Pakistan's cricketers celebrate the victory

Rocky Road high: Imran and Co savour a scarcely imagined World Cup win after beating England in the final in Melbourne

© Getty Images


The miracle of '92

Twenty-two years after Pakistan's headiest triumph, it's still hard to believe how that ramshackle bunch surged to glory

Osman Samiuddin  |  

By most standards he left it too late, but by Pakistan's, Imran Khan probably managed to time it just right. By the time his side arrived in Perth to take on Australia at the 1992 World Cup, they had won just one of their first five matches and were, in the words of one player, walking dead. Never one of life's great communicators, Imran had become ever more distant during the tournament; a chronic shoulder injury kept his physical involvement intermittent and his cancer hospital project was the primary motivation of his off-field life.

He was leading in battered body - as fierce in some training sessions as he always was - but in spirit and soul, he was absent. "I think there's a big communication problem in the team at the moment," Wasim Akram revealed at the time (as captured in Wasim and Waqar: Imran's Inheritors, authored by John Crace). "For instance, Imran was talking to me about how we still had a chance, and all the youngsters hung back, but after we had left they were asking me what he had said… it's as if the team is scared of Imran."

Nor was he a great orator, though he at least possessed the baritone for it. But now, in Perth, he gathered his men in the dressing room before the game, wearing a white t-shirt with a tiger ready to pounce imprinted on it. Something about the direness of the situation stirred him. "Maybe he thought that I cannot be humiliated this badly, that I cannot get this low in life, that God will not drop me so low," remembers Aaqib Javed, who in a tournament where Pakistan veered so wildly, was a stabilising centre of gravity in their bowling attack. "So after this, with so much crap around us, we can only win. There is nothing else left. I don't know where he got this feeling from, I really don't know, but he came into the dressing room. He came in wearing the t-shirt. Maybe he just thought, let's try one final time."

Lights, colour, action: the 1992 World Cup saluted the renegade spirit of Kerry Packer, the man who jazzed up ODI cricket

Lights, colour, action: the 1992 World Cup saluted the renegade spirit of Kerry Packer, the man who jazzed up ODI cricket © Getty Images

Likely he could not have summoned it at any other time, or as if on demand. This was a moment, a feeling that welled up inside him; not a talk that could be replicated, or repeated over and over, thus risking dilution. It had to come then, both when it was too late and just right.

Imran spoke at each player and told them to look inside themselves, to understand that they were the best players in the world. "You," he asked one, "is there a more talented player in the world than you?" Is there a better fielder than you, he asked another, a better batsman than you? Having roused each player, he ended twenty minutes later with the image on his t-shirt, the image that resonated most to him and how he saw himself; a tiger, a Pathan tiger, hunting, warring, surviving.

Now he invoked a twist, one that had seen him through his toughest professional years when a shin injury threatened to finish his career. Fight like cornered tigers he told them, because nothing is more dangerous than a cornered tiger.

Stripped away, the actual contents of what he said were not so unique or important. This was standard, staid motivational stuff. But it mattered most, Aaqib explains, who it was saying it. "The kind of stuff he said depends on that. The message is the same. If Imran Khan says this, if he comes on TV and says so and so will be the greatest allrounder in the world it is one thing but if another guy says that, say Sarfraz Nawaz, who will be moved by it?"

The nine teams and officials line up for photos on a ship in Sydney Harbour

The nine teams and officials line up for photos on a ship in Sydney Harbour © Getty Images

Imran told them that he knew, not just thought, but that he knew and believed that Pakistan will win the World Cup. "I know we will win it." What he did was transmit his self-belief onto the rest of the squad, a monumental feat which doesn't just happen. This transplantation was the accumulation of a career, of a life, of every single day of success, of unchallenged authority, of every time he returned to the captaincy automatically, of every time he refused to play when it was too hot, or against too weak a side. It was the cumulative effect of a decade of Imran as captain, hero and icon, distilled in one talk.

