Lahore, 21 June 2022: The ghosts of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup final from a decade ago haunted Abdul Razzaq and Shahid Afridi. Pakistan, in 1999, were tipped to be crowned 50-over champions for the second time in three World Cups, but their superlative campaign crashed with an eight-wicket defeat to Australia.
Pakistan, in 2009, were about to play another World Cup final at Lord’s, albeit in a different format. On the bright sunny morning of 21 June, Razzaq and Shahid, before heading to the ground, had vowed to do whatever they can to ensure the history does not repeat itself.
“Afridi and I were part of the team that lost to Australia in the World Cup final in 1999 at this very venue,” Razzaq told PCB Digital in a special interview to mark 13th anniversary of Pakistan’s T20 World Cup victory. “That was fresh in our minds. We spoke about how devastating a defeat in a world cup final can be. We promised each other that we will not let this final end as that one and alter the course of history.”
Pakistan had not won a World Cup in the last 17 years, and that remained the centre of team meetings. “The captain [Younis Khan] and the team management used to tell us how big of an opportunity this was to win a world cup and how this event in England provided us an opportunity to be heroes as there is a lot of hype surrounding cricket in that part of the world.
“After the win wherever we went – to stores or restaurants – people never let us pay the bills, saying we had given happiness to the country.”
The impact of the second World Cup win was massive in the country and Razzaq believes it played a role in increasing the fan base and attracting more people to the sport.
“I developed liking for cricket after the 1992 world cup win. That is when I decided to become a cricketer. Such events promote cricket amongst youngsters.”
Pakistan had a difficult start to their campaign with a heavy 48-run defeat to hosts England at The Oval. They thrashed Netherlands by 82 runs at Lord’s in their second and last group game to qualify for the next round. The next match, they crashed by 19 runs to Sri Lanka, whom they would meet in the final nine days later at the same venue. That would be Pakistan’s last defeat of the campaign.
A mesmerising spell of death bowling by Umar Gul, in which he claimed 5-6 to restrict New Zealand to 99 in 18.3 overs and Shahid Afridi’s epic catch of Scott Styris running backwards lifted the moral of the team. They self-belief and undying spirit that they attained from that match put them on a winning streak.
“His [Shahid Afridi’s] catch lifted the whole team,” recalled Razzaq. “Whenever a player gives such a performance, it gives confidence and boost to those who are in the field and also to those who are in the dug out. It instils hunger in every player to give the best.”
Pakistan opener and wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal scored a brilliant half-century to help Pakistan settle the score with Ireland following their 50-over world cup defeat in 2007. He would provide the side quick and solid starts in the tournament, providing foundation for the batters coming in the middle to express themselves and was the leading run-scorer for his side.
Speaking about Kamran’s contributions, Razzaq said: “If an opener provides a solid start and plays positive and aggressive cricket, it sets a template for those who are to bat next. It sets the momentum for the remaining innings, and that is what Kamran Akmal did for us. He used to give us solid starts and the batters walking in next used to build on those starts.”
It was, however, the bowling where Pakistan outdid the oppositions. Three of the top five wicket-takers were Pakistanis with Umar Gul (13 at 12.15) leading the chart. Ajanta Mendis, Saeed Ajmal and Lasith Malinga were tied at 12 scalps apiece and Shahid Afridi accounted for 11 batters.
As the tournament progressed, it became a norm that the pair of Saeed and Shahid dried up the runs and took wickets in the middle overs, before Umar bulldozed the opposition line-ups in the death.
“The presence of Saeed Ajmal and Shahid Afridi was one of the brightest aspects of our bowling unit. They were unplayable; they used to get us wickets and did not allow the oppositions to score, which created problems for whomever we faced. After them, Umar Gul used to come into the attack. He used to bowl his four overs, and especially in death, exceptionally. He did not give any chance to the opposition to score and got us wickets.”
Razzaq was called up as a replacement for an injured Yasir Arafat. He took the new ball for Pakistan, finishing with the figures of five for 74 in four matches, with his economy under six and average under 15.
His best figures of the tournament came in the final (three for 20 in three overs) and he accounted for bulk of the Sri Lankan batting department, snaring Sanath Jayasuria, Jehan Mubarak and Mahela Jayawardene.
One of the iconic moments of the final was when Razzaq fell after delivering the ball that Jayasuria chopped on. Razzaq injured himself, but his unrelenting passion made him stay on the field.
“I had decided to not to leave the field even after I had gotten injured,” he said. “I fell after bowling Jayasuria and it ruptured my muscle, but I did not want to leave the field as I still had an over left and the captain could need me any moment.”
Razzaq, who is currently the head coach of Central Punjab, enjoys an illustrious international career which spanned over 14 years. It is, however, the T20 World Cup triumph that he counts as the highlight of his career.
“Every player wants to have a moment about which he can be proud of. Winning the T20 world cup in 2009 is one such moment for me.”