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ICC World Cup 2011: Are Pakistan Also-Rans Or Possible Winners?
Barely a few months before the start of the 2011 ICC World Cup, Pakistan were in disarray. A team struggling to find its feet at a time when there were hardly any matches at home, Pakistan were hit where it hurt the most when the spot-fixing scam broke out.
Not only did the incident wreak havoc on their already battered morale, it also deprived the Pakistan team of three key players ahead of the upcoming mega event. Md Amir has already emerged as the most exciting fast bowling prospect on the horizon; Asif seemed to have put his past struggles behind him as the pair helped Pakistan to Test wins against Australia and England. After the dismissal of senior players like Younus Khan and Md Yusuf, Salman Butt was the established batsman occupying the crucial opening position in a team bereft of stability at the top of the order.
While other teams have been told to announce their lists of 30 likely players for the World Cup by January 19 at the latest, the ICC has allowed Pakistan’s board to delay its announcement pending a hearing into allegations of abuse of taints against the tainted. trio. And by the time the final hearing was adjourned to Feb. 5, the board had given up any hope it might have harbored about the accused players’ innocence or their ability to prove said innocence. The selectors went ahead and announced their 15 for the cup.
There were few, if any, surprises like the inclusion of Tanvir in the 15 (subsequently amended) and the exclusion of Pakistan’s most technically accomplished current batsman, Md Yusuf. All indications were that the team consists of a bunch of youngsters and a few seniors who haven’t introduced any consistency of form in recent times like Afridi, Misbah, Younis Khan and Kamran Akmal.
The bowling, usually the strength of the side, would be led by Shoaib Akhtar, of suspect fitness at the age of 35, and Gul, who has remained with the team for a long time, albeit always overshadowed by the more experienced bowling. There were also some young new ball handlers like Wahab Riaz, along with an old war horse in Abdul Razzaq.
While India and Sri Lanka were considered among the favorites to win the World Cup, their subcontinental rivals Pakistan were considered unlikely to win despite being seen as unpredictable and capable of beating any team on their day.
And with the captain not being announced until after the New Zealand tour, speculation over who will get the top job would normally be expected to divide the team into rival factions. But Misbah, one of the contenders, alongside Afridi, put such speculations to rest by stating that he is perfectly happy playing under Afridi.
After Pakistan’s famous victory over Sri Lanka on February 26, all this seems like a distant past. Not only do Pakistan look set to book a spot for themselves in the quarter-finals, they also look set to finish higher than Sri Lanka in Group A.
Should Pakistan manage to finish second in the group, they would have to face the third-placed team in Group B – probably England – for a place in the semi-finals. That would be a more welcome prospect than playing South Africa or India, and Afridi’s team would fancy their chances of making it to the last four. And that should be a terrifying thought for their opponents.
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