Pakistan had consistently done well in the previous World Cups, but had stumbled in key matches. Had we not lost to the West Indies by one wicket in my debut match in 1975 after Deryck Murray and Andy Roberts put on 64 runs for the last wicket, we could have finished better. Ahead of this match, Pakistan captain Asif Iqbal had to be rushed to the hospital where he underwent appendicitis surgery and followed the proceedings from the hospital.
We again lost to the West Indies in the 1979 and 1983 editions, both times in the semi-finals. We should have won the 1979 semi-final after Zaheer Abbas and Majid Khan had set the stage for a perfect run-chase, but we failed to carry on the good work and collapsed like a house of cards.
The home event in 1987 ended in despair when we lost to Australia in the semi-final. We were clearly the best side in the tournament and produced some magical performances when the chips were down. Abdul Qadir’s performance with the bat against the West Indies in Lahore was a case in point. But I guess we ran out of luck when we needed it the most.
The semi-final didn’t start very well for us when Saleem Yousuf was injured in the 19th
over and I had to keep wickets. Then Steve Waugh’s late cameo, which included 18 runs off the last over, lifted Australia to 267. In our turn, I was back on the crease in the 10th
over, this time in batting gears. Imran Khan and I produced the best partnership of the match (112) but we found Craig McDermott too hot to handle and lost by 18 runs.
The loss was nothing less than a national tragedy. The mood in the country was somber and people were clearly heartbroken, an indication of what this sport meant to the passionate people of Pakistan. The semi-final was Imran’s last match for Pakistan, though the then President of the country convinced him to reverse his retirement decision and lead the team on the tour of the West Indies, which took place a few months later.
Our perseverance and determination finally paid off in 1992 when, after a shaky start, we won the last five matches on the trot to lift the trophy in front of 90,000 spectators at the MCG. Imran Khan played a master-stroke when he batted at number-three and who can forget Inzamam-ul-Haq’s cameo and then Wasim Akram’s consecutive deliveries – described as deliveries of the century – that dismissed Allan Lamb and Chris Lewis.
The victory had come after we had lost Waqar Younis before the start of the competition and had suffered defeats in three of the first five matches in a tournament.
It was a fairy-tale event for me. There was a big question mark on my participation due to a stomach infection and troubled back. I arrived just a couple of days before the tournament started and carried throughout the tournament. It was worth playing with pain as I contributed to the team’s cause by scoring five half-centuries, including in the semi-final and final.