The impact was greatest on the younger players, like Aaqib and Mushtaq Ahmed, who had grown up idolising Imran and were now disciples to his Svengali. Others were less moved. Javed Miandad makes no mention of it in his autobiography. Another senior member of that squad said it was just the "usual geeing up talk shit, nothing specific. Can't even remember what was said in fact, because Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's qawwalis were blaring in the background all the time." A few can't recall where or at what point the meeting happened. One - Zahid Fazal - has said that there was no such meeting at all; Imran wore the tiger t-shirt regularly for one-day finals, Fazal said, and the only time he referred to it during the World Cup was to television anchors and once on the morning of the final.

The fact remains though that Pakistan's upturn began from precisely the morning of that Australia game. "All I know is that after those 15 minutes, when the match began, the way I went into that ground, I haven't had that feeling ever before and I never had it again after," Aaqib says. "I could feel that nobody could face me or stop me. I had three slips for much of the game because I just knew. I knew each and every ball was going to go exactly where I wanted it.

"Those 15 minutes… life changed."

The fifth World Cup was very much in the modern ethos of sporting events: bigger, better and shinier than its predecessors. It had more teams, matches, colours, viewers, regulations and action. The setting was appropriate too, at least for nearly two-thirds of it. Twenty-five of its 39 matches were played in Australia, including a semi-final and final. Australia was the spiritual heart because it was there, behind the renegade spirit of Kerry Packer, that modern ODI cricket was born.

Aaqib Javed:

Aaqib Javed: "I could feel that nobody could face me or stop me" © Getty Images

Coloured clothing, white balls and floodlights; Packer sexed up a fusty old game in the late '70s and though every Australian summer would be the same mesh of colour, sound, light and sport, the 1992 World Cup was the official coming out onto a global stage. Soon after, all international ODIs would be as much riots of colour as action, played in coloured kit, with white balls and increasingly under lights. In BSkyB and satellite television, the ideal accomplice arrived, beaming round the clock coverage to Australasia and a lucrative subcontinent just opening its eyes to the riches of economic liberalisation.

Everything about it felt new. The format bravely shunned customary bifurcation and instead called for nine teams to play each other at least once in a league format: fairer than that was difficult to imagine. South Africa were back, reinstated into the cricketing fold after a decision taken in Sharjah four months before the tournament began. Their inclusion mirrored the country's rehabilitation into the world (a referendum was held in South Africa during the tournament on whether President FW de Klerk should continue reforms towards a multi-racial government). Their performance held as much significance on the field as it did off it.

The situation was typical of the contrariness of Pakistan: arriving early for once to be better prepared but that eagerness turning into a curse

A sense of liberation prevailed, like the aftermath of a great cultural revolution where everybody hangs loose. Fast bowlers had two white balls, one at each end, to attack with. Batsmen had only two fielders to avoid outside the fielding circle in the first 15 overs when looking for boundaries. Fielders, restricted within circles, began hurling themselves free.

In a rare bit of common sense planning, Pakistan arrived at the tournament three weeks early to acclimatise to conditions. Over the last half a decade, Pakistan had become a formidable ODI side, particularly in certain conditions. They had won five tournaments in a row in three years in Sharjah. At home they had won five of their last seven bilateral ODI series since 1987. Towards the end of 1989, they had won, effectively, a mini-World Cup in India, the Nehru Cup, which featured every Test side other than New Zealand. In the five years leading to this World Cup, they were indisputably the second-best side in the world (55 wins in 97 ODIs), behind only Australia, and no side had played more ODIs. But arriving early made eminent sense because Pakistan always struggled in Australia; they had lost 15 of their last 23 ODIs in Australia and New Zealand.

