Pakistan still on track for World Cup despite England setback

Men in Green still boast a strong team that will be a major threat in the mega event

Pakistan still on track for World Cup despite England setback PHOTO: AFP

The International Cricket Council (ICC) 2019 World Cup is fast approaching. Pakistan has experienced a colossal dip in their one-day international (ODI) fortunes right before the mega event.

The dip can be traced back to the series against Australia. Pakistan and Australia clashed for a five-match series in the UAE. Expectations were high. The World Cup loomed large over the horizon.

Pakistan was thoroughly outplayed in that series which resulted in a five-nil scoreline in favour of the visitors.

Murmurs about Pakistan’s inadequate preparations began but were quickly put to rest as the final series against England before the World Cup drew closer.

This was a clash against the number one ODI team in their home ground. This was supposed to be the perfect practise for the World Cup.

It has been anything but perfect ever since. Pakistan have been dominated in all aspects of the game by a side that is as merciless as its ranking suggests. Pakistan players have looked helpless in front of the English onslaught.

Should we as Pakistanis, press the panic button? Are we doomed to mediocrity in this World Cup? Is this a prelude to a tame World Cup exit?

It might be a possibility. However it remains unlikely. Pakistan still boasts a very strong team that will be a major threat in the World Cup.

The Men in Green played a full strength Australia side with an effectively second string team. Pakistan rested six of its main players, wicketkeeper-batsman Sarfaraz Ahmed, opener Fakhar Zaman, all-rounder Shadab Khan and pacers Shaheen Afridi and Hasan Ali, in a bid to have them fresh for the World Cup.

The result was a one-sided series in Australia’s favour. This was a bad outcome but not a harbinger of things to come.

The series against England was supposed to be the real test. However, Pakistan found itself without the services of four players who were the architects of Pakistan’s Champions Trophy victory in 2017.

All-rounders Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Hafeez, Shadab and left-arm pacer Mohammad Amir for different reasons have not been able to take part in the series.

Playing the number-one ODI team is hard; doing it in their home ground is harder, doing so without four of your most-experienced players is almost impossible.

These losses therefore are not a true reflection of Pakistan’s World Cup chances.

Zaman is back to scoring runs, opener Imamul Haq is breaking records, and lower-order hitter Asif Ali seems to have finally cracked the code of providing consistent power hitting at the end of an innings.

Add to that, the power hitting of Malik, the economical bowling of Amir, the adaptability of Hafeez and the young spirit of Shadab, and you have a line-up that is every bit a threat to win the World Cup as former India captain Sourav Ganguly suggested.

We are in the end-game now. It would bode well for Pakistan to fall back on its original avengers who stole the show at the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy.