The stage is the same, the backdrop eerily similar to what it was three decades ago, but Imran Khan with his aura and charisma was a different beast compared to Babar Azam, who is a win away from emulating the iconic former skipper. More than 30 years back, the then 39-year-old Imran was mentally retired as a cricketer but turned up as a leader of men to beat a solid England side led by Graham Gooch and win Pakistan’s first global trophy — the 50 over World Cup at the MCG.
Even though Imran, with his Oxford education and world view was very different from Babar, the quintessential Lahori, both the Pakistan captains are bound by a common thread — taking their team to the final of a World Cup with a slice of luck and a lot of pluck.
Imran was “skipper” to every player in that team and could command unquestionable loyalty. Babar is more like a colleague and a brother, who can put a compassionate arm around a beleaguered player, who might be out of form.
Imran was an interviewer’s delight and the debonair looks made him a darling among the opposite sex.
Babar is a family man, a reticent man, who gives the vibe that he would like to disappear from the arc lights.
On March 25, 1992 when Imran went out for the toss with Gooch, he was wearing a white round neck t-shirt which carried a picture of a cornered tiger.
Pakistan had come back from the brink in that event. Having lost the first three games, they were about to lose the fourth after being all out for 74.
England were 24 for one when rain god smiled on Imran. The points of that match were shared and Pakistan won their next four round robin games before winning the semi-final and final.
Also, it was the first time they had met India in a World Cup game and Mohammed Azharuddin’s team had soundly beaten them.
The coincidences are so similar as Pakistan lost to Virat Kohli’s India and then to Zimbabwe in the T20 World Cup this time.
If divine intervention in 1992 was heavens opening up against England in their do-or-die game, even the best bookies couldn’t have predicted that the Netherlands would beat South Africa in 2022.
A handful of them must have made a killing.
The 1992 semi-final was also an exciting chase against the tournament’s best team New Zealand with Inzamam ul Haq announcing his arrival on the world stage.
The 2022 semi-final saw the emergence of Mohammed Haris, who was not part of the team picked initially.
Heading into Sunday’s final, Pakistan are the favourites of all the gamblers, especially those who love the game of roulette. They are that unique number that can appear on a given day and everyone will be left with gaping mouths.
If that team had Wasim Akram as an enforcer, this side has Shaheen Shah Afridi.
If Imran had a street smart Javed Miandad, who was like a conductor of a musical band, Babar has an ideal foil in Mohammed Rizwan, who more often than not sets up the narrative for his team with his strokeplay.
That team had an MBA in Ramiz Raza and this has the suave Shan Masood, who was brought up and schooled in the United Kingdom.
Naseem Shah could be compared to Aqib Javed while Shadab Khan is slightly more all-round cricketer than Mushtaq Ahmed.
But if one looks at this England team, it has way better limited overs cricketers such as Jos Buttler, Alex Hales, Chris Woakes, Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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