South Africa February 3, 2007

Five games to make it work

Back in September of last year, despite Hairgate and despite players returning from injury, Pakistan's World Cup formula was looking near-perfect

Back in September of last year, despite Hairgate and despite players returning from injury, Pakistan's World Cup formula was looking near-perfect. Few people could have imagined what followed but Pakistan approach this crucial one-day series with a formula that keeps being scribbled on the blackboard, rubbed out, and created anew. This cannot be a happy situation with the World Cup a few weeks away.

Obviously, there are myriad reasons why Pakistan find themselves in this predicament. Yet Bob Woolmer and Inzamam-ul Haq must decide quickly on the combination that wil best serve Pakistan in the Caribbean. Autralia, who might have been in turmoil with players retiring, are reinvigorated. Whereas of the possible pretenders to the title, India and South Africa look to be striding forward while Pakistan are regressing.

Unlike some commentators I enjoy 20/20 cricket, a form of the game that is closest to the one played by most amateurs. We mustn't be snobbish about it. But we mustn't overinterpret the recent result either. Pakistan essentially fielded six players who had been either twiddling their thumbs or returning from injury. The early conditions didn't help. And the crash, bang, wallop of 20/20 can be dominated by a couple of stellar performances.

But there can be no excuses from here on in. Pakistan must get their team right, their batting order right, and their strategy right. The formula has to be flexible but one that can allow reserves to substitute in case of injury or fatigue. It has to be one that contains players who can turn a match, particularly bowlers who can take wickets and batsmen who can see an innings through.

Above all, there can be no sense of it'll be alright on the night. It has be right from here on in. One look at Australia is enough to understand why there isn't a moment to waste.

Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here

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