LAHORE: There are two things that have captured the imagination of the average Pakistani about his own country. The first is our position as a nuclear power, and the other is the victory over England in the final of the 1992 Cricket World Cup.
While even the country’s fascination with its nuclear program has had its critics, the one thing that will undoubtedly make any Pakistani paint themselves green and white, wave a flag and shout ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ is the memory of the 1992 World Cup. Even the cricket illiterate have a certain affinity for the images of Imran Khan lifting the crystal trophy, and as such that little moment occupies a special place in the collective heart of the nation.
And as we celebrate the silver jubilee of the time Pakistan won its one and only 50-over World Cup, we look back at what made the ’92 World Cup tick. Sure, winning a World Cup is a big deal for any nation, but why is it that the Pakistani nation has singularly focused on this particular win as the peak of the nation’s cricketing greatness. We have since lifted a T20 World Cup, Asia Cups, and for the better half of the previous year held the ICC Test mace.
It doesn’t quite make sense when put into perspective. The final of the game was against England, not a team like arch rivals India. It could be argued that our rise from the ashes after the 2010 spot-fixing scandal and ascent to the top test spot under Misbah ul Haq has been a bigger milestone than the sole World cup win. And as far as World Cups go, Pakistan’s performance in the 2009 T20 World Cup under Younis Khan was better than under Imran Khan in ’92.
What is with the fierce pride then?
For one it has to do with the optics. The ’92 World Cup was a flashy affair. For the first time cricket was being played with a white ball and in coloured clothes. The Packer revolution had left its mark. The official world cup song and images of entire teams on cruise ships created a buzz in the cricketing world. Nothing of the sort had been done before and the world was excited.
A world cup is always special, but this was a limited edition. Cricket was trying to become sexy, and under the captaincy of the dashing Imran Khan, Pakistan became the perfect ambassador for the game’s adopted identity.
What made it even more special was the way Pakistan won the tournament. It was practically usurpation. With just one win in their first five games, the squad was given a break by rain in what would have been almost certain defeat. The ‘cornered tigers’ approach worked as Pakistan came out of thin air to burst the bubble of red hot teams like Australia and New Zealand. Reaching the semis in a chain of events that may as well have been the direct result of divine intervention. They finally made it count when a handsome young stroke maker called Inzamam took them over the line against New Zealand.
Even the final was a disaster in the beginning, and looked to be an almost certain win for England until Imran Khan, Javed Miandad, and Inzamam managed to keep their cool after an early collapse and took the target to 250, setting things up for the brilliance of Wasim Akram to wrap up the game and crown Pakistan the world champions of cricket.
One can never exactly know how and why the ’92 world cup has become so ingrained in our national identity. Was it the optics and imagery? Or was it because we thought we were fighting for something more like Imran Khan’s charity hospital? Had the 2007 T20 World Cup final against India been won, would it have replaced the ’92 World Cup? You never can tell. But what can be said without any doubt at all, rightfully so or not, is that the event marked the most significant moment in Pakistani cricket. And with the passing of the historic win’s silver jubilee, another thing that is undoubtedly true is that the next world cup win is long overdue.