Will the 2015 Pakistan be able to match the feat of the 1992 team?
Sydney, February 8 (IANS)
The last time the World Cup was held in Australia and New Zealand, a certain Imran Khan-led Pakistan side clinched its maiden quadrennial cricket title.
However, it is 2015 and not 1992, but the highly talented and dangerous team would want to repeat the same result as they did 23 years ago.
Pakistan this time around are not the favourites. They don't have many stars in their line-up. To add to their troubles, a couple of their top players have been ruled out of the tournament.
Nevertheless, their traditional unpredictability remains their biggest strength, something which has always aided them in the past.
The Misbah ul Haq-led side go into the 11th edition of the ICC World Cup with a handful of issues.
The withdrawals of all-rounder Mohammed Hafeez and left-arm pacer Junaid Khan from the mega event have come as a severe blow to their chances. Though their ace spinner Saeed Ajmal was recently cleared of having a legal bowling action by the International Cricket Council (ICC), his match-fitness remains a big question.
Also, their 0-2 loss to hosts New Zealand in the latest bilateral One-Day International (ODI) series in the build-up to the World Cup have not helped in the quest for a strong preparation.
Despite the problems, 40-year-old Misbah will still give his best to inspire Pakistan like Imran did in 1992, when they came from nowhere to eventually lift the world title at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).
Misbah, like Imran in 1992, had announced well in advance that the World Cup will be his last ODI tournament and the veteran would want to finish his career on a high.
Pakistan's bowling has been their traditional strength. The seven-foot-tall Mohammed Irfan and proven match-winner Wahab Riaz, both left-armers, will lead their pace attack with Ajmal expected to reach match fitness as the tournament progresses.
Veteran Shahid Afridi is one of the key players who has to perform if Pakistan want to move ahead in the showpiece event. His stinging spin bowling backed by his 'boom, boom' batting always makes him a ready-made match-winner.
However, Pakistan have been grouped in Pool B along with South Africa, the West Indies, Zimbabwe, Ireland, United Arab Emirates and defending champions India. Their opening match will be against India at the Adelaide Oval on February 15 and Pakistan would want to set their record straight.
In five World Cup meetings, the last being the 2011 World Cup semi-final in Mohali, Pakistan have never been able to beat India. The match could very well decide the momentum of the group at the quadrennial event.
They are coached by legendary speedster Waqar Younis, who missed out the 1992 World Cup due to an injury and who would want to add the trophy to his cabinet. Pakistan views the tournament being held in Australia and New Zealand as a good omen.
The 1992 champions hope to repeat their success achieved 23 summers ago, when they lifted the World Cup Down Under against all odds, at the dawn of coloured clothing, day-and-night matches and video referrals.
This Pakistan side does not possess the stars that they had in 1992 but with potentially dangerous cricketers, they can beat the best on any given day. They are not the favourites, but clearly no team will ever take them lightly.
The squad: Ahmed Shehzad, Ehsan Adil, Haris Sohail, Misbah ul Haq (captain), Nasir Jamshed, Mohammad Irfan, Rahat Ali, Sarfraz Ahmed, Shahid Afridi, Sohaib Maqsood, Sohail Khan, Umar Akmal, Wahab Riaz, Yasir Shah, Younis Khan.