ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features
World Cup 2011
XI Reasons why Pakistan will win the World Cup
From the hungriest captain to a date with fate, here are XI reasons for Pakistan fans to believe
February 12, 2011
They have the hungriest captain
Beware the carefree man who suddenly decides to become preoccupied. For most of his career, Shahid Afridi has played with such daredevil abandon that Pakistan supporters often wondered whose side he was on. Now he cuts a determined leonine figure, hungrily eyeing prey as he prowls open grasslands. You can see the single-mindedness written all over his face. In the twilight of his career, he can see the greatest of prizes on the horizon, and all he has to do is outrun the competition. He is going to drain every ounce to get it done.
Stars are lined up for an Asian team that is not the host
We often think of Australia as the dominant force of recent World Cup history, but Asian teams haven't been far behind. In fact, there has been an Asian team in each World Cup final since 1992, which augurs well for an Asian team making it to the last two in 2011 as well. Add to this the well known World Cup adage that the host side never wins, and you can see that Pakistan - the only Asian team that happens not to be the host - is comfortably placed to come out on top.
Honesty of effort is guaranteed
Thankfully, the spot-fixers have now been tarred and feathered. This landmark development will surely motivate the remaining cricketers to play to the best of their potential. Cleared of distractions that have been diluting their efforts, a more linear relationship between Pakistan's talent and output can be expected to emerge. Everybody better watch out.
Their momentum is surging
By November last year, Pakistan had the poorest ODI record of any team in 2010, worse even than Zimbabwe. Yet they started to pick themselves up bit by bit, and now enter the World Cup with a win-loss ratio that places them ahead of West Indies, New Zealand, Bangladesh, and Zimbabwe. Extrapolated over the next few weeks, this steady trajectory is headed straight to the top of the heap.
They know how to hold their nerve
Knockout matches in the World Cup can easily become a high-stakes quicksand heading into the final overs, when panic can unravel the best talent and preparation. Pakistanis are famous for squandering and surrendering, but they also know how to handle themselves in a close finish. Of the eighteen matches in ODI history decided by 1 wicket with 1 ball or less to spare, Pakistan has been the winner in six, more often than any other team. Pakistani supporters will be loath to agree, but statistics show that tense endings can bring the best out of Pakistan.
They fire best when cornered
We all know the "cornered tigers" story - Imran Khan's stirring exhortation that transformed his scattered 1992 side into champions. There's a good reason it has become folklore - it's utterly true. Squeeze them into a corner and push them against the wall, and Pakistan will explode with the force of a nuclear warhead. Circumstances have lately been pushing and squeezing Pakistan badly - a forfeited Test, doping scandals, an inexplicably dead coach, the stigma of insecurity, and a terrorist attack. The spot-fixing catastrophe may well prove to be the final trigger.
The 2011 format favours a mercurial outfit
After the disaster of the 2007 World Cup, when crowd-pullers India and Pakistan made preliminary exits, the ICC came up with a new formula for 2011, in which wins against unranked teams guarantee a quarter-final spot. After that, it's a rapid-fire shootout and three wins gets you the cup. This creates a truly open field in which Pakistan's unpredictability is a potential advantage.
Their talent is deceptive and disarming
Pakistani players are recognized for world-class talent, but they often apply it haphazardly, getting out to senseless shots and suicidal run outs, and undermining clever bowling by needless wides, no-balls, dropped catches, and erratic ground fielding. The overall effect is to appear attractive but not threatening, like a beautiful cat striking a languid pose. Sharp claws lurk beneath the surface, but you just don't see them and it can trick you into dropping your guard.
They have a seasoned brain trust
Imagine a Pakistan team meeting, and it immediately inspires confidence. Captain Afridi is at the head of the table, vice-captain Misbah is next to him, and Younis Khan, Abdul Razzaq and Shoaib Akhtar occupy the other senior spots. When tactics are discussed, wisdom and experience flows. There are over a thousand ODIs between them, and invaluable know-how from numerous high-stakes encounters, including a successful World Twenty20 title fight. If and when it hits the fan, these are the guys you want in charge.
What doesn't kill you makes you stronger
It's one of Friedrich Nietzsche's most memorable quotes, and it applies unambiguously to Pakistan, a team that has been through hardships of all kinds. Any one of these blows could have proved lethal, but it didn't. Not only has the Pakistan team lived to tell the tale, it has managed to accumulate the skills for handling adversity that no other team possesses.
They have a date with fate
Pakistan is a team that has been slapped, beaten, shamed, and kicked about. Murphy's Law states that if anything can go wrong, it will, and for Pakistan this has proven to be a resounding truth. So much has gone wrong for them, in fact, that they are finally due for some much-needed relief. No season lasts forever, it is darkest before the dawn, and nature loves a balance. In short, several pieces of time-honoured wisdom point to Pakistan finally catching a break.
#politeenquiries: Your questions answered on Cook's "badly misjudged declaration", Shan Masood, and more
Ed Smith: It might sound counter-intuitive but players can convert the experience of mental strain into purposefulness, and derive strength from it
Its image as an establishment game fits uncomfortably with the impulse to spread T20 cricket to a wider audience
Ahmer Naqvi on why Stuart Broad is a little bit Pakistani
The Cricket Monthly July issue
Also, losing ten-fors, and back to back Tests at Lord's