A rabble with a cause
Are Pakistan a rabble? A rabble without a cause? They have been dismissed as such by former cricketers and pundits. It's easy to see why. Since Pakistan almost eliminated Australia in last year's Champions Trophy, their results have been abysmal.
Australia, in particular, have hammered Pakistan relentlessly, denying them a single win. Yet despite internal chaos and poor squad selection, Shahid Afridi's rebels have somehow advanced to the semi-finals of another world tournament.
Australia will certainly start favourites thanks to their punishing form in the Caribbean. Even the most optimistic Pakistan fan knows that their team is up against one of the strongest T20 outfits ever assembled.
But Pakistan must take heart. Their bowlers have found form and momentum at the right time. St Lucia's wicket plays to Pakistan's strengths and less so to Australia's. Anything is possible in T20 cricket, and Pakistan should feel less pressure as underdogs.
Importantly, Afridi's team has just begun to play with the required level of passion and aggression. Success in any form of cricket comes through taking wickets, and Pakistan must be brave and attack Australia. Much will depend on Saeed Ajmal, Afridi, and Mohammad Aamer. Now is not the time to experiment, and the surprising team combination that worked against South Africa should be persisted with.
The batsmen must seek to dominate Australia's pacemen, safe in the knowledge that the bounce in St Lucia will be less disturbing. Pakistan's batsmen are due a strong performance, and now is the time to deliver. A good start from Kamran Akmal and Salman Butt, and some impetus from Afridi in the middle order will be the keys to success.
Australia haven't yet been on the backfoot in this tournament and if Pakistan can contrive to put them under pressure, a shock is possible. After suffering persistently at the hands of Australia, after the hurt of the last few months, Pakistan can salvage some pride by eliminating Australia from a world tournament. That has to be worth fighting for.
Pakistan might have been playing like a rabble, but a rabble when roused behind a powerful cause--and what can be bigger than restoring your pride--can humble the mightiest force.
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Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here