because it rep-resented a huge peak of effort.

This was a triumph of spirit. The team did the right things, ranging from agonisingly passive defence to outright aggression. Not many may have kept faith with Pakistan when its senior pros were dawdling out there, in the middle of the concrete cauldron. The electronic scoreboard had gone on the blink. Came the message 'We will rectify it as soon as possible'. Perhaps, Imran took it literally. There had been earlv malfunction in the Pakistan in-v25nings. He rectified it but he seemed in no hurry. Maybe, he was waiting for the scoreboard to settle so it could actually register his runs rather than display computer simulated rubbish.

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The score inched up but there was no spurt to be seen. Were these batsmen using the right tactics? Were they not handing it over to England's pro-seamers, so good when they are on top when given respect. The medium-paced seamers of this world rely so much on method they must have methodical batsmen to bowl to. They would be at a disadvantage if they come across the unconventional or batsmen so full of daring as to march on the attack without any inhibitions.

Pakistan's World Cup-winning captain, Imran Khan, after lifting the trophy at Melbourne Cricket Ground, beating England in the final.

Imran was later to sav that he was not worried. He wished to bat out the first 15 or 20 overs and set up the slog for younger players more gifted with natural ability to hit the ball. He did not want to give any more ground to the frightening efficiency of DerekPringle. He was preparing the stage for those who had despair in their hearts and who could convert that into quick runs. Who can argue with his methods when they were so successful? The credit must, however, go to the young men of the late order. Had they failed in the slog, the jackals would have pounced on Imran and Miandad.

The floodgates were opened, perhaps in the nick of time. But the wily old fox Miandad may have plotted it all. He hardly looked the batsman he was even a couple of years ago. But in the worst of form he could make another half century. Such is his mastery over tactical one-day batting. It mattered not that he was suffering from internal bleeding from an ulcer throughout the championship.

The cornered tiger cubs took over the stage as soon as the senior artists vacated it. It appeared there was a divine factor behind this good timing,even of the potentially disastrous departure of Miandad and Imran. For long it has been suspected that there is a tiger in Wasim Akram's tank. This tiger is not always on the prowl. But when the big occasion demanded, that tiger came roaring into the open, first to bat and mock the scoring rate of those who had gone in front and then to bowl.

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Throughout the World Cup he had been bowling all over the place, wides and no balls being an annoying part of his performance. But he was not curbed. He was taking wickets and they are the best form of defence. "Don't worry about the extras, just get them," was Imran's strategy for Akram and who better than this gifted leftarm seamer of awesome variety to bowl at any part of an innings against any batsman?

Akram returned with fire in his belly after being denied a wicket by some doubtful umpiring from the New Zealander Aldridge in his first spell. He had been replaced by the tiger cub.Mushtaq. The short and stocky leggie may not be a bundle of energy like Abdul Qadir. He has a greater heart for the job and the leggie's task calls for much heart. It is cricket's most hazardous occupation, even worse in one-day cricket where slogging hits across the spin can send the ball soaring out of the ground in lesser venues. At the MCG, the leggie is the ultimate weapon provided, of course, that he is as good as Mushtaq.

Pakistan players celebrate the 1992 World Cup win.
The Bank officer may not know the intricacies of the world's labyrinthine financial markets. He certainly knows how to give the ball a tweak and dare the batsmen to get at him. He spun a web around the celebrated Graeme Hick who may take quite a while to learn to read spin when it is bowled with oriental wizardry from over the wrist.

The leggie had softened the Englishmen and foxed them with complex questions of flight and spin. The wizard of England fell. Gooch who had swept the Indian spinners out of the last World Cup was not such a sweeping success here. His first full sweep square of the wicket went up in the air to deep square. There may have been no panic over the captain going thus but the signs were on the wall.

Fairbrother and Lamb did not think so. This was professionalism at its best.'Keep chipping away, run the singles and whittle down the gap and thensee.' is the pros' approach. The two were just about defying a rate that had climbed beyond seven. Pakistan had the whip hand but this type of cricket waits for no one. Somebody had to get at the opponent's throat if this was not to develop into a long and chancy contest that may hang in the balance till the very end.

In came Akram and the contest was over. There could only be one winner of the 'Man of the Match' award after two great balls had shattered the wicket without threatening the stump camera. Akram chose the off stump as his target and Lamb and Lewis had no way of defending it. They must rank on par with the three great balls in succession in Test cricket that Kapil Dev bowled in Brisbane to get Border and Jones. Even better because they won a Cup final. There was none else in contention for the $5000 'Man of the Final' award. The temptation until then may have been to give it to Mushtaq because of the bonny spirit with which he bowls leg spin. There is a more direct aggression to Akram's pace that must often win matches, or turn them as it did on the night of the grand finale in front of a world audience.

The match was settled, though to the credit of the pros they kept it going into the 50th over. seemingly in with a chance to defy the astronomical odds. The odd hit would soar into the far distances of this huge ground and the batsmen would scamper for their twos and threes and the on-site crowd of 87.182, the highest ever for a World Cup final but just short of the record for all one-day internationals, would gasp. Some would wonder if another miracle would come about and turn this battle over to the other side. But there had been enough miracles for one day. There would be no more in this World Cup.

Victory went to those who sought it most. This is the law of life, if not of the jungle. Time and tide wait for no man. Not even for Imran Khan whose mending shoulder permitted him to bowl, but only in a desperate sort of way to control the middle overs. And he came on at the end to seek greater glory. The realisation that it was already at hand may have driven him into those extra overs into the finish. But this man could not be accused of selfishness. He is the undisputed leader who made runs when his team needed them most.

Imran handled his men astutely, when they needed to be controlled. He intervened when they threatened to jump off the handle, restrained them, taught them self discipline. He thoroughly deserved to lead a winning team in the World Cup final even if there were shades of self above team in his placing the cancer hospital programme over Pakistan at the closing speech.

This was one sporting triumph that was not marked by the free flow of champagne. The spirit may have triumphed but there is no place for spirits in Pakistan cricket. The chanting of supporters in front of the team hotel well into the night of Imran's wonders came from the hearts of those who had passionately believed their team would turn around in time to make victory possible. Imran had always believed it, at the worst of times, too, when he kept telling his friends about his gut feeling. Listeners may have been sceptical but they dared not say it to the Khan of Pakistan cricket. For this is another Khan of the type who is used to conquering.



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