Wounded champions in group of death
A defence so soon is unfortunate for Pakistan's wounded champions and finds them in another difficult moment. Last year, Pakistan rose out of adversity to conquer. It was an uplifting experience but the joy has been short lived.
Now Shahid Afridi's team face a make or break weekend. They could be out of the tournament by tomorrow evening, such is the danger in this group of death. Australia have spent all winter pummelling Pakistan, and Bangladesh are more than capable of pulling off a smash and grab raid.
Pakistan have terrible memories of playing a World Cup in the West Indies. But they must use that experience, and the hurt of 2007, to inspire them to put up a spirited defence of their title. And spirit is the key. There are no certainties in T20 cricket and all Pakistan fans can wish for is that their embattled team plays with pride and passion.
This team is perfectly capable of challenging for the title again, provided it can overcome three major selection dilemmas. First, the batting line up lacks an explosive opener to accompany Kamran Akmal. Shazaib Hassan must be wondering what he must do earn selection ahead of the ill-suited Salman Butt. Mohammad Hafeez has an outstanding T20 record, and he or Khalid Latif will have to rise to the occasion.
Pakistan's middle order also looks light of a cool head, a part well played by Shoaib Malik in last year's tournament. The burden is now great on Misbah-ul Haq and Afridi.
Finally, and perhaps most decisively, the loss of Umar Gul is a bitter blow. Despite misfiring in other forms of cricket, Gul's missiles are laser guided in T20. More than any player, even Afridi, Gul has been the difference between Pakistan and other teams, choking the life out of the end of an innings. Here, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Sami must combine to cover for Gul's absence.
Another tournament brings another rush of hope to Pakistan fans. A successful defence is hard to imagine at this stage but it is not beyond Afridi's Pakistan. The first hurdle, and perhaps the biggest is this weekend of Russian Roulette in St Lucia.
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Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here