Pakistan v India best way for Champions Trophy to end


LONDON – The greatest compliment you could pay Pakistan is that even they don’t know what they are capable of.

They are the ultimate source of unpredictability, a sorcerer’s mix of skill, and scandal, and petty paraphernalia that suddenly combines into a unit so potent that wild horses couldn’t stop it.

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Pakistan fans shouting for their team. Photo: ReutersIndian cricket fans hold a trophy as they cheer before India and Pakistan finals at The Oval, in Ahmedabad. Photo: ReutersIndian fans bring vibrant colour to the Champions Trophy. Photo: ReutersPakistan fans celebrate a six. Photo: Reuters

England’s chivalry found them too hot to handle in Cardiff, and they went the same way as the Proteas.

Those who like to console themselves with such trivialities will say that at least South Africa lost to both the finalists. They will point to a Group B so strong that it provided all the contenders.

Each to their own.

The truth of it, of course, is that the semi-finals were made up of the four most courageous sides. They all had their wobbles, but they all confronted adversity with an unwavering eye, and an unerring bat.

The game evolves, all the time, and it seems that 50-over cricket is in its latest phase, where teams bat deep and have one talisman that they look to for inspiration.

England have Joe Root, India have the imperious Virat Kohli, and South Africa normally look to AB de Villiers.

Pakistan are the anamoly. Anyone could strike, and everyone could fail. So far, someone has put their hand up, and taken them over the line. It is a maddening reality, but they’ve made it work to this point.

Indian fans turned out in huge numbers at the Champions Trophy final. Photo: Reuters

The final, between Asia’s eternal enemies, could have easily filled up a stadium 10 times the size of The Oval. England may disagree, but the last two standing are the supported teams in the competition.

Everywhere they go, they create a beautiful cricketing riot of colour, character and contrasting culture.

India may have smashed them in the group stages, but that is a lifetime ago. Pakistan have gone through three lives – at least – since then, and they have become the Cinderella story of this three-week jaunt.

Naturally, they will roll up in a half-baked pumpkin, still fixing their frock, and Mickey Arthur still fixing their make-up.

A fortnight ago, he was an hour away from the sack, but he is now a good game away from having the freedom of Lahore.

The stories he could tell... the hairs he must have lost.

Pakistan head coach Mickey Arthur. Photo: Reuters

This clash is the best way for this crazy carnival of cricket to end. There is no cat in hell’s chance of calling it with any certainty, because Pakistan are involved.

Absolutely anything could materialise, but you can be sure that the atmosphere will be absolutely bonkers.

Mind-blasting, the Indians say.

Zindabad! Is how Pakistan counter.

It will be frenetic, fantastic and all manner of fun. In a world of too much cricket, most of it forgettable, this bit called the Champions Trophy can most certainly stay.

Long live the upsets.


Sunday Tribune

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