Imran Khan on Pak and the power of 'I'
In 1992, Pakistan became the second Asian country to win cricket’s mega prize. Imran Khan recollects.india Updated:
For me, Pakistan’s triumph in the 1992 World Cup was the culmination of strategy, talent, and most importantly, systematic preparation. I had spent an entire year in creating a team that would be good enough to lift the World Cup. We were lucky to have the bowling prowess of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis (though he missed the Cup due to injury) and Aaqib Javed, all of whom were in their prime. However, other aspects of our game were developed with care and planning, so that we had the personnel for a tournament being played on Australia’s bouncy tracks.
When I looked at the team in April 1991, a year before the tournament, I knew we had the bowling, but our batting seemed to have holes that needed to be plugged. The openers were not yet settled, and other than Javed Miandad, our middle-order seemed too brittle.
I immediately called for a national-level talent search, and held a camp for those who had been short-listed. The fact that Inzamam-ul Haq was discovered during that camp has been well documented since, but what has not is the fact that Aamir Sohail was another fine player to have emerged from that initiative.
What struck me about Inzamam was the effortless way in which he played our top bowlers in that camp. He appeared totally unruffled against top-level pace bowling, and this prompted me to choose him for the World Cup. Once Inzamam and Sohail joined the ranks of Saeed Anwar, Miandad and Rameez Raja, with me to follow, the batting line-up looked pretty decent.
When the season began in October 1991, whatever I did, and whichever game we played, was geared towards us getting ready for the World Cup. That period helped me fine-tune the side, and when we left for Australia, I felt we could win the Cup.
Our first few games were far from inspiring, with just about every team getting the better of us. We were on the brink of an ignominious elimination when luck swung our way with a rain-abandoned game. I rarely believe in luck, but would admit it was a big break.
I knew that while we had a foot in the door, we needed to make the most of it. Plenty of photographs show me speaking to my young teammates ahead of the second round. However, more than anything I said, it was the self-belief that the team had gained from close games in those times that helped us.
We won a close game in the final of the Nehru Cup, we won a couple of great matches against the West Indies, and then there was the inspirational win in the Australasia Cup at Sharjah, where Miandad won us the game and the trophy off the last ball of the 50th over. We believed that, like cornered tigers, we could claw our way back from any situation. As a result, though hardly anyone gave us a chance a week into the tournament, we were able to scrape through to the semifinals.
Here again, it was tremendous self-belief, in the form of one of one-day cricket's most defining batting knocks, that saw us to the next step. New Zealand had been playing some of the most amazing cricket right through the tournament. They were led by the intelligent and underrated Martin Crowe, and had been the toast of the tournament till that point.
They were cruising to a place in the final when Inzamam played the innings that announced his arrival in world cricket. I would be honest enough to say that I did not think we could pull off that win once the asking rate had mounted to over seven an over. I thought we would be pipped at the semifinal stage for the third successive time, and that my dream of lifting the World Cup would remain just that. Perhaps it was the bull-headedness of youth that made Inzamam back himself. His inexperience must have also helped, and of course he was batting without the weight of expectations on his young shoulders. He batted like a man possessed and the New Zealanders, who had played so well till that point, were left rooted at their fielding positions.
While England did make us work in the final, it was a lot easier than the semifinal. Wasim, who had an outstanding tournament, broke England's middle order with two successive blows. Earlier, Miandad and I had got us to a respectable total that our talented bowling attack was able to defend with ease.
A blend of youth and experience has become an oft-used cliché in cricket. However, the Pakistan team of 1992 had that perfect blend. In the final analysis, that, along with some systematic planning, unstinting support from the selectors and some truly precocious talent in the squad, helped us lift the Cup.
(Imran Khan: former Pakistan captain during world cup 1992.)
First Published: Feb 22, 2007 03:17 IST