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March 22, 2011

World Cup 2011

Progress is a bonus

Kamran Abbasi
Asad Shafiq cuts through the covers, Australia v Pakistan, Group A, World Cup 2011, Colombo, March 19, 2011
Asad Shafiq has calmly slotted into the No. 3 spot  © Getty Images
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A wonder of this World Cup is that all the expected teams have qualified for the knock-out stage but the tournament has still been thoroughly exciting. The so-called minnows must take great credit for ensuring that the first phase was competitive. Now, the remaining nations are close enough together in ability to ensure that this is the most open World Cup since 1999. Hence both Pakistan and West Indies will believe that with some luck the trophy is within grasp.

Of the two, Pakistan have had the better tournament, registering wins over Sri Lanka and Australia while the West Indies are yet to bring down a major power. That probably doesn't count for much except it is better for a team to be running into form at this stage rather than struggling to find or retain it. As a result West Indies don't seem entirely sure about their best combination or strategy, and are yet to put together a meaningful run.

On that basis, Pakistan will start as favourites in their quarter-final clash in Mirpur. Not that they should see that as a burden. Pakistan entered this competition with low expectations, and their performances have already exceeded those downbeat predictions. Anything the players achieve from here on in is a bonus. The mere fact that Pakistan have become serious challengers is a minor triumph.

West Indies are a dangerous team with the hitting power of Chris Gayle and Kieron Pollard and the bowling threat of Kemar Roach--they are not to be taken lightly or complacently. I don't expect Pakistan to underestimate them, even though if you were to pick your quarter-final opponents it would be a straight choice between the West Indies and New Zealand.

Other than individual West Indian brilliance, Pakistan's greatest threats lie in their own erratic form and the prospect of chasing a decent total under lights. When Pakistan fans tune in to the match build-up and discover that their team has won the toss and is batting first, they may experience the first twinges of expectant hysteria and the tingling prospect of a semi-final spot.

Batting second will be an unnerving experience, however, just as it proved against India in the 1996 World Cup quarter-final. Waqar Younis, the current coach, will remember that day with pain. When Aamer Sohail threw the ball to him, the world expected an exemplar in toe-crushing death bowling. Instead Ajay Jadeja battered Waqar to reach a total that was beyond a bright and emotional start by Sohail and Saeed Anwar.

In terms of strategy, Pakistan's only serious consideration looks to be whether or not to introduce Saeed Ajmal? Despite the ongoing debate over selection it would be hard to imagine a change to the bowlers who dismissed Australia for 176 unless Ajmal, a more attacking spinner and a greater threat to left-handers, replaces Abdul Rehman.

The batting line-up has a neat balance of wise heads and young guns running into form. Important performances by Asad Shafiq and Umar Akmal against Australia will have been crucial for confidence, but they will require players to start firing at the top of the order if they are to go all the way in this World Cup.

As ever, it is Pakistan's bowling that offers most hope. Bowlers from Pakistan, South Africa, and Sri Lanka impressed the most in the group stages, with their teams occupying the top positions. The question now is whether or not those teams will be the ones to progress to the semi-finals?

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

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Keywords: World Cup

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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

Wow! That's a raelly neat answer!

Posted by Phil S. on (March 23, 2011, 23:08 GMT)

There can be no doubt that a strong Pakistan is good for the game.

Posted by bilal raja on (March 23, 2011, 18:07 GMT)

i want to see pak vs india in semi final i want only one change in pakistan team that is wahab replace shoaib . v pakistani waiting for cup

Posted by Rocketman on (March 23, 2011, 18:00 GMT)

to harshvardan

concentrate on beating Australia first. Iknow we have never beaten your team in world cup but heres hoping to a different result inshallah. Ameen.

Posted by fhs on (March 23, 2011, 15:22 GMT)

Congrats on Pakistan's emphatic win over WI in the 1st quarter final. It was one he#$ of a performance! JUST ASWESOME!

Happy Pakistan Day everyone!

Posted by muzammal on (March 23, 2011, 15:07 GMT)

PAKISTAN HAS WON BY 10 WICKETS NO NEED FURTHER DISCUSSION FOR THIS MATCH.

Posted by harshvardhan on (March 23, 2011, 9:30 GMT)

to all pakistanis When was the last time pak beat india in WC encounter anyone ? no prizes for guessing none times its 6-0(odis and t20) infact that bowlout match was too good the yorker specialists could not hit once and indian partimers did that hope to see a indo-pak semifinal at punjab chak de phatte naph de gilli subah jalandar shaame dilli

Posted by Amir khan on (March 23, 2011, 8:05 GMT)

Pakistan shall lose. Wi will destroy the team. Inshallah or not WI will win.

Posted by Khuram Khan on (March 23, 2011, 7:25 GMT)

Pakistan is a better team with two of the best bowlers of the tournament i.e. Afridi and Omar Gul.Batting is balanced but batsmen are not.The only reason Pakistan can lose here is by Divine intervention for the past sins of our Board and Management.

Posted by Watchoutitspaktime on (March 23, 2011, 7:23 GMT)

I think its time for Pak to unleash Junaid Khan against a team thats full of left-handers.

Go pakistan Go!!

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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 editor of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. @KamranAbbasi

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