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March 18, 2011

World Cup 2011

Pakistan's Australian sandwich

Kamran Abbasi
Shoaib Akhtar in action during a warm-up game of football, Mohali, March 27, 2011
Should Shoaib Akhtar play against Australia?  © AFP
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The last time Australia lost a World Cup match, Abdul Razzaq and Shoaib Akhtar both played. It was a dramatic May day in Leeds, when Pakistan fans owned Headingley with their flags and claxons, the kind of occasion that inspired the ECB that a neutral Test series involving Pakistan was bound to succeed. How wrong that proved to be, with last summer's experiment making embarrassing losses.

Equally wrong was everyone who gloated over Australia's demise after such a thrilling defeat. Steven Waugh looked pained, almost broken, as he acknowledged his team would need to win an improbable seven matches in a row to win World Cup 1999. That hurt sparked an undefeated run in World Cup cricket spanning four tournaments, three decades, three trophies, and two millennia.

Wins over Australia and New Zealand in 1999 were Pakistan's champagne moments, the last time they thrilled at a World Cup. It was less of a thrill for Waqar Younis, Pakistan's current coach. I remember looking across the balcony that separates the press box from the players' dressing rooms at Headingley and seeing Waqar looking on wistfully as his fellows completed a dramatic victory.

Waqar was in Pakistan's squad for the 1999 World Cup but he didn't play a match of note. It was the second World Cup final he could have played had fate dealt him a winner's hand. Shoaib, the new express, had taken his place on the tracks. Either side of that tournament the World Cup continued to deliver heartache for Waqar, as a bowler in 1996 and then as a captain in 2003.

Now, another twist of fate has placed Waqar in command of Shoaib's final destiny, accelerated by an announcement that was part well-timed and part ill-timed. As good as it is for Shoaib to leave on his own terms it wasn't necessary to create a distraction at this point in the tournament, especially when he is at the centre of a selection conundrum.

All the evidence on Waqar points towards an aggressive bowler but a defensive captain and coach, which means the clamour for an extra bowler is likely to go unheeded. Shahid Afridi has almost confirmed as much. With Asad Shafiq looking set to retain his place and Umar Akmal a good bet to replace Ahmed Shehzad, the Shoaib issue remains unresolved.

An opening combination of Shoaib and Razzaq is a liability at both ends of an innings, and Shoaib's deterioration in second and third spells is a particular worry. Pakistan will now want to settle on their best team for this tournament, the Australia match is a dress-rehearsal for a World Cup Quarter Final, not a time for experimentation.

On that basis, the odds favour Wahab Riaz's selection against Australia. Now Shoaib could be looking on wistfully, with Waqar beside him, as Shahid Afridi's Pakistan attempt to end Australia's incredible run that Wasim Akram's Pakistan started. Australia remain strong but are more beatable. That 1999 side included the Waugh twins, Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne, and Glenn McGrath--to think that anybody seriously thought it was the end of the road?

After a period of clear separation, Australia's recent decline has brought the two countries closer together. Pakistan are capable of completing a neat historical sandwich, despite the coach's penchant for an extra batsman or two. If his men succeed, Waqar's victory smile will stretch a little wider in memory of his solitary vigil in the Headingley dressing room as a rousing clamour greeted every Australian wicket and propelled Pakistan to a famous triumph.

Back in those days, Shoaib Akhtar had the world at the mercy of his bendy elbows. Now the world has moved on and so must Shoaib.

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

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Keywords: Controversy, World Cup

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Travon on (December 23, 2011, 13:40 GMT)

That's cleared my thoughts. Thanks for conrtuibtnig.

Posted by noor alam on (March 21, 2011, 18:25 GMT)

ha ha sandwich pakistan the world strong team and shahid khan afridi is the best captin in the world pakistan will be wining this world cup inshallah ..and you kamran abbasi you eat to this sandwich ha ha ha pakistan,s austrlian sandwich kamran abbasi next time you not this eords ok

Posted by Rana Tanveer on (March 21, 2011, 12:24 GMT)

INSHAALLAH pakistan win the world cup!!!!!

