Islamabad: The Pakistani media today lavished praise on the national cricket team despite its loss to India in Wednesday`s World Cup semi-final at Mohali, saying that the Shahid Afridi-led side could hold their heads high with their performance in the tournament.
India defeated arch-rival Pakistan by 29 runs in the World Cup semi-final at the PCA Stadium in Mohali that was also witnessed by the Prime Ministers of both the countries and a host of other high-profile dignitaries.
The match attracted added attention because Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani met on the game`s sidelines to give the bilateral peace process a boost.
"The Pakistan team will not be carrying a trophy as it arrives back home from its World Cup outing in India but the players should carry their heads high. Regardless of the semi-final loss to hosts India at Mohali, Pakistan has performed remarkably well for a team which has suffered so much hardship in recent times," The Express Tribune newspaper said in its editorial.
"The Pakistan team has done its country proud and deserves to be treated as champions who have excelled both in their demonstration of spirit and of skill, and as ambassadors of peace. They deserve a round of standing applause," the daily said.
"Afridi spoke with maturity and good grace as he praised the Indian effort and apologised to his nation," The Express Tribune said in its editorial `Stand up for the champions`.
The News, in its editorial, said Pakistan`s "brave cricketing performance at the World Cup should make us all proud".
The Frontier Post`s editorial lauded the Pakistan team for overcoming its reputation as underdogs going into the tournament following the banning of three top players --Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer -- for
The newspaper also praised the team for defeating reigning champions Australia in the group stages.
The Daily Times, in its editorial, said Afridi, "who rules the hearts of Pakistanis, was able to win millions of hearts across the border".
It added: "The good thing is that this match and the ongoing dialogue process have restarted the process of normalisation of relations between the two neighbours."
The media, at the same time, also called for an evaluation of the reasons for the defeat against India, especially the team`s fielding effort during the high-profile
"Foreign teams have not played a match in Pakistan since terrorists attacked the Sri Lankan side`s bus in Lahore in March 2009. The Pakistani team needs to review its fielding efforts and the wicket-keeping arena," The News said.
"The PCB, guilty of much mismanagement in the past, needs to set itself up on more professional lines and give the players the kind of backing they deserve," it added.
The Express Tribune criticised the butter-fingered Pakistani players for dropping Sachin Tendulkar four times during the match.
It also said that none of the Pakistani big-name batsmen were in top form while the wicket-keeping needs to be looked at very carefully.
The Dawn, however, was scathing in its criticism of the Pakistan team.
"It should have been a great show but it wasn`t, primarily because we faltered when it mattered most. No team should expect to win a vital game if it drops a player like Tendulkar no less than four times and then, chasing a reasonable target, goes about its batting with remarkable ordinariness," the daily said in its editorial.
The editorial, titled `After the setback`, said seasoned players "played with a run-chase strategy that defied logic".
The batting left a lot to be desired while it was Pakistan`s woeful fielding that cost it the game, it said.
"Pakistan had choked in a fashion that devastated the nation," it added.
The media was also critical of the hype and frenzy created surrounding the India-Pakistan duel.
The Dawn said people who subscribe to conspiracy theories, including speculation about match-fixing, should watch cricket with a level head.
The News said people should consider the impact of the hype as it is important that youths should "learn that defeating India is not a matter of life and death".
"The emotion so strongly gripped Pakistanis that they did not even realise that India were a better side and kept their nerves in the high-fever match. What is ironic is that Pakistanis took the match like a religious crusade that added a ghastly sentiment that did not discern between faith and a cricket match and the Indians behaved no differently," The Frontier Post said.
Some of the reporting in the Pakistani media went to ridiculous lengths, with one report in The News contending that people`s prayer for a victory over India were not answered because Pakistan is "one of the most corrupt nations in the world, governance here is in tatters, morals and principles have lost their value (and) self-respect is simply lost".