04 October 2010
CWC 1992 gave Pakistan the belief, says Akram
the Pakistan player admits that the league match against New Zealand is still fresh in his memory
Wasim Akram was the man of the finals.
With the final of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 just six months away, Akram was reminded of that big night on 25 March 1992 when Pakistan came from behind to become world champions.
Akram remembers every moment of the tournament in 1992. But what is still fresh in his memory is the league match against New Zealand which kick started the dream run.
"I remember almost everything about ICC Cricket World Cup 1992. But the way we qualified tops my memories. We were up against New Zealand who had won eight of their games and were on a roll. They were a strong side. Before that game Imran gave a speech to the team. He wore a t-shirt with the picture of a tiger. He said go out and enjoy your cricket, play like cornered tigers. And we really did do what he said," recalled Akram.
On the big day, Akram said that the whole team was confident about their chances against England. "The team was very positive about our chances. We were a happy bunch. I was only 24 and was on my toes. I was very excited and displayed controlled aggression. The whole team felt the same. We were on a roll. We knew that the tournament win is possible," added Akram.
Pakistan chose to bat first at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). The two openers - Rameez Raja and Aamer Sohail - left with the score on 24. Akram recalled that there were some nervous moments in the dressing room.
"When the openers fell early there was some nervousness because it was after all the final. Imran took the initiative and led from the front in that tournament. He decided to bat at number three which was a huge risk for any all-rounder. Also remember in those days you would have two new balls, one at each end. On those pitches in Australia and New Zealand batting wasn't easy unlike in the 1996 edition, when we had flat tracks."
Imran and Javed Miandad painstakingly rebuilt the Pakistan innings. The going may have been slow, but all through the 139-run stand for the third wicket between Miandad (58: 98b, 4x4) and Imran (72: 110b, 5x4, 1x6), the dressing room was aware of the plan.
"We knew we can cover it up (despite the slow start). The plan was to preserve wickets for the last 20 overs. We wanted to be 83 or 85 for two by the 25th over. We played according to our plan. Javed was always a slow starter. His theory was that 'if I am in I should bat till the last over'. And to be fair to him he did that most of the time," said Akram.
The stage was then set for Akram to join forces with young gun Inzamam-ul-Haq to add momentum to the Pakistan innings. Inzamam (42: 35b, 4x4) and Akram (33:18b, 4x4) added 52 runs in quick time to give the innings a final push.
"Inzy came back to form in the semi-final (v New Zealand). In that game (final), I went in at number six. Both Inzy and I thrashed the ball. I felt I could hit wherever I wanted. I was seeing the ball like a football."
Akram was pumped up for the big day and it showed in his reactions after hitting a boundary off Chris Lewis. "I was so charged up; my reaction after I hit a boundary said it all. I was enjoying every second of it. The crowd of 90,000 people at a packed MCG, plus the fact that the sub-continent was watching us on television egged me on. Above all it was also because in those days there was just one big tournament, ICC Cricket World Cup, unlike now. So it meant that it was much more special for me. "
Pakistan ended at 249 for six in their 50 overs handing England a tricky chase for the title. England lost their top-order pretty quickly at 69 for four. But a gritty fifth-wicket stand between Neil Fairbrother (62: 70b, 3x4) and Allan Lamb (31: 41b, 2x4) worth 72 runs threatened to spoil the party for Pakistan.
With the score at 141 for four, Akram then produced the two most magical deliveries which sealed the title for Pakistan.
"After the 35th over during the drinks break, Imran said 'why don't you try bowling you might some reverse swing'. I told Imran let me see for an over or two. "
Rest as they say is history, Akram first knocked over Lamb, who did not have any clue to a special delivery. All the advice from Akram's Lancashire teammate Fairbrother to Lamb also did not make any difference.
" Neil Fairbrother, who was at the non-striker's end, later told me that he had warned Allan Lamb about the ball (off which he got out). Fairbrother was my teammate at Lancashire and he knew what to expect. But Lamb went for a shot instead of blocking it. Lamb later told Fairbrother that the angle was so difficult, he had never seen a delivery like that before. It felt awesome."
Next man in was Lewis, Imran came up with an advice for his ward. "Imran turned to me and said 'Chris Lewis will come expecting an inswinger'. So I bowled him an outswinger."
That was the end of England's fight with the score reading 141 for six. The lower-order hung around, but England finally ended the night on the losing side being bowled out for 227 in the 50th over.
"That (Lewis' wicket) was the time we knew the game had turned. But it was not until Rameez (Raja) caught (Richard) Illingworth (off Imran) did that incredible feeling sink in. Even after so many years it is very difficult to explain the moment."
Pakistan team celebrated all through the night and according to Akram it continued for many more days. Akram was named man of the match for his all-round show of 33 off 18 balls and his spell of 3 for 49.
"We went on celebrating for months. It brought a big smile and in some cases even tears to the whole country. I was lucky to witness all the celebrations. We went on a huge truck across Lahore, Karachi, Faisalabad with people standing everywhere to greet us. "
Akram recalled that there were a number of collateral benefits from the 1992 win. The team became a dominant force in the 1990s resulting in the launch of a number of careers. "We just grew from that win. We remained unbeaten for a long time. We beat every team at home and abroad. A lot of confident youngsters like Abdul Razzaq, Saeed Anwar came up. Aamer Sohail and Inzy were also there on the 1992 team. We became a very confident team from thereon."
Now a television commentator on ESPN-Star Sports, Akram is hopeful of Pakistan repeating the 1992 feat after 19 years on 2 April 2011.
"I hope Pakistan repeat the 1992 feat. We will be playing in the subcontinent, so that should help. I just hope they play specialist batsmen and specialist bowlers instead of bits and pieces players. I hope (Abdul) Razzaq is available. Pakistan does have a chance but they need to be consistent in their fielding."
According to Akram the biggest difference between the team of 1992 and the current squad is in terms of experience. " You had Imran, Javed. I was 24. But I was at the peak of my international career. I had played county cricket for four years. Mushtaq (Ahmed) was peaking, Aaqib (Javed) was peaking. Then there was Salim Malik. So in terms of experience the current side has no comparison with the 1992 squad."
Akram believes the time when no overseas team could adjust to the subcontinent conditions is beyond us. With more avenues for teams to play in the region, players are getting used to the conditions.
"Unlike in the past we cannot say that foreign teams will not adapt to the conditions. With tournaments like IPL players are more familiar with the conditions. It could be anybody's tournament. India and Pakistan obviously will be the two sides to watch out for. Australia could also be a title contender."
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