A cup that suddenly matters
Pakistan's surprise victory in the Kitply Cup brought a shallow sigh of relief and a brief inhalation of oxygen. Angry emails, drug scandals, and terrorist threats have all, however, hinted at further suffocation for Pakistan cricket.
While the world kicks on to a Twenty20 Nirvana, Pakistan cricket is struggling for quality, allies, and a seat at the Champions League table. The cricketers and their fans need a break from misfortune and the Asia Cup offers a perfect opportunity, even though it is timed for the murderous heat of Pakistan's summer
Today's statement that Pakistan may take England's place in the tournament typically serves to confuse as much as it clarifies. The Pakistan Cricket Board chairman has been claiming that Pakistan has a certain spot in the Champions League but today's announcement suggests significant uncertainty. It is hard to understand how Pakistan has come to be disenfranchised when it had been one of the countries initially pencilled in to participate in the Champions League?
The reality that faces Pakistan cricket is that to be desirable on the international stage you need to be either a high-quality team or an attractive place to tour, preferably both. Currently, Pakistan cricket can boast neither of these offerings, which is why the Asia Cup has bizarrely become a pivotal tournament in the history of Pakistan cricket. Karachi's prominence as a venue offers extra significance.
Pakistan can show they are a re-emerging force by consistently succeeding against Sri Lanka and India over the next few weeks. This will be difficult as both are accomplished one-day teams and Pakistan will have some of their best pace bowlers missing. Yet success--as unlikely as it seems at this point--will lend some legitimacy to the partnership of Malik and Geoff Lawson.
More importantly, a smooth, well supported, and trouble free tournament will confirm Pakistan's right to stage the Champions Trophy. This has to be the major strategic objective for the Pakistan Cricket Board, because the many sceptics in the international cricket community will be looking for any hint of trouble to urge relocation of the tournament.
The summer heat will be fierce but no less fierce than the pressure on Pakistan cricket during this low-rating, needlessly long tournament. On such trivialities can fortunes, careers, and reputations be made and lost.
Can Pakistan cricket pass its nadir?
Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here