T20 World Cup Final: Pakistan v England 1992 – the moment a country fell in love with cricket

1992 mein bhi yehi hua tha.

It is in Urdu that “This also happened in 1992”.

The phrase began circulating among Pakistani fans on Twitter last month as a bit of humor, a coping mechanism following two heartbreaking defeats to start the Men’s T20 World Cup.

Pakistan also started their 50-win World Cup campaign in 1992 with two straight defeats before a remarkable run to the final to face England.

Sound familiar?

As this year’s tournament in Australia unfolds, the list of unsettling similarities between Pakistan’s performances in 1992 and 2022 has grown steadily longer.

Pakistan lost their opening match of both tournaments at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. They lost to India in the group stage before winning three matches in a row. They would qualify for the semi-finals on the final day of matches by a single point.

As if that weren’t enough to feel something was in the air, Pakistan faced New Zealand in the semi-finals on Wednesday, lost the draw but won the game – a streak that reflects also 1992.

Pakistan beat England by 22 points in that year’s final, also at the MCG.

Can this happen again?

Pakistan’s fascination with 1992 goes far beyond the year of their greatest triumph, which remains their only World Cup trophy.

It was the moment when an entire country fell deeply and desperately in love with cricket.

It wasn’t just the beautiful crystal trophy they won. It was the heart and soul of a nation. He was a future prime minister in World Cup-winning captain Imran Khan and the cancer hospitals he would go on to found.

Imran’s backlash in the final, Inzamam-ul-Haq’s crushing blow and above all Wasim Akram’s jaw-dropping spell of fast bowling live on the minds of many fans.

At seven years old, I was one of those fans.

British-Pakistanis have a complex relationship with sporting loyalties. In 1990, Conservative politician Lord Tebbit coined the “cricket test” as a measure of the loyalty of immigrants and their children to the UK based on whether or not they supported the England cricket team.

The Tebbit test has long been seen as archaic and irrelevant, as every Pakistani game in England attracts a huge contingent of green shirts, often outnumbering England fans. I know, it’s wild.

Far from being an act of sedition, it’s something that makes this country so wonderful – the incredible diversity and heritage of its people.

I am one of those people. You might think that’s weird. A BBC Test Match Special commentator, a London-born son of Pakistani-born parents, I spend a huge amount of time working around and often with England’s cricket teams.

I have an immense tenderness for them. I would even go so far as to say that I love them, especially the current men’s and women’s teams. Not just how they play the game, but how they behave and represent our country.

But my favorite team? It’s not the same thing. While I can comment and present more cricket for the BBC, I’m still that seven-year-old kid at heart, watching his heroes in lime green.

In 1992, I knew nothing about them. I did not quite understand what they had accomplished. And I certainly didn’t quite grasp the concept of country. All I knew for sure was that I loved this team. And, unlike some of the other loves in my life, this one would go the distance.

I’m not alone. Many Pakistani cricket fans can trace their fandom back to that glorious evening in Melbourne in 1992 – an evening that Pakistan’s 2022 squad may seem destined to repeat.

But Pakistan now face their final hurdle to recreate the most pivotal moment in their cricketing history. Of course, these are the same opponents that stood before them 30 years ago: England.

There’s a huge amount of goodwill for the England team from Pakistani fans – and I’m not just talking about the English-Pakistani fans. The team’s recent and upcoming historic trips to the country have only deepened Pakistanis’ attachment to English cricket.

They want them to succeed. They want them to flourish. Against all teams except one.

After all, 1992 mein bhi yeh hua tha.

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