Friday, November 29, 2013

Foreword: Mohali Mystery

By Rashid Latif 

Despite the advent of the shorter format of the game of cricket, the ICC World Cup, held after every four years, remains the most sought-after cricket event and the enthusiasts of the game wait for it anxiously. It’s a dream of every cricket playing nation to win the World Cup.

But at the end of the contest, after all the thrills and excitement, only one team has to be crowned and the others have to wait for another four years. Pakistan annexed the trophy in 1992 but the dream to retain it was shattered in 1996. 

Our boys came closer to retaining the title in 1999, only to fall at the last hurdle, but in 2003 and 2007 events proved to be total debacle. Elements of suspicion and doubt shrouded the way Pakistan had lost the final of the 1999 World Cup. There was severe criticism when the star-studded team crashed out in 2003 while the whole nation was jolted when Inzamam-ul-Haq and his men flopped even more miserably in 2007.

I was a member of the team during the 2003 World Cup held in South Africa. It was really disappointing and disturbing for all of us not to have gone beyond the first round, despite having an experienced and potent outfit.

Shahid Afridi, a part of the World Cup in 1999, 2003 and 2007, was entrusted with the responsibility of leading Pakistan in 2011. He didn’t have a formidable outfit on paper but he had quite a few seasoned campaigners at his disposal.

Pakistan remained a mixed bag in the league matches as they lost to New Zealand but registered victories over defending champions Australia and hosts Sri Lanka to be counted as serious contenders for the title. By having bulldozed the trio of Australia, Sri Lanka and the West Indies, Pakistan had enhanced their reputation and these three victories in particular raised hopes of bringing back the title after 19 years.

Pakistan lost to India in the semifinals after being in dominating position for most part of the match which made the defeat look a bit mysterious. The veteran Misbah-ul-Haq was under fire for slow batting and Afridi was criticized for not taking power play at the right time which ruined their chances of making it to the final. 

The Indians, as expected, reached the final and eventually regained the title after a lapse of 28 years by hammering Sri Lanka in the final. It looked as if the CWC 2011 was tailor-made for them to lift the crown. Like anyone, I was also surprised at Pakistan’s loss in the semifinals despite putting India under pressure for so long. Rumours travelling through grapevine pointed at something fishy behind the defeat.

There was also an element of shock and mystery when the Pakistan team, upon their return, was honoured by federal and provincial governments as if they had brought home the title. Shahid Afridi’s team was accorded red carpet welcome despite losing the semifinal whereas the whole set up of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) was changed when the team, under Wasim Akram, lost to Australia in the final in 1999. What a contrast indeed!

Pakistan’s bad luck had started a year earlier when the ICC had stopped them from playing host to their quota of the World Cup matches on security grounds and the tournament was co-hosted by the trio of Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka.

I had raised the issue during the World Cup 2011 which concerned the reduction in the number of participating teams. I have had the feeling that the matches involving the ‘minnows’ provide the opening to foul play and there are greater opportunities of ‘fixing’ them.

*****For obtaining a copy of Mohali Mystery, please write to or call Asad Raza at 0333-2304024. It is priced Rs 1,000 in Pakistan.

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