World Cup 2011 March 4, 2011

Surprise but no shocks enliven Pakistan's progress

Until the turn of this century qualifying from the first stage of a World Cup had become a formality for Pakistan

Until the turn of this century qualifying from the first stage of a World Cup had become a formality for Pakistan. One-day cricket was a successful specialism for Pakistan's cricketers. That same minimum standard was expected in 2003 when Waqar Younis, the current coach, captained his country in South Africa. A listless, over-the-hill team crashed out of the group stages. Redemption was expected in 2007 under the dogged captaincy of Inzamam-ul Haq but nobody could have predicted the climactic events that followed.

Now Pakistan have all but qualified for the second stage of a World Cup tournament for the first time this century, a remarkable statistic. In typical Pakistani fashion, Shahid Afridi's team has progressed rapidly when it might have been expected to falter. We know Pakistan cricket has been an enigma, and it remains one today. One minute we are surprised by the team's apparent consistency, the next shocked that it is stumbling against Canada, rekindling terrible memories of the 2007 decider against Ireland.

Yet this eternal drama never ceases to fascinate. Why would it? Pakistan's cricketers are capable of swinging from exhilarating panache to laughable amateurism in a matter of moments. Canada brought out the worst in the batsmen but the best in the bowlers, although the performance did produce consolation on three fronts.

First, and most importantly, Pakistan have not lost that precious ability to surprise, something that their recent consistency had masked. Second, it is better to stumble now than later in the tournament. The team that wins the World Cup by definition peaks at the right time. Finally, there was a healthy desire to fight for victory, a trait that deserted Pakistan in their whimpering defeats in the past two World Cups.

With current progress, Pakistan have confirmed that they are challengers, nothing more. Defeats of Kenya and Canada don't confer favourite status, but a win over Sri Lanka on home turf does suggest a team is capable of a genuine challenge for the trophy. Indeed, on the evidence of what we have seen so far, few teams can match Pakistan's variety and penetration in bowling.

Three matches remain to turn the current sense of relief into genuine optimism. The team formula isn't quite right, some of the batsmen are yet to find their form, and sloppiness in the field could cost Pakistan a tight match. Wasn't it ever thus?

The half way point of the group stages is a time for Pakistan to be quietly satisfied with their work. The rest of us might wonder how a country that has experienced such upheaval in cricket and in civil society over at least a decade, possesses cricketers of sufficient talent to threaten more prosperous, stable, and privileged powers?

Waqar and Afridi, and their troops, might exasperate us as the competition wears on but they deserve some gratitude from Pakistan's supporters for restoring a little pride and belief after a season of absolute disillusionment.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on March 10, 2011, 13:37 GMT

    Guys, Please don't try and convert the Pakistani team into a clinical and boring one (like South Africa). It's their raw natural talent, unpredictability and mercurial temperament that makes them entertaining! After India I support Pakistan. Watching them play is like watching a soap opera. Imagine the Cricket Team if India and Pakistan weren't divided! My best advise to Afridi and his boys- go out and play freely and fearlessly, with your natural flair....and yes, you do hav fans in India!

  • testli5504537 on March 10, 2011, 5:28 GMT

    I see a serious problem with our bowling...... I don't think Shoaib is fit and disciplined enough to continue the form that he showed in initial games of this world cup. I just can't understand why we are not giving a chance to Junaid Khan who has been termed as Amir's replacement by experts and who did very well in the warm up game against England.

    Wicket keeping is also a challenge but we should not consider dropping Kamran. Let Umar stand behind the stumps, drop Shehzad and use Kamran as a specialised opener for the rest of the games. Younis must come at one down with Misbah to follow. We need to find space for Junaid Khan in the playing eleven.

    We may consider trying Asad Shqfiq in place of Younis Khan. He is also equally classy and reliable Middle Order batsman and had done quite well in the recent past.

    I can see the following changes required in the playing eleven.....

    1. Replace Younis with Asad 2. Replace Shoaib with Junaid Khan 3. Replace Rehman with Ajmal

  • testli5504537 on March 9, 2011, 3:55 GMT

    Did I write here just two days back that -- let Pakistan chase anything more than 250 plus, and see how they perform? This is the second time in a row that Pakistan could not score even 200.

  • testli5504537 on March 8, 2011, 22:50 GMT

    It was coming. Fortunately it came sooner than later. If the masssive defeat has taught Waqar, Afridi & Inty any valuable lessons, they must change plans and the composition of the team to survive against competitive opposition. Another specialist bowler will be the key. The wicket keeping woes need to be addressed. Fielding issues deserve attention. shoaib Akhtar is unfit to perform at this level and it may be argued there ia a case to replace him with the young Khan. There is little time and much to do, if the team can meet the expectations of the fans.

  • testli5504537 on March 8, 2011, 20:08 GMT

    New Zealand today out class Pakistan in every department.At best we were pathetic. Afridi captaincy was below average.Body language was poor and seems like there was no stratgey how we are going to chase this total.Worst Vettori didn't bowl a single over because of injury and we still didn't took any advantage. Just brainless cricket alround. New Zealand expose that pakistan can be beaten by batting first and by keeping wickets in hand.Shoaib Akhtar was very poor and so was Razzak.We need Wahab and Saeed AJmal to take wikets.So my team against Zimbabwe is 1 Hafeez 2 K.Akamal 3 A.Razzak 4 Younis 5 Misbah 6 U.Akmal 7 Afridi 8 Wahab 9 Gul 10 Ajmal 11 Rehman. plenty of wicket taking options in this line up.

  • testli5504537 on March 8, 2011, 19:38 GMT

    Spoke too soon kam, srilanka were easy bait in the conditions - NZ is our shocker.

    Akmals together have cost pak the world cup, the reputation of the side and shoaib - may his career end quickly, as his era has been the worst for the team, and he has played a part too.

    godammned monkeys.

  • testli5504537 on March 8, 2011, 19:21 GMT

    Before start of this world cup tournament, there are lots of Criticisms & Scandals of Match-fixing, team grouping conspiracy between the players had been weighed on the Pakistan's team shoulder. For this reason, all the officials of Pakistan Cricket management Board should have been become alerted & careful in every match they would compete, especially to selection committee should had decided whose player has his own first class performed quality with dependability for Pakistan Team. Wipe out the root of Kamran Akmal [ 10000% must be kicked out] , Shoaib Akhter[ another below standard 3rd class player+sinner+match fixer] & miserable Younis Khan’s improper batting quality. And it has been proving that can Pakistan beat Zimbabwe [ there is no way to beat the professional Aussies – in these categories of Pak players misery performance] to qualify in the quarter-final stages ???!!!!

  • testli5504537 on March 8, 2011, 17:05 GMT

    Wake up call for Pakistan. The good is that they have time to react. Pakistan has to play to their strength(bowling). We are very short in bowling. With two and a half full time bowlers you cannot win world cup. Kamran Akmal should take some rest too. Probably Umar Akmal can keep as good as his brother. Shoaib Akhtar cannot bowl 10 overs with 8 days of rest. His fitness problem is apparent. Wahab and Junaid could be tried in place of Akhtar and Kamran Akmal. Asad Shafiq might as well get a chance in place of Hafeez/Ahmad. Abdul Razak can also bat at no. 4. Selectors/Management/Captain need to react NOW.

  • testli5504537 on March 8, 2011, 13:55 GMT

    Shahzad's wicket tootally booked one... Atleast he should take lesson's for some acting...:)

  • testli5504537 on March 8, 2011, 10:12 GMT

    Thanks to Kamran "Butter Finger" Akmal to confirm my point as he just drop Ross Taylor twice in same over. I just can't blv this man.

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