They took with them initially a 16-man group, which would then be chiselled down to the required 14. In terms of experience, the mix in the squad was close to perfect. They had veterans in Imran and Javed Miandad, both of whom had played in every World Cup till then. There were players like Akram, Salim Malik, Ijaz Ahmed and Ramiz Raja, mid-level experience, who had played in the 1987 World Cup. And as ever, there was a clutch of new, wildly exciting talent: Waqar Younis, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Moin Khan, Aamir Sohail, Aaqib and Mushtaq Ahmed. The bowling held the aces. On the livelier surfaces of Australia, Akram, Aaqib, Waqar and Mushtaq was as formidable an attack as there existed.

Waqar's loss was so incalculable it even left Imran a little deflated

Waqar's loss was so incalculable it even left Imran a little deflated © PA Photos

But from very early, the tournament unfolded like a great impending disaster, a series of small screw-ups all snowballing into one massive one. The situation was in one sense typical of the contrariness of Pakistan: arriving early for once to be better prepared but that eagerness turning into a curse. To begin, Pakistan had travelled to Australia initially without Miandad, their best batsman and arguably their greatest one-day batsman ever. Officially he had not been picked because of a back strain picked up in a pre-tournament training camp in Lahore. But this being Miandad, conspiracies were constantly stewing around him.

The decision not to pick him, he wrote in his autobiography, was the result of an ongoing dispute with Imran, which on the surface was a strategic one over his batting position in the order. Imran, Miandad said, wanted him to move away from number four where he had batted for the majority of his career. Miandad didn't want to. "I saw something else behind this pressure to switch me around in the batting order," he wrote. "I couldn't help feeling it was an attempt to somehow bring me down a notch, to try and diminish whatever stature I had managed to earn as the Pakistan No. 4… Years in the Pakistan side had taught me that I wasn't surrounded by well-wishers."

From very early, the tournament unfolded like a great impending disaster, a series of small screw-ups all snowballing into one massive one

Less paranoid reasons did exist, such as his form running into the tournament. Since the start of the decade, for instance, he was averaging under 34 (from 27 one-day games), a spell which had yielded just one hundred and three fifties. Neither were his Test numbers of any consolation: an average of 26.66 and just three fifties in 11 Tests. The exclusion was harsh and probably ill-planned, but at a stretch it could be justified, especially if there was an injury to consider.

But the exclusion was also short-lived. Miandad vented first at Intikhab Alam, the team manager, but is then said to have worked various political favours to find his way back in. He didn't need to work too hard because Pakistan, and specifically their batting, was abysmal in the warm-up games they played before the tournament.

The pre-tournament itinerary was packed: Pakistan played six warm-up matches, including two three-day games. In eight innings they crossed 200 just once. The call back home was made: we need Miandad. He arrived on Valentine's Day, just nine days before their tournament opener against the West Indies. Three days after arrival he was run out for 80 in a narrow warm-up loss to Sri Lanka.

Life begins at 39: rival captains Graham Gooch and Imran Khan ahead of the final

Life begins at 39: rival captains Graham Gooch and Imran Khan ahead of the final © Getty Images

By then, any relief his recall generated had been drowned by the mass panic and despair of Waqar's withdrawal from the tournament with two stress fractures of the back. He had picked up the injury during the training camp in Lahore, but had not been properly diagnosed and he flew to Australia anyway. There he didn't bowl a single ball and once the diagnosis came in just before the tournament began, he was shattered. "That was such a huge setback," remembers Aaqib. "The replacement after him wasn't good enough. The third seamer then became Wasim Haider and however good he was, he couldn't play the Waqar role. Waqar was a first-change wicket-taker, Wasim Haider wasn't.

To be fair to Haider, nobody was like Waqar. If there was a more spectacular, more thrilling young cricketer in the world at the time, he went unrecorded. Waqar's impact since his debut had been remarkable; not only was he the quickest bowler in the world with a long, hurtling run-up, he also generated late, crazy swing that was winning Pakistan games in late, crazy fashion. With him Pakistan could defend almost any target from almost any position.

