Pakistan, 1992 champions, may be down but are certainly not out of the World Cup
A lot of Pakistani supporters are seeking inspiration from the 1992 World Cup, which brought similar returns for them as compared to the 2019 edition till now. In that tournament as well, Pakistan were on a losing streak, until they turned it around, out of the blue.
Pakistan's 2019 campaign almost identical to 1992 till now
The Men in Green lost their first match against West Indies by 10 wickets in the 1992 World Cup. This year as well, they lost their championship opener against West Indies by seven wickets. In the second game in 1992, Pakistan had won against Zimbabwe by 53 runs. This year, they won against England by 14 runs.
In 1992, their third match was abandoned due to rain and Pakistan's match against Sri Lanka met a similar fate. Their fourth match in the 1992 World Cup saw Pakistan suffer a 43-run defeat against India. This year, they lost their corresponding match against Australia by 41 runs. Pakistan lost their fifth match in 1992 against South Africa by 20 runs, while they lost their fifth match of the ongoing tournament by 89 runs against India.
It was around this time in the 1992 edition as well that Pakistan made an inspired turn around and won all the matches from there on, ultimately beating England in the World Cup final, to lift the trophy.
The insurmountable pressure of expectations
There is so much build-up around every India-Pakistan game and when that match is in a World Cup, the excitement of the fans goes through the roof. However, viewers have witnessed anti-climatic India-Pakistan matches one after the other, but continue to hope against hope.
The main reason for this disappointment is that the fans continue to hold on to the past rivalry and condition themselves to believe that they will witness another close game. But those who have been following cricket over a substantial amount of time know that the build-up is more off-field and in the media than on the ground.
There was a time when Pakistan was studded with the likes of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis Shoaib Akhtar, Aaqib Javed, Saqlain Mushtaq, Saeed Anwar, Aamir Sohail, Inzamam-ul-Haq and the like. Now, especially over the last five-seven years, their skill sets having taken a certain hit. It only adds to the pressure on the team when they take on top sides with the burden of expectations in multinational tournaments, which spills over to all matches.
Fresh personnel to fuel the remaining campaign
The team is likely to benefit after shedding the baggage that it had been carrying all along.
Coach Mickey Arthur alluded to this after their win against South Africa. "I thought Haris was outstanding and I like seeing players come back like that. That is what we want to try and produce. You can’t have comfort zones in any international cricket team. We talk a lot in our team about winning performances – it’s not about the 50 or 80 that personally looks a good performance but isn’t helping us win games," Arthur noted.
Accepted that Shoaib Malik has been a great servant of Pakistan cricket for a long time but after more than 20 ODIs in England, he averages less than 15, which is not acceptable for an international cricketer.
Likewise, despite Hasan Ali being the leading bowler for the last couple of years, he lost his zing and was unable to pick up wickets in the middle overs, which had been his defining role. Moreover, the pacer had lost control and was pitching one ball too full and the other too short and hence paying the price. He was not only leaking runs but was also not allowing other bowlers to create pressure, which is why the team was paying heavily. Now that the team has entrusted faith in the likes of Haris Sohail and Shaheen Afridi, the results are already visible.
Can Pakistan emulate their 1992 heroics?
Pakistan is one team which is very difficult to stop once it gets on a roll and if they can win their following match against New Zealand as well, the momentum that they will generate is likely to take them a long way.
With their comprehensive win over South Africa in the sixth match, Pakistan do have a chance of making it to the semi-finals, if they win all their remaining three matches. This will take them to 11 points which should be good enough to make it to the semis.
With their World Cup campaign back on track, the fans are expecting a repeat of the 1992 World Cup. However, the biggest question is that whether they have a leader like Imran Khan who can marshal his troops and extract the most out of his players.
©Cricket World 2019