ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News
Pakistan v West Indies, 1st quarter-final, World Cup 2011, Mirpur
Favourites tag added to pressure - Waqar
March 23, 2011
A ruthless Pakistan can be a frightening (and rare) prospect, for the opposition as much as themselves. Tournament winning Pakistan sides have not, historically, been as smooth in their early progress as this one. But history is only made so that it can either be repeated or eventually erased, and when Pakistan catch a roll, few things in the world are better to watch or harder to stop.
As lost as West Indies looked in Mirpur, Pakistan's intent from the very start was, well, frightening; a fruition of the days of sweat and nights of tired limbs they have talked about in the build-up to this tournament. They are focussed as they have rarely been before. As much exasperation as there will be at the continuing frailties of West Indian cricket, there should be recognition of Pakistan's excellence. "One should give credit to the Pakistan cricket team," Waqar Younis, the Pakistan coach, said after tha game. "I think we played very positive cricket, when we had the ball in our hands and when we batted superbly."
In picking Saeed Ajmal for Wednesday's quarter-final, Pakistan also showed an obvious but all-too-often absent tactical nous, and in continuing not to pick Shoaib Akhtar, an emotional rigidity. A semi-final spot is already a victory of sorts, and the kind of run that has seen them to it, the bonus.
If there could be favourites in a contest involving two mercurial sides, it was probably Pakistan and that brought with it a kind of pressure; with such adoring support, it may as well have been a home game as well. The New Zealand result aside, people have talked up Pakistan since early in the tournament and it is a tag that hasn't always settled easily with them. So to be so jitter-free in such a game took some doing, especially for a side that has struggled to kill games over the last year.
"It was a pressure game for us," Waqar conceded. "Everyone thought we are a far better side and when you are favourites or people think or talk about you being a good side, it creates pressure. But that pressure in a way gave us a boost when we walked in, and picking up Chris Gayle early gave us belief that we can do it straight away."
Their bowling - and even fielding - has in any case been mightily impressive. But the intent in the batting, to not only chase down an admittedly meagre target, but to do it with such conviction and with such a lack of damage - this was only their third ten-wicket win ever, remember - would have pleased them more. The opening pair, in this tournament, or ever for that matter, has not been their strong suit, which is why Waqar made special mention of Mohammad Hafeez and Kamran Akmal's unbeaten 113-run stand.
"Bowling has not been the issue in this tournament for us. Not just here, but when you go back to the New Zealand tour, or against South Africa or England, we've done really well with the bowling. We've struggled with the openers and it is very pleasing to see them get runs like this.
"I hope it helps us in the future games. Hafeez played an outstanding knock with the bat. Full credit to him; when he stuck in with the ball and when he went to bat, he looked like a man in form. The happiest thing for me and the team is that we finished it with command and I think that makes a big difference."
Perhaps it was only appropriate the performance came on March 23rd, or Pakistan Day, something that had crossed Waqar's mind the day before. It is a national holiday and celebrations back home were predictably prolonged. "The hopes in the country were pretty high today. I found out that there was no load shedding [mandatory power blackouts] today and that makes me happier. The entire country watched this game, they prayed for us and it's kind of a gift for them."
Also: the highest by a No. 8 in ODIs, and the highest totals in ten-wicket wins
He understands the Indian mentality better and doesn't have to deal with star players on the wane