When looking back at the history of Pakistan cricket, it is easy to pinpoint the matches or tournaments where the team failed to perform up to the expectations of the fans. However, none of the bad performances of the team come close to the disastrous campaign of the 2007 world-cup. While the Wasim-Waqar rivalry was driven by competitive spirit and the final of the 1999 world cup boiled down to one bad decision, the loss against Ireland was a downright catastrophe.
Pakistan was never the favorite to win the 2007 world cup. Yet, not many people had predicted how things would turn out. Traditionally, the team has relied on its fast bowling ability to win big tournaments. On this occasion though, the team was missing the likes of Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Asif, and Abdul Razzaq. In the batting department, the team was heavily dependent on the middle order heavy weights-Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf and captain Inzamam ul Haq. The team’s main striker Shahid Afridi had also been banned from the first two games of the tournament.
The problems of the team were apparent from the very first game. Facing the home side, West Indies, the men in green failed to put up a fight. Despite restricting the home side to just 241, the team could only manage to score 187 runs with just Shoaib Malik scoring a fifty.
From bad to worse
The defeat against West Indies was only a sign of things to come. Fans were confident that the team had the ability to overcome Ireland and Zimbabwe to qualify for the super 8. This confidence was completely shattered on 17 March 2007. On what had been described as a difficult pitch to bat on, the batting line-up failed in spectacular fashion. None of the batsmen made a score in excess of 25 aside from Kamran Akmal. Younis Khan, Inzamam and Yousuf, who were the three main batsmen couldn’t even make a combined score of twenty runs. The entire team was sent to the pavilion with just 132 runs on the board.
The bowlers did put up some resistance to stop the inevitable but by then it was all too late. The Irish batsmen managed to chase down the score with the loss of seven wickets.
The defeat send shock waves around the cricket world. Pakistan cricket fans were in disbelief as to how the team had surrendered so easily. Questions were raised concerning the pre-event preparations along with the selection decisions.
There were plenty of reasons for the loss. While the pitch was certainly difficult to bat on, the lack of initiative from the batsmen to develop a partnership was baffling. Equally inexplicable was Inzamam’s decision to play Azhar Mehmood instead of the specialist spinner Danish Kaneria. Regardless of the reasons for the loss, the defeat had long-term consequences on Pakistan cricket and the world cup tournament.
The death of Bob Woolmer
A day after Pakistan lost the game against Ireland, Bob Woolmer the coach of Pakistan team was found dead in his hotel room. It was initially reported that Woolmer died of a heart attack but a murder trial followed soon after. Eventually, it was determined that Woolmer died of natural causes. Many of the players who were involved in the entire situation have described those few days as the worse time of their career. The players felt that Woolmer was deeply stressed and saddened by the team’s loss which ultimately led to his death. Woolmer’s death will remain one of the biggest tragedy of the game of cricket.
In the present day, Bob Woolmer is still recognized as one of the most dedicated and hard-working coaches in Pakistan cricket history. The PCB started an indoor academy with Woolmer’s name to honor and remember the great coach. All these initiatives have ensured that Woolmer’s legacy lives on. At the same time, the successful tenure of Woolmer is one of the major reasons why the cricket board has shown a keen interest in using the services of a foreign coach ever since.
Changes to the world cup format
Pakistan’s defeat to Ireland along with India’s defeat against Bangladesh meant that the two sub-continent teams were out of the tournament. As a result, fans of the two teams lost interest in the tournament. The eliminations of the two cricketing giants forced the cricketing authorities to redraw the format of the world cup for 2011 and 2015. The format will yet again change for the 2019 world cup which will feature top 10 sides across the globe.
Ireland as a cricketing nation
While the game had a lot of negative effects on Pakistan cricket, the victory of Ireland put the country on the map as a cricket team. Very soon ICC started focusing on developing the associate member. Ireland would eventually go on to surprise oppositions in 2011 and 2015. The country was awarded the status of full test member along with Afghanistan in the year 2017.
To this day fans have bad memories about the game. People are haunted by the ghosts of the past every time the two teams collide with each other.
So that concludes the fifth article of In-retrospect. To read the previous articles click on the links below and stay tuned for the next article as we discuss how a no-ball can haunt a country for six years. See you then.