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HOPES and expectations were at an all-time low when Babar Azam’s Pakistan left for the Twenty20 World Cup in the UAE. Less than two months before the event was due to begin, there were upheavals in the team management as well as the Pakistan Cricket Board.

Head coach Misbah-ul-Haq and bowling coach Waqar Younis resigned when it became apparent that Ramiz Raja was to take over as PCB chairman. Upon the latter’s election, CEO Wasim Khan also bid farewell. Then Pakistan’s preparations were hit when New Zealand and England cancelled their tours.

But once Pakistan began performing, all that was forgotten. Hopes and expectations began to swell, reaching a crescendo in the semi-final when Pakistan reduced Australia to 96-5 while chasing 177. The final seemed in sight. They were almost there when Mathew Wade’s shot flew towards Hasan Ali at mid-wicket. Once that was floored, Wade’s power-hitting brilliance crushed the team’s aspirations and fans’ expectations. Once again, Australia got the better of Pakistan in a World Cup knockout match.

There will be pain, regret and anguish as well as a feeling of what could have been had Hasan held on to that catch. But that is part of cricket, and like life, the players have to move on. Pakistan can use the performance at the World Cup as a springboard for the future and Babar was quick to point that out in his team talk in the dressing room afterwards.

Pakistan have won hearts with their performances as the only unbeaten team in the Super12 stage. They might have not gone all the way but the team’s incredible unity has restored Pakistan’s standing as one of the top teams in world cricket. The quirks of scheduling mean that the next Twenty20 World Cup comes in only a year. Before that, Pakistan is due to host Australia — for the first time since 1998 — and England — for the first time since 2005. If Pakistan builds on this performance, there is plenty of promise and hope for the future.

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