Posted by Muhammad Saidul Haque on (March 21, 2011, 12:02 GMT)

Assalamulaikum Kamran vhai, briefly requesting to you that Pakistan batting order must be like this way-- 1. Kamran Akmal 2. Asad Shafiq 3. Younis Khan 4. misbah Ul-Haq 5. Umar Akmal 6. Shahid Afridi 7. Abdur Razaaq 8. Muhammad Hafiz[ just for his poor batting form performing in this tournament but must be required true off-spinner] 9. Abdur Rehman 10. Umrar Gul 11. Saied Ajmal[ inclusion only for against West-indies to operate extra pressure over the windies batsmen]. But, Pakistan should never treat West-Indies as weaker opponent as Pak players will be feeling easy comfortable situation.

Posted by azhar qazi on (March 21, 2011, 8:57 GMT)

my team against W.I: Kami Hafeez Asad Younis Misbah U.akmal Razzq Afridi Ajmal U.Gull Shoaib Akhtar

Posted by Thisara Perera on (March 21, 2011, 7:12 GMT)

Posted by: Vishwa at March 20, 2011 4:14 PM

It is quite strange and funny that Pakistani fans keep picking up their final 11 in these blogs! I am sure, even selectors don't have so much time...

AGREED. Well said. pak`s are dreaming....

Posted by Haider on (March 21, 2011, 2:50 GMT)

According to my opinion Pakistan team has the jazba to win the cup that counts but there is only need of support. So pls get up and cheer for the Pakistani Cricket team. If u want my opinion for the team. I should suggest that our captain should perform well in betting side also. He is a much experienced person but juniors are playing much better then him. We want a big game from AFRIDI.

Posted by Salman Amjad on (March 20, 2011, 17:24 GMT)

We are not seeting our batting line up properly still got top position in group. Batting order should be like this......hope all will be agree with this.

1. Kamran Akmal 2. Shahid Afridi 3. Asad Shafiq 4. Younis Khan 5. Misbah-ul-Haq 6. Umar Akmal 7. Abdul Razzaq 8. Abdul Rehman 9. Umar Gul 10. Saeed Ajmal 11. Shoiab Akhtar/Wahab Riaz

Batting order is arraged and we have 6 specialist bowler as well

1. Umar Gul 2. Abdul Rehman 3. Shoaib Akhtar / Wahan Riaz 4. Shahid Afridi 5. Saeed Ajmal 6. Abdul Razzaq

We dont need of Hafeez as he is not a time pass bowler nor a batsman...

Posted by Vishwa on (March 20, 2011, 16:14 GMT)

It is quite strange and funny that Pakistani fans keep picking up their final 11 in these blogs! I am sure, even selectors don't have so much time...

Posted by Adil Ahmad on (March 20, 2011, 11:32 GMT)

How can Pakistan leave out some one like Shoaib Akhtar and play Abdul Rehman instead. What has Rehman done so far? Two wickets in six matches! I'm sure most of the batsmen will be terrified seeing Rehman running in instead of Shoaib! He' a container, not a striker. Why are Intikhab, Waqar ( whome I respect termendously ) and Afridi so defensive minded? Attack with your match winning players. That's the only way to win the Tournamnt. My Team: Kamran, Hafeez, Shafiq, Younis, Misbah, Umar, Razaaq, Afridi, Gul, Junaid, Wahab. This gives you one of the best bowling attack in the world with four seamers and two spinners. They whould threaten any batting line up in the world. Play to your strength Pakistan and attack! May the force be with you.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kamran Abbasi
Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He was the first Asian columnist for Wisden Cricket Monthly and wisden.com. Kamran is the international editor of the British Medical Journal. @KamranAbbasi

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