In Karachi in November 1990 once, the West Indies were coasting to a routine win to mark their 200th ODI, 139 for one, chasing 212. Waqar came on, took three for six in seven balls, ended with five for the game and Pakistan won by six runs: this kind of win and Waqar performance was the template, in Sharjah and Pakistan mostly, but the world didn't seem big enough to hold this incredibly virile culmination of a pace bowling boom. He was taking more wickets and quicker than any Pakistani bowler had done previously. Surrey had signed him up in a big-money deal, those days when a county contract was the biggest deal. The loss was so incalculable it even left Imran a little deflated. "What will we do now?" he asked when Waqar was diagnosed, according to Aaqib.

Once Imran had said his bit before the Australia game, Pakistan's disparate galaxies and stars and planets began to pull together into one universe

Little, if anything else, was going right. Akram was in fitful form, struggling to contain the swing white balls provided. He was trying to regain the ability to move the ball away from the right-hander in the nets. He'd always been comfortable bringing the ball back in to one, but could occasionally misplace the one that went away. Here, at a World Cup, was not the best time to try and get it back and he suffered initially. He was already an accomplished enough bowler for it to not be a huge concern, but without Waqar, everything felt a little flimsier.

The other key component of their attack was bowling so poorly in the warm-ups that he was on the verge of being dropped from the squad altogether. From Abdul Qadir to Mushtaq Ahmed now, Imran's longstanding use of legspinners in ODIs had gone from refreshing and novel to standard policy; the naturally attacking nature of their craft chimed in well with his own stances. Take wickets, win games, don't worry about runs. Mushtaq had displaced Qadir now and was in Australia, but entirely out of sorts, unable to provide any sense of control. He took wickets in the warm-ups but by his own admission, was a mess. Iqbal Sikander, another leggie, had been called up as cover initially and on his first day of training, impressed Imran in particular, with his verve and energy in the field.

One night before selection of the 14, Akram came to Mushtaq and told him he had not made it. Senior members of the squad felt Sikander might be a safer bet. Safe wasn't the way Imran operated though. "Imran saved my skin at the last minute," Mushtaq remembered in his autobiography Twenty20 Vision. "He had a very late conversation with the team manager, Intikhab Alam, and I have heard he told Intikhab that he wanted me in the side because I was a good fielder." Mushtaq remained and in the event, they stuck with Sikander as well.

Initially excluded, Javed Miandad proved indispensable to Pakistan's campaign

Initially excluded, Javed Miandad proved indispensable to Pakistan's campaign © Getty Images

Imran himself was of dubious fitness, his shoulder injury particularly severe, and it would result in him missing two of the first three games. Salim Malik was hopelessly out of touch, unable to lay bat on ball (and unhappy because he was arbitrarily replaced as vice-captain by Miandad's arrival); Ijaz Ahmed had morphed unknowingly from spunky middle-order batsman to a first-change slow medium-pacer with a criminally ugly action (he ended up bowling more overs - 36 - than he scored runs - 14 - in the tournament). Inzamam-ul-Haq, a unique boy wonder mix of his own talent and Imran's prophecies, couldn't get used to the surfaces in Australia.

Including the two first-class games (one of which they nearly lost), Pakistan won just one of their six warm-up matches. That begat a tournament start in which they won just a solitary game in their first five (and that too against Zimbabwe, who then were yet to become the side they became in the late '90s). Imran appeared for the first time in that Zimbabwe match, but didn't bowl or bat. "It was the perfect day's cricket for me; no batting, no bowling and no catching," he said after the game. "It's the sort of day Aamer Malik [an all-rounder around that time who never quite made it] would have loved."

Perfect days were few and far between in that stretch and so low did they get, it was difficult to know which was the lowest. Was it the 74 all out to England in Adelaide, where rain rescued an improbable point for them? It could have been the loss to India in Sydney three days later, with all the baggage that the contest carries. Maybe it was the South Africa game, in which the ominous dark grey clouds over Brisbane seemed to reflect Pakistan's mood and prospects and in which they were at their most shambolic in the field.

