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Joy of the Pakistan boys that turned champions

Being with the team that emerged winners of the tournament for the first time

Image Credit: AFP
Pakistan’s Hasan Ali holds up his award for the Golden Ball winner at the presentation after the ICC Champions Trophy final cricket match between India and Pakistan at The Oval in London.
Gulf News

London: There is nothing more exciting than being with a team that has just won a major tournament.

In the past I used to get lucky sneaking close to the team dressing room. This time, thanks to the International Cricket Council, they got the entire Pakistan team to the media zone to freely interact with the press, so you could ask questions to a particular player.

All eyes were on Fakhar Zaman, the 27-year-old opener, who set the stage for Pakistan’s victory through a knock of 114. For Zaman it was a fairy tale journey, playing only his fourth One Day International (ODI) and being able to notch his maiden ODI century.

Zaman was born in a small town in the district of Mardan before he moved to Karachi at the age of 16 to join the navy.

It was his navy team’s coach Azam Khan who spotted his skills and wrote to the navy headquarters that he would be more useful for cricket after he completed his Navy training of 18 months.

Zaman is said to have had an upset stomach the day before the final, but recovered in time. He was very modest when asked about his knock.

“I am actually lucky. Sometimes you get dropped or survive because of a no ball, but that need not help you to get a century.” He hailed Indian bowlers saying: “They bowled really well at the start. I played each ball on its merit, but when the ball stopped moving much I started playing my shots.”

The other hero of Pakistan’s victory was Mohammad Amir, who wiped the cream of India’s batting with a three wicket spell. Talking about his wickets, he said: “I am happy getting those wickets because Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan have been in tremendous form. I aimed for early wickets and got them. Actually it was the South African match that gave us momentum.”

Mohammad Hafeez, who cracked a breezy 57, dedicated the victory to his country’s fans and wanted to convey a huge message as well. “We showed character, and this victory is for our nation. We have been suffering for the last nine years with no (international) cricket at home. We all were waiting for this moment.”

Pakistan’s most experienced batsman Shoaib Malek, who lives in Dubai, seemed to have heard about the massive victory celebrations in Dubai by Pakistan fans. “It is hard to express our joy in words. I’m sure roads will be blocked. People will be out dancing even though it is Ramadan. I would like to congratulate all the Pakistani people around the world. Credit to the boys for the way they played.”

Hasan Ali, who won the golden ball for the best bowler of the tournament, said: “This was a great tournament for me as I dismissed some top players. It is very special to take the final wicket that won us the tournament ... very special for me ... and I will definitely remember it all my life.”

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AP