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Home > Cricket > World Cup 2003 > Reuters > Report

Pakistan promise another Cup roller-coaster

January 27, 2003 21:32 IST

There seems little point in trying to forecast how Pakistan might fare at the 2003 cricket World Cup. Guessing which way the wind will blow might be easier.

This is a mercurial team, capable of lurching dramatically from the divine to the dregs and back -- usually in the face of all logic.

Logic and Pakistan cricket performances, in fact, have never enjoyed a close relationship.

At their best, Pakistan are the most naturally talented side in the sport. At their worst, they are a disorganised rabble whose commitment has been questioned even by their own supporters.

They revealed their true colours at the 1992 World Cup, under the unifying hand of captain Imran Khan. Facing first-round humiliation, they came back to win the trophy after being asked by their captain to fight like "cornered tigers".

Their rock-bottom World Cup display came in 1999, when, with the help of three run-outs and a string of injudicious shots, they inexplicably contrived to lose by 62 runs to Bangladesh.

True, the team went on to reach that year's final anyway, where they were outclassed by Australia, but the result angered many.

To put matters into perspective, Pakistan had played Bangladesh in Dhaka just before the World Cup and obliterated them by 233 runs, the second biggest victory margin of all time.

The first time they met after the tournament, Pakistan -- again in Dhaka -- won by 152. Bangladesh, meanwhile, have never won again since the 1999 World Cup.

COMPLACENT APPROACH

Skipper Wasim Akram, in trying to explain the result, said his side had been "complacent". He was later cleared of any wrongdoing during a match-fixing inquiry but barred from leading the team again.

If Pakistan, who feature in the tougher group A alongside the likes of Australia, India, England and Zimbabwe, can show the commitment and unity of a decade ago, they will certainly trouble the best in South Africa.

Their line-up simply bristles with exotic talent.

Wasim, in his swansong tournament and man of the match in that 1992 final, has taken more one-day wickets than any other player. Skipper and fellow paceman Waqar Younis is the only other man to get past 400.

Inzamam-ul-Haq, he of the velvet hands, is the third highest limited-overs run-scorer in history, three places ahead of team mate Saeed Anwar.

Shoaib Akhtar is the fastest bowler in the world and world-class off spinner Saqlain Mushtaq one of only two men to take a World Cup hat-trick. Abdul Razzaq is among only a handful of genuine all rounders currently playing.

The list of superlatives is virtually endless.

Yet Pakistan still managed to make such a mess of their tournament warm-up that they lost a Test series against the South Africans 2-0, having been hammered 4-1 in the one-dayers.

To make matters worse, rumours of behind-the-scenes problems continued to dog the team, with Wasim and Waqar's testy relationship at their nerve centre.

KNEE INJURY

Shoaib, meanwhile, sent home for treatment on a knee injury, was spotted instead partying in South Africa.

It may be a case of too many long-in-the-tooth generals and match-winners and not enough foot soldiers willing to do the 'hard yards'.

As Waqar himself says: "When you have six or seven established players -- many of them former captains themselves -- then you have many different opinions on how to approach a situation."

The never-ending coaching merry-go-round -- Richard Pybus is currently back in charge for his fourth tenure after Mudassar Nazar was sacked in September -- has not helped either.

At least things are more stable, though, than at the last World Cup. In 1999, Pakistan had five different coaches.

Ultimately, everything this year will depend on which Pakistan turns up on the key World Cup dates.

South Africa, for one, will not have been lulled into a false sense of security.

They may have cruised to victory in the recent one-day series but Pakistan's single win in Port Elizabeth handed the home team their heaviest defeat in limited-overs history -- by 182 runs.

As South Africa skipper Shaun Pollock put it: "It just puts into perspective how good this Pakistan can be."

© Copyright 2003 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.


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Number of User Comments: 2




Sub: Cornered to glory

There is no questioning Pakistani talent. Pakistan historically seems to produce its best when cornered/ are on the backfoot. They are usually not very good ...


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Sub: Pakistan's Performance in World Cup

Although Pakistan probably has an overall best bowling attack in the world, but that's not good enough to win the World Cup 2003. A lot ...


Posted by Kashan Saeed




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