In Christchurch, Akram wrote a note to a taxi driver, signed and dated. Pakistan, it read, will win the World Cup

No two successive XIs were the same. They didn't know their best batting order (Inzamam opened and played one down, Zahid Fazal opened as well). Miandad developed debilitating gastritis after the India loss and missed the South Africa game with prolonged vomiting. Malik was being pushed up and down the order. The bowling threatened but was schizoid, typified by Akram's six wickets and 20 wides in those five games. Akram was so despondent that he had watched 'Naked Gun 2 ½' and 'Backdraft' four times already.

So bad was it that in Imran's absence, players were refusing to take the captaincy. "He said to a couple of players, you take over, and they said, no, give it to someone else," Aaqib recalls. "Javed [Miandad] was vice-captain but he said, no, give it to someone else, leave me alone. Malik was also in the running but he just wasn't getting bat onto ball throughout that entire tournament. Ijaz was hardly batting, he was bowling. This was how low the team had gotten: Miandad unfit, Imran shoulder injury, Malik batting like a number 11, Ijaz as bowler, Mushy and Wasim both struggling, Inzi in really bad shape. There wasn't one guy who was doing anything."

Once Imran had said his bit before the Australia game - and for a nation conceived in blood, not unused to wars, it is hardly surprising such a leonine speech tugs so forcefully on the imagination - Pakistan's disparate galaxies and stars and planets began to pull together into one universe. Aamir Sohail was caught off a no-ball before he had scored and went on to top-score with 76, the only half-century in the match against Australia. Aaqib had been the most stable of Pakistan's bowlers, but in Perth he set up Pakistan in a wonderful opening spell, clearest proof that aggression had little to do with pace where fast bowling is concerned. Perth was a fast-bowling haven but it was kind to Mushtaq, the other player most transformed immediately. He sliced through the middle order, instigating an eventual collapse of eight for 56.

"Australia were always difficult opponents for us, always," says Aaqib. "But after we won that match, we thought, this isn't a problem. We had Sri Lanka next, who weren't so good then, and New Zealand, and if you take New Zealand's record against everyone and then place it against ours, it's awful. Against Pakistan they've never done anything. We used to look at them and think, no way, we can take these guys on for sure. After Imran's talk and the Australia win, the team's mood changed totally."

You need some luck as well: in the final, Imran was dropped by Gooch on 9 and he went on to make a match-winning 72

You need some luck as well: in the final, Imran was dropped by Gooch on 9 and he went on to make a match-winning 72 © Associated Press

The most vital coming together was in Akram's mind. "I was really struggling with extras," Akram remembers. "I was running in quick and the ball was swinging quite a bit. In those days, with two white balls from each end, it was difficult. So I was running in and bowling a lot of wide balls, and the game against Australia was very important. I was low on confidence. I was a bit wary, running a bit slow, and I wasn't trying to bowl quick because I couldn't control my wide balls. The next morning, I woke up and I was having breakfast with Ijaz and a couple of junior players, and I was reading the newspaper. And it had a huge headline. Imran had made a statement: 'I don't mind Wasim bowling no-balls as long as he bowls quick.'" Akram was now unchained.

Swiftly, inevitably, pieces began to fall into place. In their five last games, Pakistan made just one change to their XI (bringing Sikander in for the semi-final in place of Ijaz before switching back in the final). The batting order assumed shape and identity, pivoting crucially around Imran's promotion of himself to one down. The idea was to have the two most experienced batsmen right in the heart of the order, to staunch early losses and build, and then to allow freedom to Inzamam, Malik, Akram and Moin. "The confidence he had as a batsman, as a decision-maker, as a captain - he came in at number three and it was a big decision," recalls Akram. "You imagine now, if somebody, as a captain makes a decision to bat at number three and if he doesn't do well… what will happen? It was very brave of him to do that."

