Pakistan's T-20 victory reached further than the cricket field - it gave the nation a fresh lease of life.
In its 222-year-history Lord's hadn't seen anything like it. The entire stretch from the Grace Gates to St John's Wood Underground station had been taken over by 15,000-plus Pakistani supporters who were euphoric, ecstatic and hysterical. Cars had come to a standstill, singing and dancing was in full swing and cheers of "Jiye Jiye Pakistan" seemed to reverberate from all corners of Lord's cricket ground, causing residents of St John's Wood to look out of their windows in bewilderment.
Shahid Afridi had given the million-strong Pakistani diaspora in Britain and 160 million Pakistanis back home a new lifeline. A team that had nothing at the start of the tournament had won it all. Going into the event as rank underdogs, with the experience of having played very little Twenty-20 (T-20) cricket in 2009, Pakistan had made a statement to the world cricket community.
Barred from playing in the IPL and isolated by the Test-playing countries given the uncertain political conditions prevalent in Pakistan, the Pakistani players were in desperate need of a miracle. And this time round, the miracle happened.
Going into the tournament they looked a helpless bunch. Political turmoil back home had made them anxious.
Their cricket careers were in jeopardy and cricket in Pakistan had come to a grinding halt after the shocking attack on the Sri Lankan players in Lahore.
Yet, while the fancied Indians fell by the wayside at the super eight stage, the Pakistanis, having started badly, picked themselves up to finally make Lord's their own on the longest day of the year, raising serious questions about the real worth of the IPL. And it was only prophetic that the side that had to leave Pakistan amidst the most unnatural of circumstances two months earlier faced Younis Khan's team in the final.
Power of sport
As former ICC President Ehsan Mani put it, the ramifications of this victory "goes far beyond the cricket field." It wouldn't be unfair to say the victory galvanised an entire nation and helped demonstrate the power of sport in contemporary societies. It was certainly a tournament to remember. It demonstrated that desire, more than anything else, makes the ultimate difference in sport. Pakistan wanted to win the tournament more than any other team. For them it wasn't simply a cricketing victory that was at stake. Rather, it was a victory that had the potential to provide the players and their fans with a new sense of self belief. Pakistan, as a team, had finally done justice to their talent. It was known to one and all that Shahid Afridi was a special player. It was also known that he is best suited to the T-20 format.
Fighting all odds
However, inconsistent performances had started to cast doubts in the minds of his fans. Questions were being asked whether he had the mettle to stand up and deliver
in situations that mattered. With match-winning performances in the semi-final and final, Shahid Afridi has well and truly arrived on the world stage.
The victory showed the team's ability to conquer adversity. With the World Cup moved out of Pakistan and
no side wanting to tour the country after the attack on the Sri Lankan players, Pakistan cricket was at an all-time low. Ijaz Butt was forced to run from pillar to post - asking for justice and the players, through no fault of their own, were left with no cricket to play. They even lacked vital practice before going into a high-pressure tournament like the World Cup.
It is in moments like this that champions step up to make the stage their own. Soon after the match was over, a band of Pakistani women who had come to Lord's from Glasgow said to me while controlling tears of joy, "We needed to re-establish our identity. There's much more to Pakistan than terrorism and the Taliban.
The team has given a new lease of life."
Humiliated and troubled, Pakistan had turned to their mercurial cricket team. And the team, which had a humble but extremely talented skipper in Younis Khan, more than stood up to the task. Within the team there was no divide; nor were there differences based on class backgrounds.
Cricket was an avenue for both individual and group escape from the tremors of the politically unstable everyday life; it also offered an opportunity for aesthetic pleasure; it was a source of individual and group psychological uplift and finally was a means of national resurgence.
It was Pakistan's time to celebrate.
— The writer is Joint General Editor, Sport in the Global Society (Routledge)