Terror strikes, kept away from fun tournaments, boards declining to tour them, lack of preparation for the tournament, list of unfit players and new comers all seemed to bring the world to a conclusion that Pakistan won't repeat any of their heroics displayed in the previous version. But there they were - clinical display to better their last show and hence, become the T20 Champions 2009, second time lucky... More than luck it was sheer dominance and hard work.
If there was one team that was coming into the format with the same classical approach, it is Pakistan. Most other teams were depended on big hitters or bowlers of a different dimension. Pakistan introduced youngsters at the big stage and got the best out of them too. The big surprise to most people was the early exit of the Australians by their group members, WI and SL. Both teams had it easy against the Aussies who are now suffering their worst phase in cricket for atleast a couple of decades of my memory, which may worsen if they lose the Ashes this english summer.
Most other teams had it easy to the super 8 stages (Ireland beat Bangladesh in the run to the super8, the only exception otherwise). Four deserving teams - SA, WI, SL and Pakistan moved into the semifinal stage. South Africa were dominant in every department. West Indies, led by their captain Gayle and some inspirational performance by Simmon, Bravo and their pace batter complemented by Big Benn took them through to the knock out stages. SL banking on Dilshans 'hit over the keeper for freebies' tactics and spin twins helped them through easily to the top 4. Pakistan came from the ashes to beat NZ quite comfortably. This needs a special mention that Gul was the first bowler to rip a 5-for in T20. Michelle for him. Not many have had even a Michelle in T20s, let alone more than one 5-fors.
Semi finals. I was hoping to see a clash of cricket's two most beautiful art-schools, WI and Pakistan clash in the finals. While Pakistan were able to tame the South Africans in a good match, WI went down to Sri Lanka pretty much the same way as they did in their group match. So, though my wish wasn't granted, atleast i was happy Pakistan got a good team to prove its worth against.
The final, Lords. with a good all round performance, Lankan batsman were tamed and Lankan bowlers were milked and spanked to bring about the easy victory. Afridi was named the man of the match, and the leading scorer, Dilshan was given the man of the series award.
A great moment for Pakistan cricket. It was in tithers, and now its on top of the world. 'In their face' to anyone who kept them away from cricketing world! Its time to rebuild the team and start the journey again from where they left. Lot of plus from this tournament - Gul's presence helped sofen the tension, Afridi's calmness while batting ad bowling, Ajmal fitting into Saqlain's shoes! Its all coming together for Pakistan. Just one point is left to be proven - consistency. If only they could put on a consistent show in the years to come, the good old days will be back. As of now, they face an uphill task in their tour of the Emerald Isles.
In the women's edition... the English Ladies had an easy victory over the kiwis to cap their excellent run in the tournament that went parallel to the Men's edition.
Up & coming :-
India tour of WI - June 26th onwards, four ODIs
Bangladesh tour of WI - July, two Tests, three ODIs and one T20
Pakistan tour of Sri Lanka - July, three Tests, five ODIs and a T20
Ashes - July onwards - five tests. followed by the & match ODI series
Stay tuned. Test is best, and its back again on the cricketing map.