Pakistan is one great team which can beat itself comprehensively. Experts over the years have not been able to comprehend the reasons for the under-performance of this maverick team.
Pakistan, perhaps, has its roots of self-inflicting woes from the inaugural Prudential World Cup league match in 1975 when it allowed the West Indies to recover from 203 for nine and chase down the target of 267.
Many hearts were broken that night as Javed Miandad, making his debut, learnt the painful side of the game. His team had done little wrong and yet finished a loser. West Indies went on to win the Cup.
Rising from the brink
Miandad, along with Imran Khan, lived his dream of winning a World Cup in 1992 when Pakistan scaled the summit in Australia, rising from the brink to emerge champion.
Gifted with awesome talent, Pakistan has been a team to admire in the history of the World Cup — semifinalists four times (1979, 1983, 1987 and 2011), quarterfinalists twice (1996 and 2015) and runner-up once (1999). It has had a stunning run in the World Cup, beginning each edition as one of the favourites.
This time too, Pakistan has its backers regardless of its recent form — slammed 5-0 in New Zealand, losing to India and Bangladesh in the Asia Cup, a 5-0 pounding by Australia in UAE and the 4-0 defeat in the five-match ODI series against England. But, as they say of Pakistan, ignore it at your peril.
The format is a pleasant reminder for Pakistan of the 1992 experience. A rain-marred contest against England, when it split points and escaped elimination, should fire the aspirations of the team which has nothing to lose really.
Known to play recklessly at a frequent rate, Pakistan can afford to take the field without any pressures. And that is precisely what propels Sarfaraz Ahmed and his boys to whip up their passions and take on opponents who seem stronger on paper.
Pakistan does not play the opposition on the latter’s reputation. It never did. This team has a wonderful trait — amazing self-belief — to project itself as champion material.
Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq are explosive batsmen with Babar Azam and Haris Sohail capable of consolidating. The top-order batting power is the team’s strength. Mohammad Amir, the versatile left-arm seamer, is a mighty force by himself.
The two 19-year-olds, Shaheen Afridi and Mohammad Hasnain, with his scorching pace, can rattle the best. Hasan Ali and Wahab Riaz lend flair with their ability to get breakthroughs while Shadab Khan and Imad Wasm add variety with their slow stuff.
The enormously experienced batting trio of Sarfaraz, Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez complete the challenge that Pakistan brings to its campaign.
The spirit of Asif Ali, mourning his daughter’s death and returning to serve the team, is bound to bond the team into a formidable force. Imran did it in 1992 when he targeted the World Cup to raise charity for a cancer hospital. It would be fascinating to see if Pakistan turns this summer into a celebration of achievement.