Twenty20 World Cup 2009 Review

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shahid-afridi1This year has seen many great events in the cricketing world. Towards the end of 2008, South Africa won a Test series in Australia and in the first Test of the new year, the Aussies won the last test to salvage some pride. We also saw one David Warner destroying the South African bowlers on his T-20 debut.

The very next month the West Indian great Sir Vivian Richards’ pride was dented by a beach named as a cricket ground after him. In the first week of March, terror showed its ugly face and brought shame not only to cricket in Pakistan, but the country in general. The courage and resilience shown by the Sri Lankan cricketers and their bus driver are commendable, and the support Sri Lanka Cricket lent the Pakistani Cricket Board is a lesson for all other governing bodies in sport. Those attacks left a lasting impression on me. How such evil, stone-hearted people  can exist is a question that often arises in my mind. ‘The game I love, that is as close to my heart as the ruddy drops that run from it, is in shambles,’ I remarked to my friends after that incident. That tour was remarkable for  the Sri Lankans had embarked on a voyage to a land that was a no-go for all other cricketing nations. God bless their courage and generosity for venturing to help a neighbour in need.

Elsewhere in South Africa, Mitchell Johnson proved his all-round capabilities with some fine  bowling and hard hitting winning the series for Australia, proving they were not world champions for nothing. India beat New Zealand on a pitch that was not as threatening as in ‘02-‘03. The Windies’ first test victory thanks to a splendid spell by Jerome Taylor suggested that the fire had returned to their bellies, and then England smashed the Windies into submission in the last two tests to quell any talk that the Windies were ascending to dizzy heights that their forefathers once reached.

Came April, and the IPL craze started, in South Africa this time. A multiple captain theory failed, and the bottom two from last year were the top two this year. Talk about the reversal of fortunes, this should take the cake! Now to the World T-20. Initially few teams were really worried about this one. The Aussies were after the Ashes and this could have meant nothing to them.

India as defending champions; West Indies with a Test hating, T-20 loving skipper; South Africa to shake off their tag of eternal jok.. er chokers; England as hosts, Sri Lanka for their nation’s pride and Pakistanis to prove their worth against teams most of which do not step foot on their soil. The Kiwis are quite sprightly opponents as well, but they had their cup of bowling woes. Pakistan and Sri Lanka, neighbours who were united and helpful during those tough times played very well to set up a final showdown.

When Pakistan play for fun, they are fun. But when they are serious, they mean business. The most surprising fact of this tournament was Afridi’s attitude. We normally expect 10 to 20 runs in half the balls with one or two sixes from him. There are few players like Afridi and Sehwag who are hell bent on dominating the bowlers that they are willing to sacrifice their wicket. Afridi played a part befitting a senior player of his calibre, hardly going for the boom boom stuff which he does ever so often. Maybe he is mature enough now to play sheet anchor even in T-20.

When such a player who can hit you out of the park easily relinquishes that attitude for sanity, you know the going will be tough. But the Lankans are no mugs, with Angelo Mathews, Dilshan and Mendis being the stars. I expected a thrilling finale, and it was hardly that. The ICL player Abdur Razzaq showed his wares and restricted the Lankans. Out came the Pakistanis, Akmal in a belligerent mood played well and set the tempo which was sustained cleverly by Afridi and the end result was not that close.

What this victory means for Pakistan cricket is that there’ll be more interest among the youth in the game and that might help them from treading the wrong path. It is for this reason that their legends call for other countries to tour them. But the fact is that Pakistan is under a shadow of terror, which is certainly not the people’s fault. Unless these mean minded madmen are restrained and peace returns to the land, no one would put their lives on the line. It is essential for this to happen fast, else cricket in Pakistan may die a slow death, and we’d be missing the charm and passion that the fantastic and at times freakishly good players provide.

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