Along with lifting the ICC Champions Trophy for the first time, Pakistan also got a massive monkey off its back by defeating arch-rival India in an ICC event at The Oval on Sunday.
It was the first time Pakistan had defeated India in an ICC tournament since 2009, and only the third time ever, all having come in the ICC Champions Trophy. It was also its first ever victory over India in an ICC tournament knockout game.
Calling the victory a great achievement, Sarfraz Ahmed said his team had now left behind a legacy of beating India in a final.
“I can't express my feelings. It's a great achievement for me, the team and the country,” the Pakistan skipper said. “This win will be remembered not just today or tomorrow but for a long, long time. Now, nobody can talk that we have not beaten India in the World Cup or a major tournament like that.
“This victory is huge for the team and for the people of Pakistan. This will be the legacy we leave behind, that we beat India in the final. No one thought we'll perform like this. A lot of people thought we couldn't defeat India. Nobody thought this team (India) would collapse so easily. We've beaten a very good side.”
It was a remarkable turnaround for a team that lost in shambolic manner to India in its first group game. Sarfraz conceded that the team’s morale was down then but credited his young side and the team management for bouncing back.
“The team's morale was down after losing to India in Birmingham,” he said. “There was a lot of hard talk after that. Then we played every game like it was a semi-final, a knockout game. Credit to the boys and the coaching staff for working hard.
“The youngsters are good; they're very committed. This is the first ICC event for many of them. I told the youngsters: 'Just play the way you play in domestic cricket. Don't think, just hit the ball’. Fakhar (Zaman) played like he does in domestic cricket. People say Azhar (Ali) is slow, today even he played well.”
Sarfraz said the youngsters’ good performance was a result of the confidence they gained by playing in the Pakistan Super League. The captain also hoped the team’s victory would lead to teams touring Pakistan once again.
“We didn't have cricket at home for eight years. It was a big setback,” he said. “We were playing (home games) in Dubai as nobody was ready to come (to Pakistan). When we came here, we were No. 8. Now we are champions. Hopefully this will boost Pakistan cricket. Hopefully all countries will now visit Pakistan.”
This was the first major title for Mickey Arthur, who has coached South Africa and Australia in the past. Coincidentally, Arthur was sacked as Australia coach after a winless ICC Champions Trophy 2013 campaign in England four years back.
“It's not about me and my career, it's about 15 unbelievable players in that dressing room who have been absolutely fantastic for the last year,” said Arthur, passing on all the credit to his boys. “So that's what it should be about.”
“But it is, you know, it really is,” he said when asked if this was his biggest achievement as coach. “I was telling somebody the other day that I've had five semi-finals with South Africa and never got to a final. I got to one final with Pakistan and eventually got a (winner’s) medal. So that's fantastic. But the credit goes to the players. They've been brilliant, and my fellow coaching staff and management team have been fantastic, as well.”