A Rundown of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023: A Pakistani Perspective

  • 23 Dec - 29 Dec, 2023
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Sports

Get ready to relive the most excitement, jaw-dropping moments, and unforgettable performances of the Cricket World Cup 2023 in India. As the cricketing world descended upon the subcontinent, India played host to an enthralling tournament that left fans on the edge of their seats. With the world's best teams battling it out for cricketing supremacy, the tournament showcased remarkable talent, fierce competition, and unexpected twists and turns.

The Record Run Chase
Sri Lanka was on the receiving end of a harsh lesson as Pakistan triumphed in a high-stakes run chase of 345, the highest ever in a World Cup. Abdullah Shafique and Rizwan were the catalysts of the chase, each scoring a ton. Close to Mohammad Rizwan's century, as he was struggling with tremendous pain, the DJ incited the fans with the all-too-familiar 'Jeetega Bhai Jeetega' chants, finishing it off with 'Pakistan jeetega'. It was a moment no one would forget in a hurry. Babar Azam, perched on the steps of the pavilion, keenly observed the action and couldn't help but crack a smile. It was an extraordinary moment, indeed.

Match of the Tournament
When Pakistan played South Africa, they were in a must-win situation to keep their fate in their own hands. Proteas on the other hand were also exercising their demons of past world cups. The game kept the viewers on the edge of the seat as Shaheen Afridi bowled a Jaffa and got Coetze, South Africa were 8 down now. Then came Haris Rauf; he clung on to the top edge from Ngidi as if his career depends on it, then Rauf struck Shamsi on the pads and groaned as his appeal was denied. That moment brought our reliance on ‘Qudrat Ka Nizam’ in play. An exhilarating contest, nonetheless.

Innings of the Century
It was a Maxwell show in that game against Afghanistan, 93 for 7, Australia were reeling with only Maxwell being the recognised batsman. 200+ runs the chips were down, a humiliating defeat awaits the mighty Aussies. What unfolded was a champion’s rise to the occasion. A bold, belligerent, blistering and one-legged master class that will draw youth and children, alike to be a cricketer and play for their national teams. Faith restored, Maxwell that night made cricket great again. A splendid innings that only an Australian cricketer could play, Shane Warne bowled the ball of the last century, rightly so another Australian has written his name in this century’s folklore. I will remember my father’s words after that match. “I have been watching cricket 50+ years and haven’t seen anything like this ever”. Probably, we shall not see this display of grit and determination in distant future either – a once-in-a-lifetime knock!

Reminiscence of an India-Pakistan Encounter
In the course of the three nights, preceding that game, I in a state of delirium, encountered several dreams that were all very similar: detailed, absorbing, and yet hard to recall upon waking with a dry mouth. Nonetheless, when I drift off again, I am often taken back to the same dream. The haunting image of Aamir Sohail being cleaned up by Prasad and the collapse that ensued on that fateful night in Bangalore '96. Or the most fearsome of trios Wasim, Waqar, and Shoaib were taken to the cleaners by Tendulkar in Centurion '03. Even that ill-fated Misbah's scoop in Johannesburg '07, albeit a different format, has etched an indelible mark on my memory about this rivalry. In my dream, I encountered a ghost of a cricket match which I have labelled IP for India vs Pakistan. IP was very worried and this feeling was transferred to me, adding to my existing anxiety. They were disinclined to accept what they had transformed into. All they desired was a cricket match that would produce remarkable feats and recollections. At the end of the day, both teams are here to play, play as children do.

When the first delivery was bowled, the game of cricket resumed, as usual, all was as it should be. I recall informing IP that for their peace of mind, they have to accept the way things are. "You were not expected to be like an average cricket match between other countries like Australia and New Zealand. You don't have an option in this case. You will be the means to validate – occasionally, just to express – our emotions that can't be addressed. Even so, it was unlikely that the supporters in the stands would be split between India and Pakistan. Such is the reality of the world we inhabit! I wasn't sure what to make of that state, but my thoughts are that I previously said to IP: it will all work out, trust in Haris Rauf and Babar Azam. They will communicate among themselves in Punjabi and their team-mates will perform admirably. We will get through this situation and move forward.

However, what transpired on Oct 14, 23’, the game which usually raises expectations only to lackluster display was played yet again, giving hope at various points, and in the end, delivered the expected result – an emphatic Indian victory. An astonishing mid-innings collapse from Pakistan, which saw them lose eight wickets for 36 runs, changed what could have been a thrilling chase into a drab formality. Pakistan, who only managed 191 runs, was almost like they had brought a knife to a gun fight. Impeccable performance in front of a plethora of supporters placed India in the top spot for the World Cup.

The Final Gesture
It all came down to this, an undefeated India against the Australia who had shifted gears in the tournament just at the right time. Luck tilted towards the Australian captain Pat Cummins as he won the toss and, to everyone’s disbelief, choose to bowl. What cricketing logic and past final shows that in a game as big as this, you bat first, set a par total and then let the opposition bat under lights and crumble under run rate pressure. However, it was well-planned as he analysed the pitch would only get better as the game progressed. The turning point was the dismissal of Rohit Sharma, who was set to take the game away, was caught by an outrageous catch by Travis Head under pressure and running backwards under the sea of Blue. From then onwards, India were never really able to put the pedal to the metal and set a below par total.

Australia’s chase had hiccups too as they were restricted to 47-3, their pace attack was on the prowl and then, Travis Head riding high on confidence with that catch, ducked, left, miscued and missed only to adjust to the pitch. Adjust he did with a match-winning 100 in a World Cup final that echoed the heroics of Gilchrist and Ponting in previous World Cup Finals. At the end, I would say that only four people have ever silenced a capacity crowd with a single gesture. The Pope, Frank Sinatra, Alcides Ghiggia and Travis Head with the catch that turned the game on its head.

The Cricket World Cup 2023 in India was a spectacle to behold. From the breathtaking performances on the field to the electric atmosphere in the stadiums, the tournament was a celebration of the beautiful game of cricket. It showcased the talent, passion, and indomitable spirit of the players, leaving fans in awe. This tournament will surely be remembered for the unforgettable moments, the records broken, and the new stars that emerged. It brought the cricketing world together and left a lasting impact on the host country. As we look back on this monumental sporting event, we can't help but feel grateful for the joy and excitement it brought into our lives. The Cricket World Cup 2023 will forever hold a special place in the hearts of cricket enthusiasts worldwide.

The Dark Horses
The streak was broken, it was now 7-1. Afghanistan spinners befuddled Pakistan to register their first victory against their neighbours on a World Cup stage. Their head coach rightly said, “This victory in Chennai is so monumental that it could inspire the next generation in the country to take up cricket”. Afghanistan were on a roll as they already thumped the defending champions England just days earlier, only to be halted by blizzard known as the Big Show, more on that some other time.

About the writer
Shahzeb Ali Rizvi is a sports enthusiast who loves to present his analysis specifically focusing on the world of cricket and football. He can be reached at [email protected].