World Cup 2007 March 2, 2007

Road to Jamaica 3: Any bowlers?

Has the farce ended

Has the farce ended? Injuries, we are told, have ruled Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif out of the World Cup. The truth, though, is believed to be something else. The decisions of the Pakistan Cricket Board, such as sending the players to England, while the rest of the squad was preparing for the tournament, have turned the players and the board into an international laughing stock. Whoever dreams up these glorious strategies might benefit from a brain transplant.

One day, of course, the truth will get out, and if their withdrawal is because of remnants of nandrolone in their bodies then it will bring a further disgrace upon Pakistan cricket.

On the face of it, Pakistan's chances of winning the World Cup are seriously damaged. Certainly with Shoaib and Asif available, Pakistan would have been genuine contenders. You might even ask if there are any remaining bowlers that are worth mentioning. Well, call me an eternal optimist but there's still plenty of potential in this squad.

When Waqar was ruled out of the 1992 World Cup, I felt the blow in the pit of my stomach, this double loss doesn't feel the same to me.

Shoaib has appeared so inconsistently that we've all grown used to him being unavailable. A real shame considering his ability. Asif might be considered by some people to be a bigger loss but let's remember that Asif isn't greatly experienced in one-day international cricket, and he looked far from comfortable once South Africa started getting after him in the recent one-day series.

Most importantly, it's no use hankering for what you don't have and Pakistan must make the best of the resources available to them. Where there's heart there's always hope.

When it comes to bowlers, Pakistan's one-day strategy is such that their all-rounders usually bowl at least twenty of the fifty overs, sometimes more. So that's work for Shahid Afridi, Mohammad Hafeez, and Shoaib Malik.

The other three bowlers have to be wicket-takers. Umar Gul grew in speed and in stature as an international bowler in 2006. If he can recover his form quickly, he is capable of carrying the pace attack. The next wicket-taker is Kaneria, who should be played whenever conditions suit him.

That leaves one or two places, depending on conditions and form, for Mohammad Sami, Rana Naved-ul Hasan, and Rao Iftikhar to contest. Sami, for my money, looked a better bowler in South Africa and his one-day record is good. Rana had a good home series against West Indies and recent cricinfo stats showed that he is the most effective death bowler, which is perhaps when he should be used. Iftikhar is probably the most consistent of the three at the moment. All three of them bowl at a fair clip, which is an advantage.

That leaves Azhar Mahmood and Yasir Arafat to slot in whenever opportunity allows.

The World Cup isn't only an arena for heroes but it is one that creates them. The question that Pakistan's remaining bowlers must ask themselves is whether or not they are willing to seize the opportunity to make an international reputation in this World Cup?

Gul, Kaneria, Sami, and Arafat would be my bowlers to watch.

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

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