Another lap completed around the sun!

By Muhammad Nabeel
Fri, 12, 22

The world of sports is like a conveyor belt of wonders and surprises...


The world of sports is like a conveyor belt of wonders and surprises. It never ceases to amaze you; the fact that a simple kick, goalbound, a lofted shot over the boundary line or a flying stump can bring unexplainable joy to billions, is quite simply astounding.

After 36 long years!

The year 2022 was packed with sporting events right from the start to the very end, culminating in a grand spectacle that unfolded in all its glory in Qatar. The highly anticipated FIFA World Cup which was held in the Middle East for the very first time was full of surprises and upsets.

Another lap completed around the sun!

Defending champions France, who were missing some key players like Kante, Pogba and the current holder of Ballon d’Or Karim Benzema, made it to the final on the back of some stunning performances from the mercurial Kylian Mbappe. And in the final, which was held on December 18, the 23-year-old Mbappe took matters into his own hands as he became the first man after Sir Geoff Hurst in 1966 to score a hat-trick in the final of the FIFA World Cup.

Mbappe played like a one-man army having answers to all questions thrown at his team from the eventual winners Argentina, home to one of the finest players of all time, Lionel Messi. This was in many ways the changing of the old guard on the greatest stages of all with Messi passing the baton to his PSG teammate Mbappe. They both absolutely lit the World Cup final! Argentina lifted the trophy for the third time, their first in 36 years. The match was decided on penalties as the two sides were inseparable in open play with the score tied at 3-3. By lifting the FIFA World Cup, Lionel Messi etched his name in the highest echelons of the game.

Argentina was crowned the champions of the world but it was that fairy-tale run of the Moroccan football team that won hearts in Qatar. They surprised everyone by reaching the last four and played some high energy football in the process. In the early stages of the World Cup, one of the greatest upsets in the history of the tournament was witnessed when Saudi Arabia flipped Argentina over. This was Argentina’s first match of the tournament and they made a ‘Pakistan-esque’ recovery to eventually bag the coveted FIFA World Cup trophy.

Tales of Babar and his merry men

Another lap completed around the sun!

Talking about the Men in Green, the year 2022 was a mixed bag for the Pakistan Cricket Team. If you plot the team’s overall performance on an ECG there will be outrageous spikes in both directions, up and down. Pakistan also almost did the unthinkable one month before Argentina when they themselves recovered from a seemingly irrecoverable position to reach the final of the Men’s T20 World Cup in Australia. A bit of misfortune and lower order collapse meant that Pakistan ended as runners up to arguably the best team in the world at the moment - England.

Just a few weeks before that Pakistan lost to Sri Lanka in yet another final of a major T20 event, the Men’s Asia Cup. The white ball squad is stable and there’s some serious talent there which is evident from the team’s performances over the past 12 to 18 months. They beat Australia 2-1 in a 3 match ODI series in March and swept aside the West Indies 3-0 in the ODIs in June. They travelled to Europe in August to play a 3 match ODI series against the Netherlands and won all three games.

After losing to India in the opening game of the Men’s T20 Asia Cup, they bounced back in style and qualified for the final, where they lost to Sri Lanka by 23 runs in Dubai. England then came to Pakistan for a seven match T20 series to prepare for the T20 World Cup. The series was closely fought with England eventually winning the series 4-3. Then right before the World Cup Pakistan featured in a tri series against New Zealand and Bangladesh in New Zealand. Babar Azam’s men won the tri series and looked very well prepared for the big one, the T20 World Cup.

Their start wasn’t ideal; they lost first to India and then when Zimbabwe beat them by a solitary run in the next game they looked set to exit the tournament early, but then they hit form the way only Pakistan Cricket Team can and beat South Africa and the Netherlands to improve their chances of making it to the semi-finals. There was, however, one big problem: South Africa had to lose against Netherlands. The odds of that happening were close to nothing but the unthinkable happened and the Proteas lost, which turned the game between Pakistan and Bangladesh into a quarter-final.

Pakistan rolled BD over with ease and made it through to the knock-outs. They thrashed New Zealand to fix a date with England who had outclassed India in the semis by 10 wickets. Batting first, Pakistan failed to put up an imposing total and the inning ended at 137/8, but the way the bowling unit performed in the second inning defending a meagre total is stuff of legends. Unfortunately, however, when Shaheen got injured in the final overs Pakistan lost their mojo and England clawed their way to the World Title and deservedly so it must be said.

