Resurgent Pakistan

Pakistan had a disastrous start in the 1992 World Cup. Ultimately, it emerged surprise winner of the event. Vijay Lokapally recaptures the drama that unfolded 15 years ago in Australia and New Zealand.

Pakistan discovered new match-winners — Wasim Akram and Inzamam-ul-Haq — and in the process of winning the 1992 World Cup also lived a dream that Imran Khan had so passionately woven with his wonderful leadership.

The essence of collective performance was emphasised successfully by a team that rose from the brink.

The start was disastrous as Pakistan suffered a massive 10-wicket defeat at the hands of the West Indies at the grand MCG. This was not the start the team would have expected but it did enough to motivate the side into improving its approach in the next match against Zimbabwe at Hobart. Pakistan wrapped up the contest with ease and was in a good frame of mind when it arrived in Adelaide to face England.

In hindsight, this was the match that was the turning point of the World Cup as far as Pakistan was concerned. On a seaming pitch, Pakistan was bowled out for 74, its worst ever score in one-day cricket till then. But Pakistan escaped defeat because rain, the first shower of the season in Adelaide, left England frustrated at 24 for one. It was not an ideal pitch for one-day cricket because the lateral movement was too pronounced. At one point, Pakistan, led by Javed Miandad in the absence of an injured Imran, was in danger of being bowled out for less than 50 before Mushtaq Ahmed and Wasim Haider saved the team from that embarrassment with responsible batting.

The next match was the much-awaited clash with India. This was the first ever World Cup meeting between India and Pakistan and Adelaide had never been so tense. In a low-scoring contest, the Indians held their nerve and came out clean winners by 43 runs. Nothing seemed to be working for Pakistan and the Cup looked a distant dream even though Imran alone remained confident.

Things worsened for Pakistan when it suffered its third defeat in four matches, this time against South Africa which emerged a comfortable winner by 21 runs at Brisbane. This match was made memorable by the Jonty Rhodes run out of Inzamam. The dismissal was the turning point of the match as Rhodes took fielding to a new level, hitting the stumps while airborne in one of the most sensational moments in the game's history.

The tournament had now entered a vital phase and Pakistan simply could not afford another defeat. At the end of an acrimonious encounter against Australia in Perth, Imran and his men rediscovered their confidence and never looked back.

Aamir Sohail showed the way with a sensible knock of 76 and then the trio of Imran, Akram and Aaqib Javed finished the job with clinical spells.

In a crucial match, again in Perth, Pakistan played outstanding cricket and beat Sri Lanka by four wickets. It was again a low-scoring match but veteran Javed Miandad assumed the responsibility of guiding the team in the company of a confident Salim Malik.

The Sri Lankans made Pakistan earn every run but in the end failed to stop Imran's team from staying in the hunt for a place in the semifinals.

Leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed was Pakistan's hero in the last league match of the tournament. His tight bowling ensured that New Zealand was restricted to 166 and Pakistan made light of the target. But it had to wait for Australia to overcome the West Indies in faraway Melbourne to know its fate.

The West Indies needed to win that contest to eliminate Pakistan in the race for a semifinal berth, but Australia played the spoilsport and opened up new avenues for Imran and his superb bunch. Pakistan deserved the honour, having handed New Zealand its first defeat of the tournament. Another was to follow soon.

A star was born in Auckland on March 21, 1992 as Pakistan conquered New Zealand and set up a title clash with England.

After seven victories, New Zealand lost at Christchurch to Pakistan and this debacle put the team out of the tournament. There were tears in the dressing room and in the stands as New Zealand bowed to the brilliance of Inzamam, the star of the match.

A target of 263 was tough and it looked mammoth when Inzamam walked out to join Miandad in the 35th over at 140 for four. Pakistan had lost Sohail, Rameez Raja, Imran and Malik and the young Inzamam now held the hopes in the company of old fox Miandad. The Kiwis came to grief as Inzamam smashed 60 off 37 balls and Pakistan was through.

As Imran held the trophy at the MCG, few grudged Pakistan the honour. It had shown the grit and the flexibility of champions and on this occasion saw the magic unfold from the hands of Akram, who removed Allan Lamb and Chris Lewis off successive, unplayable balls.

Akram had earlier packed off Ian Botham after Pakistan set England a target of 250. Fittingly, it was a high watermark to the most competitive World Cup ever and a tribute to the spirit that marked Pakistan's resurgence in world cricket.