On Sunday June 18th, my love for Pakistan grew exponentially. As Hassan Ali got the last man out, millions of Pakistanis around the world, myself included, jumped for joy. Somehow, Pakistan had defeated the best cricket team in the world, India. Indian fans left the stadium in droves while a sea of Pakistan flags waved energetically around the cricket ground. My mother, seated next to me, had tears in her eyes: a combination of disbelief and joy. There was something special about Pakistan beating India.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) tournament took place in England and Wales this year, and the eight best teams from around the world competed in One-Day Tournaments. Going into the tournament, it was assumed that India would become a finalist. So, England, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Pakistan all fought for the second finalist position.
The first game of the tournament was actually Pakistan against India. The match went as predicted. The Indian team dominated the Pakistanis in batting, fielding, and bowling. It is fair to say that the Pakistani team looked like amateurs against the Indians. India won by 124 runs (a huge margin), and continued to dominate the tournament beating South Africa and Bangladesh. Pakistan, under the leadership of Captain Sarfaraz Ahmed, regrouped and went on to win the rest of their matches.
An undertrained, under resourced Pakistani team shocked the world and came to the final. Pakistan consistently improved against every team they played showing their resilience and heart.
The final was truly something from a movie. The Pakistan team, the clear underdog, was meeting the best team in the world. A real David vs. Goliath match up. Hundreds of millions of people around the world watched as Pakistan bat its way to a respectable 338 runs for four wickets. This score could challenge any strong team, but India is not just a strong team. Still, the Pakistani players had heart, and kept India to only 158 runs. The combination of outstanding fielding, strong leadership, and Muhammad Amir/ Hassan Ali’s bowling allowed Pakistan to demolish the Indian team coming full circle from their first match. I was in disbelief. I was elated.
Growing up, I have always felt like Pakistan lives in the shadow of India. When people ask where I am from, I always respond “I am from Pakistan.” When I see the confused looks, I mention, “it is the country next to India on the left.” Also, I feel as if Pakistan has been disregarded as solely a terrorist nation. The only thing Pakistan can make is extremists and fundamentalists. On the other hand, there has been an insurgence of fascination with Indian culture in the west. People love saris, mehndi, Indian weddings, Indian food, and more. What people do not understand is that Pakistan and India share so much of the same culture, but that is not what people see in Pakistan. I am not saying Pakistan does not have its issues. It does. But that should not be the only way the country is represented. It is easier to disregard the culture of hundreds of millions of Pakistanis as extremists and uncivilized than to value the beauty of those people.
To me, this cricket final was so much more than a game. It was an opportunity for Pakistan to get on a world stage, and prove that our country matters. We can overcome, and we are making our way in the world. Pakistan does not have to live in India’s shadow. For decades, it seems as if only bad news can come out of Pakistan: earthquakes, terrorism, floods, disease, corruption, and poverty. An event like this has lifted people’s spirits and gives hope to Pakistanis around the world. With grit and determination, Pakistanis can overcome any adversity. I have the utmost respect for the Indian team, but this year is for Pakistan alone.