There is chaos and then there is Pakistan Cricket. Over the years, Pakistan cricket, much like the political landscape of their Country has been the Gold standard for how NOT to run an organization/team. Yet, the talent in Pakistan cricket has been able to rise above the inadequacies of their administration to achieve results to provide happiness to a nation as passionate about Cricket as any in this world. It is these results that spur the Pakistani supporters to hope that their cricket team will claim the biggest prize in our game for the second time in the Country where they first laid their hands on the World Cup.
Pakistan have no time to ease their way into the tournament, they start their campaign against another country called India (any cricket fan heard about them?) and to many fans on both sides of that contest, the contest is as important as the World Cup itself. As everyone who has not been living under a rock might be aware by now, Pakistan are in the same group as two nations they have never won a World Cup match against – India and South Africa. Baby steps then – Pakistan would be well served to win one, if not both these matches to send a strong message to the rest of the cricketing world.
On paper, Pakistan have one of the most balanced teams in the tournaments – they always do given the plethora of all-rounders that they always have. The challenge for Pakistan will be for their weakest link – the batting to not be a liability and support their bowlers’ efforts. Talking off weakest links, Pakistan will have to shore up their fielding lapses, particularly behind the wicket – which seems like something they are unable to recover since the time Kamran Akmal’s keeping went south and into the deepest standards of wicket-keeping.
The format of the World Cup which gives the Big 8 teams some leeway for upsets helps Pakistan – a team which is highly inconsistent at the best of times. Having the safety net gives Pakistan a great chance to express their free flowing brand of game and should they get on a roll early on, they will take some special effort to be stopped. Pakistan’s recent ODI form is one of concern though. They have been sub-par in the last year, having focused their energies on the longer format of the game.
Their bowling has been all over the place and their batsmen have been struggling to click together as a unit. They seem to be finding their right groove on both fronts just in time with an impressive performance against England – the team they vanquished in that memorable final, 23 years ago. It is essential for the team to continue that form and one of the trump cards in this quest could be their leg spinner Yasir Shah. An attacking leg spinner in the batsman dominated shorter formats is one of the most potent weapons in our game and Pakistan will hope Yasir Shah will play the role Mushtaq Ahmed played in the 1992 campaign when Pakistan were crowned the World Champions.
Their immediate challenge, will then be to get into their groove early on and find the most consistent XI by the time the knock-outs roll. In Misbah-Ul-Haq they have a leader who can keep the team focused on the task at hand and utilize the talent and energy that the team has in the right direction. Quite often, Pakistan’s chaos spills on to the field and these means the team is battling 2 opponents – themselves and the tean opposing them. Should Pakistan stay out of their way long enough, their chances of repeating their 92 fireworks will improve drastically and it is something both the Pakistan and the rest of the teams will be on the watch out for.Once Pakistan find that momentum, Pakistan and Cricket fans will be treated to some of the most entertaining cricket that can be played on this planet. The question, as is often with Pakistan, will they?
–Prakash Potukuchi [ aka Roger Laver is the founder of Sportz Cosmos. He tweets here.]