April 13, 2024


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Cricket World Rewind: #OnThisDay – Against all odds, Imran’s ‘cornered tigers’ lift 1992 World Cup

Pakistan had arrived at the tournament three weeks early to acclimatise to the Australian conditions. But, this was about the only thing that went right for the team in the lead up to the tournament. They played six warm-up matches, including two three-day games. In eight innings they crossed 200 just once. 

Waqar Younis, their trump card and one of the fiercest tearaways in the world at that point, was ruled out of  the tournament with two stress fractures of the back. He had picked up the injury during the training camp in Lahore, but had not been properly diagnosed and he flew to Australia anyway, but had to return unceremoniously.

His partner in crime, Wasim Akram was not in the best shape either. He was struggling to contain the swing with two new white balls provided from either end, and ended up conceding an awful lot of wides in the tournament. Skipper Imran Khan was nursing a chronic shoulder injury, and was far from 100% fitness.

Javed Miandad, their most experienced batsman, was struggling with form and injury, and also ran the risk of getting dropped from the World Cup squad.

Batting prodigy Inzamam-ul-Haq was not able to adjust to the Australian pitches.

Leg spinner Mushtaq Ahmed, who had displaced Abdul Qadir by now, was struggling for control. Iqbal Sikander, another leggie, had been called up as cover initially and on his first day of training, impressed Imran in particular, and he was tipped to replace Mushy. But, at the last minute Imran and team manager, Intikhab Alam, decided to keep Mushtaq in the final 14. Sikander was picked as well.

Salim Malik was completely out of nick in the lead up as well.

No one new anymore whether Ijaz Ahmed was a middle-order batsman or a first-change slow medium-pacer anymore.

Pakistan had taken giant strides in half a decade leading up to the 1992 World Cup and had become the second-best white-ball side in the world, with 55 wins from 97 ODIs in this period. However, they always struggled in Australia; they had lost 15 of their last 23 ODIs in Australia and New Zealand.

But, after five games, they found themselves close to being ousted out of the tournament after suffering three defeats, a tie and just one win against Zimbabwe. But then something happened. The combinations began to settle and suddenly the youngster Inzamam-ul-Haq started stroking the ball well and strike bowlers, Wasim Akram and Aaqib Javed hit top-gear. Before the cricketing world could make sense of what had hit them, Pakistan had already beaten New Zealand twice and thumped Australia to set up the final against England.

“Australia were always difficult opponents for us, always,” recalls Aaqib Javed. “But after we won that match, we thought, this isn’t a problem. We had Sri Lanka next, who weren’t so good then, and New Zealand, and if you take New Zealand’s record against everyone and then place it against ours, it’s awful. Against Pakistan they’ve never done anything. We used to look at them and think, no way, we can take these guys on for sure. After Imran’s talk and the Australia win, the team’s mood changed totally.”

With vital contributions from Imran Khan, Javed Miandad and Inzamam-ul-Haq and an 18-ball 33-run cameo from Akram, Pakistan set England a target of 250 in the final. The partnership between Allan Lamb and Neil Fairbrother had England in the game but it were two off two from Akram to dismiss Alan Lamb and Chris Lewis that all but sealed the game.

Alongside skipper Imran Khan, Aamer Sohail, Ramiz Raja, Javed Miandad, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Wasim Akram, Saleem Malik, Ijaz Ahmed, Moin Khan, Mushtaq Ahmed and Aaqib Javed were the 10 other players who will always have a special place in the cricketing history of Pakistan as they helped the country lift their maiden World Cup title, against all odds.