As it had done at the Nehru Cup in India in November 1989 and numerous times in Sharjah, momentum was gathering, like a whirlpool in which a Pakistan win was the central force which drew everything in. After Pakistan beat New Zealand in their last group game, a deflated Australia still had to beat the West Indies for Pakistan to go through to the last four (before the start of those two games, all three sides could've gone through). The side gathered together at their hotel in Christchurch to watch the game. Some did so nervously. Others like Aaqib believed there was no doubt. "We just didn't have any negative thoughts after our Australian win, so we didn't think too much of what would happen in this match. My feeling at least was that there is nothing that can stop us, nothing."

Inzamam arrived and with him, destiny. It was a literal and metaphorical arrival

Once qualification was assured Akram and others went out for a celebratory meal. On return, Akram wrote a note to the taxi driver, signed and dated. Pakistan, it read, will win the World Cup.

The hairiest moments came in the semi-final against the home side and overwhelming favourites New Zealand. The oval shape of Eden Park took some getting used to. "It was a very difficult ground to play in as far as the dimensions were concerned, because one side was only 40 metres and the other side was 80 metres, and the fine leg on that particular ground comes in front of the umpire, like square leg on a normal field," describes Akram. In a team meeting, Imran delegated to Ramiz the task of drawing an accurate map of the ground with the correct angles. He drew it as circle. "Even I could've drawn a circle," Imran jokingly admonished.

It almost cost them when Martin Crowe put together one of the innings of the tournament. And Pakistan looked out of it for much of the chase, until Inzamam arrived and with him, destiny: it was a literal and metaphorical arrival. The young Multani had pleaded with Imran to drop him from the side on the morning of the match, as much because of illness as his confidence being shot after a poor tournament. "Imran told him, are you mad, I am telling you to play, so just play," Aaqib recounts. "He said, no, no I am dead, I can't walk, I'm really ill. So Imran told me and Mushy, look he's your friend, make him understand he needs to play. We went and told him, are you mad, the captain is telling you to play and you're not, what's wrong with you?" He played and so was forged Inzamam's twilight surge, fulfilling Imran's prophecy that he was a batsman among the best. His form also paralleled his team's late successful swell: his 60 off 37 balls won the semi-final and his 42 in the final set it up.

Imran again roused his men on the morning of the final, one last time invoking the cornered tiger. He wore the t-shirt to the toss. At 39, he was older to his English counterpart Graham Gooch by just a few months but looked fresh, upbeat and honed enough to be his son. In truth it hardly mattered what Imran said to his men that morning because precisely how conspired the universe was in Pakistan's favour was on clear, unashamed display through that late March day and night in Melbourne.

Pakistan won their fourth, most important, toss of the tournament and chose to defend a target, which is traditionally how they've preferred to go. After losing two early wickets, they were lucky to not be four down; Steve Bucknor was in one of those cussed moods in turning down an early LBW appeal against Miandad. Imran was dropped by Gooch when he had made only nine. They were only 70 halfway through the innings. Miandad had to use a runner after his stomach began to play up again. And if the tournament was taken as a whole, Inzamam's runs were still a surprise, though the gold chain and gum-chewing swagger of Viv Richards was an ominous indicator of how confident and transformed he was after the semi-final. Even more surprising was Akram's little sprinkle of batting magic, to ensure that the very risky strategy Pakistan applied - waiting, waiting, waiting and waiting some more before accelerating - worked perfectly: Akram had made only 29 runs in 7 innings before this game but had been feeling "very light all day, like I could just fly, that sort of feeling".