The performance in red ball cricket is below par. They lost a home series to Australia 1-0 in the beginning of 2022 and ended the year with a humiliating white wash at the hands of England. The Test series against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka finished at 1-1.

On a personal level, 2022 was yet another productive year for Babar Azam who is currently the number one batsman in the world in ODI cricket and number four in T20Is and as per the latest Test rankings he has climbed up to number 2 which is his highest ever ranking in Tests.

Another lap completed around the sun!

This year’s PSL saw Lahore Qalandars lift the illustrious trophy for the very first time in seven tries. Muhammad Rizwan was declared player of the tournament, Fakhar Zaman finished as the highest scorer and Shaheen ended the tournament as the leading wicket taker. Rizwan, who lost form in the last few months remained on top of his game for much of the past 12 months and he stayed at the top of the T20Is batsmen rankings chart for most of the year, but was finally displaced by India’s Surya Kumar Yadav.

Real Madrid rule Europe again!

In Europe, Real Madrid reclaimed the UEFA Champions League by beating Liverpool in the final in Paris by 1-0 on May 28th. Domestically also Real Madrid were a dominant force as they claimed their 35th La Liga title, their arch-rivals Barcelona finished second and Atletico Madrid came third.

The English Premier League was very closely fought between Manchester City and Liverpool. City won the league with 93 points to their name while Liverpool ended with 92 points to claim the runners up position. In Germany Bayern Munich won the Bundesliga for a record 10th consecutive time, their 32nd title overall. In Italy, AC Milan finally got hold of the Serie A title after a wait of more than a decade.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s fairy-tale return to Manchester United in 2021 ended abruptly when the Portuguese maestro in an interview just before the World Cup lambasted Manchester United’s management over their handling of the club’s affairs. Ronaldo’s relationship with United’s management was already under the microscope since the start of the current campaign under the new manager Eric Ten Haag. The interview before the World Cup proved to be the last nail in the coffin and it resulted in Ronaldo’s contract getting terminated at Old Trafford. Rumour has it that Cristiano Ronaldo is likely going to join Saudi Arabian side Al Nassr for an estimated €200m per year!

Federer and Serena bid adieu

Another lap completed around the sun!

Men’s tennis was dominated by Rafael Nadal who won two of the four Grand Slams: the Australian Open and the French Open. This was Nadal’s record 14th title at Roland Garros his Grand Slam count now stands at 22, the highest in the history of Men’s tennis. The man hot on his heels is the Serbian Novak Djokovic whose win at Wimbledon was his 21st Grand Slam overall. Third on the list of most Grand Slams won is non-other than Roger Federer who announced his retirement from Tennis after ruling Men’s tennis for two decades. Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz won the last Grand Slam of the year, the US Open.

Another absolute icon of tennis brought the curtains down on a magnificent career this year. The younger of the William sisters, Serena, decided to bring an end to a career spanning more than two decades in which she won 23 Grand Slam titles, more than any player in Open Era. In Women’s tennis, Poland’s Iga Swiatek won the French and US Open, Ashleigh Barty from Australia claimed the Australian Open while Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina emerged victorious at Wimbledon.


Another lap completed around the sun!

In Formula One Max Verstappen successfully defended his World Drivers’ Championship crown. His team Red Bull Racing claimed the World Constructors’ Championship for the fifth time. Across the Atlantic the Golden State Warriors won the NBA playoffs, Texas Houston Astros claimed the 2022 World Series in MLB, while Los Angeles Rams won this year’s Super Bowl, their second overall.

Plenty more drama to come in 2023

The year 2022 ends with another home series for Pakistan; against the Kiwis this time and there are some big changes expected in the overall structure of cricket in the country.

Another lap completed around the sun!

The return of players like Muhammad Amir is very much on the cards and a return to the old departmental cricket is in the plans of the new PCB chief Najam Sethi. For the public, of course, what matters most is entertainment and the white ball team is giving that in abundance whether you accept that or not. Majority of the work is required to resurrect the red ball team and with big teams touring Pakistan now there’s a chance that these improvements will also come slowly but surely.

But, it is important that the white ball team is not overhauled because it is set and requires minor tweaks and that’s pretty much it because next year is the ODI World Cup and Pakistan is a very strong contender to lift the trophy on enemy soil.