World Cup Journal #3: Fall of the Minnows and the Rise of Pakistan
In the last couple of weeks of World Cup cricket, we’ve been perplexed by the bizarre, and blown away by the blitzkrieg of some players stamping their dominance on others (and no, none of them was Hitler). However, in this week, things have been a little more, to use the word, normal. All in all, the results of the various matches have been good for the safe better, and tough for the radical. Everything has been fairly predictable, with good teams beating minnows fairly comfortably.
Now I’m not saying that we’ve not seen exciting cricket; quite the contrary. We’ve seen some excellent cricket, with just as much muscle and excitement as ever. In fact, 3 of the top 5 totals in all World Cups were made in the last 10 days, one of which was in the top 10 for all time ODI scores (Australia’s 417-6 vs. Afghanistan). Rather, what I’m saying is that the results of the matches haven’t been anything of a surprise. For example, South Africa scored a match-winning 411-4 vs. Ireland on Tuesday. Of course, most people would have been willing to bet that South Africa would indeed make a mammoth score and beat Ireland, but none of them would sit there and say “this is boring.” Similarly, what I’m trying to say is that there has been an air of predictability to the results here, but they have certainly not been boring.
Another point I wanted to highlight was the rise of Pakistan. Now, Pakistan got off to a horrid start, losing their military-tension clash vs. India, and then dropping like dominoes in the face of a stoic West Indies bowling lineup. They were terrible defeats, both statistically and morally. Even in their clash against Zimbabwe, their batting lineup slugged along, and it took an all-round show from Wahab Riaz to get them over the line. Then, however, against the UAE their showing was much more convincing, with Ahmed Shehzad and Haris Sohail leading from the front with the bat to take Pakistan to 339, followed by a spirited bowling show to keep UAE down to 210. However, they saved their best for the best, as Sarfraz Ahmed backed up his sublime run-a-ball 49 at the top with 6 catches behind the stumps, and coupled with the 3 left arm seamers’ 9 wickets between them to pull off a stunner that left the Protea side (wait for it) stunned.
I think that while Pakistan have shown clear signs of weakness, particularly in their batting lineup, they may be peaking at the right time, and may just pull it off. My personal view is that their biggest concern would be Shahid Afridi’s mediocre form. The all-rounder truly led from the front in the last tournament, and marshalled his troops sublimely to make it to the semifinals. He hasn’t been in top form this year, but I believe that if he can come to the party, Pakistan have a great chance of making it big.