Looking for redemption

Mind games… Shahid Afridi at a press conference in Dhaka ahead of the World Cup. The Pakistan captain's exuberance should be the motivating factor for the team.-AP

Batting is Pakistan's forte with the immensely experienced all-rounder Abdul Razzaq (254 ODIs) listed at No. 8. Its depth, in batting and bowling, makes Pakistan the team to watch out for, writes Vijay Lokapally.

Most people confess that Pakistan is the most unpredictable team in the world. It is also the most dangerous team when it comes to proving a point. The World Twenty20 Championship triumph in 2009 showed how Pakistan is capable of springing a surprise. In the forthcoming World Cup too, the team promises to surprise the world.

Savaged by off-field problems, and the fact that its cricket administration has left a lot to be desired, Pakistan has remarkably managed to stay afloat. True, the team has suffered a drop in form and reputation, for various reasons, but it is a matter of credit that some of the players have managed to hang on and stay focussed, thereby keeping Pakistan cricket alive. The spot-fixing allegations against some of its leading players and the lack of quality cricket at home have only helped in making the Pakistan players far more determined in their attempt to regain their dignity. A former champion under the inspiring leadership of Imran Khan, Pakistan is now groping in the absence of a similar leader.

The ban on Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif, who were involved in the spot-fixing scandal, has certainly hurt Pakistan. Imran was candid when he said, “I think they were the best opening bowlers in the world. They would have given Pakistan the edge in the World Cup. Their suspension will hurt Pakistan.”

Meanwhile, former captain Inzamam-ul-Haq feared that the captaincy issue may create factions within the team.

Shahid Afridi's appointment as captain came as a ray of hope for the talented Pakistani team. The new faces in the squad have the ability to win a match on their own. These youngsters have a fierce desire to succeed, as was evidenced in Pakistan's recent showing in New Zealand where it won both the Test and one-day series.

Even conceding that Pakistan cricket is passing through its worst phase, the team for the World Cup is well balanced. Its composition makes Pakistan a major force in all conditions. The captaincy issue reflected poorly on the state of affairs in Pakistan cricket and was widely criticised by some former stars such as Imran Khan, Javed Miandad and Zaheer Abbas.

Imran observed, “Pakistan is a very unpredictable side. It will have to play out of the ordinary to make a mark in the World Cup. Afridi is the only player who can pull the team together. If he has a purple patch, he can carry the team with him.”

True, Afridi's exuberance and his presence should be the motivating factor that Pakistan has been waiting for. He is one of the most explosive batsmen in limited overs cricket and has some fine talent to back his aspirations. Misbah-ul-Haq and Afridi would be the key to Pakistan's efforts in regaining the World Cup it won in 1992.

Umar Gul should be effective in the sub-continent conditions. Wahab Riaz has emerged as a bowler of promise along with all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez but the maverick Shoaib Akhtar will be expected to play the leading role. A lot depends on how Afridi handles Akhtar and the spinners.

Batting is Pakistan's strong point with the immensely experienced all-rounder Abdul Razzaq (254 ODIs) listed at No. 8. Its depth in batting and bowling makes Pakistan the team to watch out for.