Cricket news - World Cup 1992: An against-all-odds title for belief and determination

Imran Khan's 'cornered tigers' pulled off the unthinkable in 1992

In the build-up to the 2019 World Cup, Cricbuzz is publishing an eleven-part series to reminisce every bygone edition. In this fifth instalment, Ramiz Raja recalls Pakistan's against-all-odds performances and how an Imran Khan-inspired side just refused to give up until it got its hands on the big prize.

For a cricket-mad nation like Pakistan, the 1992 World Cup triumph is a national treasure. Such is its magnitude that it is boasted about in documentaries that are broadcasted on national days, sometimes alongside the successes of the armed forces.

Ramiz Raja: I couldn't realise what we had achieved until we landed in Lahore. There was madness all over. I couldn't believe my eyes. There were around 20 to 25 thousand people on the tarmac and it took me about two to three hours to get to the Model Town from the airport [which otherwise would have taken 25 minutes at best]. We were told that after Independence, this is the first time people have gotten together and found happiness. It was brilliant.

Pakistan had begun their preparations at home by deploying some unusual methods.

Ramiz: It was a crazy journey. Imran [Khan] had asked a military trainer to come and tutor us. We were provided diving mats by the army on which he would advise us on how to dive. None of us could slide or dive at that time.

Despite landing in Australia a month before to acclimatize to the conditions, Pakistan managed just one win in their first five matches, and that was over Zimbabwe. This stretched their abysmal run which had seen them lose almost all of their practice matches prior to the tournament. Their World Cup campaign had started off with a 10-wicket thrashing by the West Indies, which Imran Khan had sat out due to a chronic shoulder injury.

Ramiz: Before coming into the match, we were so unfit as a batting unit that we just did not have the confidence. We had batted on some very rough pitches in our practice matches. So when we played against the West Indies, we weren't sure what to expect from ourselves. Although we lost, we felt we had done well enough with the bat and that total of 220 gave us a lot of confidence.

Pakistan had lost two of its promising youngsters in Waqar Younis and Saeed Anwar to injuries. Their captain nursed a chronic shoulder injury, which kept him out in several matches, and the side's most senior batsman, Javed Miandad, joined the squad late, as he was left behind due to a back injury.

Ramiz: He [Miandad] felt hard done by and he thought he was not allowed to get fit in time. He had to get fit on his own terms and felt he wasn't lent a lot of help by the PCB. He came to Australia as a heart-broken guy who wanted to prove a point. So, it worked for us in a manner as all of his anger and frustration was targeted at the opposition. Credit to Imran for getting him back on board. It took a little time but then Miandad turned out to be the player of the tournament for us.

The Imran-Miandad relationship added spice to the Pakistan captain's decision to leave Miandad out of the initial squad.

Ramiz: It wasn't a great one. It didn't really affect the dressing room and credit to Imran's leadership for that. He talked to Javed about not letting their personal relationship affect the dressing room; rather focus on the bigger goal which was to win the World Cup.

After defeating Zimbabwe in their second match, England exposed Pakistan's paltry batting by rolling them over for just 74, before the match was washed out and the points were shared. Imran, again sitting out, claimed it to be a 'Divine Intervention' which would win them the World Cup.

Ramiz: Every time we lost, he would say we can't lose this World Cup because there's a bigger prize waiting for us which is the construction of a cancer hospital. We just felt confident in whatever he was saying because he led us with a never-say-die kind of a spirit. Even though we were getting hammered, we would try to believe in what he was saying.

The pep talks came from other sources, too.

Ramiz: Viv Richards, on Imran's request, walked into our dressing room before the game against Australia as a mentor, to jolt us as a team. I distinctly remember he came to Saleem Malik and me and said, 'Come on now! You are the senior guys. You've got to do it now.'

After losing to India and South Africa, Imran's men had been thrown into knockout mode. Yet they went on to beat both Australia and Sri Lanka in Perth, starting a five-match winning streak over two weeks that would eventually see them crowned world champions.

Pakistan's final group match was in Christchurch against New Zealand, who at that stage were unbeaten. This was Pakistan's first outing in New Zealand and it helped that they were moving to low-bounce surfaces.

Ramiz: We weren't traveling back and forth and were housed in Australia for the entire campaign. So by the time we arrived in New Zealand, I knew as an opener that we had faced the toughest conditions and now this would be easy peasy. Even though they had a strong bowling attack, on slow pitches it felt like being at home.

After a seven-wicket win over the co-hosts, Pakistan's qualification depended on the last group-stage match between Australia and West Indies, which the latter had to lose for Pakistan to qualify.

Ramiz: Every time a West Indian wicket would fall, we would come out of our rooms and jump up [in the aisle] in celebration. By then we had started to feel really good about our game. We had beaten New Zealand in New Zealand, which was a huge thing. We felt we are going to be unstoppable now.

It seemed as if the universe and Imran were conspiring in unison for a Pakistan win. Inzamam ul Haq, only a few months old in international cricket, headlined an epic semi-final chase against New Zealand at Auckland - despite scoring only 123 runs in eight group matches - by gunning down 123 runs off the last 15 overs.

Ramiz: Inzi even failed in all the practice matches we played, but every time Imran would tell him, "Don't worry because you are looking good and as far as I am concerned, you are the guy who will win the World Cup for me."

At one time in a meeting Javed actually got infuriated and said that you are barking up the wrong tree because it's not going to work and he doesn't have the talent. But, Imran had other ideas. He could tell the talent in a batsman or a bowler. He was very good at picking up the talent and Inzamam had all the shots to tackle the fast bowling.

Inzamam would play another blistering innings in the final. Wasim Akram's 18-ball 33 and 3-49 would set up the match after an extraordinary 139-run second-wicket stand between Imran and Miandad. The captain famously wore his cornered tiger shirt for the toss, after which he forecasted Pakistan's victory.

Ramiz: I remember Imran said we can't lose this game because [Graham] Gooch had a very jittery body language.

After Wasim Akram bowled epic back-to-back deliveries to Alan Lamb and Chris Lewis, the celebrations had begun in the crowd and back home in Pakistan. But, the final rituals had to be done. As it turned out, it was Ramiz who had to conclude the campaign when Richard Illingwood ballooned Imran's cutter.

Ramiz: It wasn't a difficult catch at all. Earlier, I had taken a difficult one to get rid of Dermot Reeve [off Mushtaq Ahmed's bowling], so I was feeling confident as a fielder. As the ball went up in the air, I could see from the periphery of my eye that someone was there right next to the stumps to take them out as a souvenir.

You never drop the catch off Imran, he will make you remember it your whole life. So some things were still ringing in my head when the ball went up in the air. But, in the end it finished perfectly for me. Someone told me that I started off the World Cup for Pakistan by playing the first ball and also ended it. These are the little things that you don't recall when you are playing it.