Wasim Akram's banana swing broke a threatening stand in the final and from then on there was no looking back for Pakistan

Wasim Akram's banana swing broke a threatening stand in the final and from then on there was no looking back for Pakistan © PA Photos

Then, in the field, even more. In dismissing Ian Botham fate conspired twice over. He hadn't edged it at all. But in coming in from round the wicket, Akram was protecting what he thought might be an injury. "I had played a little innings, only 18 balls but I ran quite a bit," Akram says. "I was super-fit. I was just 23-24, it was the pressure. I came out and I bowled the first over from over the wicket, and I was getting cramps. My hamstring was cramping up, so I had a word with Imran. I said, 'I should try and come round the wicket, because the ball is not coming in, I am releasing it instead of just going all the way down. So from round the wicket I would have proper follow-through.' He said, 'Okay, just don't run in too quick. Get your rhythm.' Then I bowled that ball to Botham which came back in and he still thinks that he didn't nick it." Mushtaq's googly to dismiss Graeme Hick - about as emphatic an undoing of a batsman as you will see - spoke of talent but Aaqib's catch to dismiss Gooch? Here was more evidence of the day's decision to become Pakistan's. In a team of poor catchers, Aaqib was among the poorest, awkward and comically bad. Here he ran in from deep square leg, tumbling forward to his left to hold on with both hands, ball inches off the ground. He rolled over, stood up and in disbelief, ran a little lap of honour by himself. "It was a good catch," he remembers sheepishly. "I tried, it happened. That is when I thought, that's it. That is the turning point of that game."

The final flourish was provided by Akram. Imran was assessing various options at a drinks break to confront a pesky, mildly threatening partnership between Allan Lamb and Neil Fairbrother. Akram told Imran he should come back on for a couple of overs: Imran agreed. That produced the two cherries with which Akram and Pakistan topped this ice cream of a decade, both a blur of late swing, pace and, especially in Lamb's case, unplayable length: not full enough to drive, but full enough to tempt a little prod forward. Chris Lewis never stood a chance next ball, wider, shorter, but honing in sharply, and soon it was over.

Imran celebrated further wickets as he always did at one remove from his teammates, shyly smiling, missing high fives and offering uncomfortable half-hugs, but happy, like a proud, reserved father. In the background waved a mesh of Pakistani flags and ones of the Muhajir Qaumi Movement (MQM), an ethnic Karachi-based party representing Muhajirs (those who moved to Pakistan at partition from India) and one, at the time, involved in a bloody civil war in Karachi.

"I think it sunk in that we won the World Cup only two or three days later," remembers Wasim. "First of all, we couldn't sleep that night. We didn't go out, we didn't party, we were just excited. I remember I had to share half a sleeping pill with Ijaz to go to bed because we couldn't sleep till three or four in the morning."

Miandad grabbed Imran by his right arm and yanked him around, the only man in Pakistan who could be so informal with him

As Pakistan walked off the field for the presentations, an end was beginning. Unbeknown, this was not a harbinger for a golden age. Where India's 1983 triumph opened the country's eyes to one-day cricket, where Australia's 1987 win began a renaissance, where Sri Lanka's triumph in 1996 became their graduation to the big league, Pakistan's win in 1992 heralded only the unravelling of their fragile unity and a cantankerous, ramshackle descent into chaos. It brought to a close a period where Pakistan were as good as they have ever been.

Miandad, who had been off the field as Pakistan bowled, worked his way through a throng, flag in one hand, and caught up with Imran. A whole life had been lived in the strange relationship between the two, their productive friction best captured in the politics of Miandad's near-exclusion from the World Cup and his response (five fifties including in the semis and the final, and second-highest scorer in the tournament).

Now Miandad grabbed Imran by his right arm and yanked him around, the only man in Pakistan who could be so informal with him. Imran was momentarily perplexed but seeing Miandad's open arms, broke into a broad smile and locked into as warm and full an embrace as he had ever done on a cricket field, the two men in whom this conspiracy was manifest most profoundly, celebrating a triumph built on the will of one and the wits of the other.