How Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri inadvertently inspired Pakistan to Champions Trophy title
What's the story?
Former Indian cricketers Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri may have inadvertently motivated Pakistan to the 2017 Champions Trophy title. Talat Ali, Pakistan team's manager, has claimed that Sarfraz Ahmed's troops were fired up by the pre-match analysis of the two right-handers and subsequently channelled their frustration in the proper direction to hammer India in the final.
In a candid chat with Cricbuzz, Talat Ali revealed, "India wrote us off in the (Champions Trophy) final. I was listening to the analysis of Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri and they gave us no chance. That fired up the boys. It was called a no-contest and we were written off. We said let the bat and ball do the talking."
After being humbled by 124 runs in their opening match against arch-rivals India at the Edgbaston Stadium in Birmingham during the 2017 Champions Trophy, Pakistan were written off by almost every former cricketer and analyst. However, they gave a befitting display of their unpredictable nature by going on an unexpected four-match winning streak to lift the coveted trophy.
The heart of the matter
Prior to the eagerly awaited final between India and Pakistan at the fabled Oval Cricket Ground in London, both Gavaskar and Shastri termed Virat Kohli's team as massive favourites for the title clash. But the legendary opener praised Pakistan's resurgence and attributed their remarkable turnaround to Sarfraz Ahmed's strong captaincy.
Upon winning the toss, Kohli inexplicably decided to bowl first on a flat surface. Fakhar Zaman's lucky reprieve off a no-ball from Jasprit Bumrah was further indication that the stars were aligned in their favour. Riding on the left-hander's scintillating century, Pakistan reached a daunting total of 338 for the loss of just four wickets.
From then on, it was one-way traffic as Mohammad Amir's sizzling new-ball spell crushed India's already slim hopes. Only Hardik Pandya offered any semblance of resistance even as Pakistan cruised to a comprehensive 180-run victory and clinched the Champions Trophy against all odds.
Parallels from history
Pakistan's astonishing triumph in the 2017 Champions Trophy was reminiscent of their euphoric campaign in the 1992 World Cup. Following a serendipitous rain-aided escape act against England in a pool game at the Adelaide Oval, they picked themselves up under Imran Khan's inspirational leadership and mounted a stunning comeback. The 'cornered tigers' defied all predictions to lift the World Cup trophy on a balmy night in Melbourne.
Nothing matches the thrill and exuberance of a come-from-behind triumph. Pakistan's astounding turnaround in the Champions Trophy and the manner in which they made a mockery of all pre-match predictions to steamroll India in the final was a tribute to their mercurial nature. As for Gavaskar and Shastri, the match offered a grim reminder of the ramifications emanating from writing any team off before a sporting contest.