If there was one team that could surprise you in a World Cup match, it has to be Pakistan. Their records may speak a story of a slumbering form, but their performance on a particular day has nothing to do with it.
This is what we saw from the Pakistan side in this World Cup 2019. They came into the tournament on the back of a losing streak, and won only one match out of their first five encounters, including an embarassing 89-run defeat to arch-rivals India.
The format was same as that of 1992, and so was Pakistan's journey in the World Cup. The belief to win went higher with each match and had there been a few results in place, Pakistan would have been in the semi-finals. However, the defeats against India and West Indies hurt their run rate badly and they were left with an arduous task to defeat Bangladesh by an unsurmountable margin of over 308 runs in the final league stage encounter.
Needless to say, their inconsistency got the better of them in this campaign, with even four wins in a row unable to save them from exiting the tournament from the group stages. Here is an analysis of some highs and lows from Pakistan's campaign.
Pakistan's moment in the World Cup
Finding rhythm late in tournaments is not new for Pakistan. However, things were different this time. The 7th World Cup defeat against arch-rivals India saw the Sarfaraz Ahmed-led side cope with endless bouts of criticism.
However, the group, defying every minute amount of criticism stood tall in their last four games, winning games against South Africa, New Zealand, Afghanistan and Bangladesh to bow out on a high.
From there, it was a journey of redemption. With convincing wins against South Africa and New Zealand, they made a huge statement. Bringing in Haris Sohail and Shaheen Afridi worked for them, and suddenly the Pakistan side was on song.
However, it was a victory too late for Pakistan. Their dependence on other teams grew with time. With England roaring back to form against India and New Zealand, their chances eventually reduced to a mere mathematical possibility.
Best Performer: Shaheen Shah Afridi
The tall, young Pakistani left arm was the spark in the team during the latter half of the tournament. It was his wickets upfront which made Pakistan's opening attack lethal along with Mohammed Amir. He took three wickets against New Zealand, four against Afghanistan and six against Bangladesh.
It was his first World Cup, and had to warm the benches on some occasions, but with performances like these, he has the potential to become the next big thing in Pakistan. Other notable mentions for Pakistan include Haris Sohail and Babar Azam with the bat and Mohammed Amir with the ball.
Disappointing Performer: Fakhar Zaman
With only 183 runs from 8 matches, Fakhar Zaman could not do justice to his role in the team. Modern day cricket is a top-heavy game, and his form was crucial for the team, but he could not capitalize on the starts. Hence, Pakistan were always devoid of a strong opening partnership which added pressure on the middle order.
His form also exposed the lack of a reserve opener in the Pakistani camp, who could have been used in place of Zaman.
Fielding was undoubtedly one of the biggest letdowns for Pakistan. They dropped the most number of catches, and those catches could have potentially changed the outcome of the tight matches.
Even in their winning moments against South Africa, it was their traditional bowling that stood up, and not their fielding. The ground fielding has to improve as well, to convert the half chances and add pressure on opposition batsmen.
Overall, Pakistan certainly have a couple of positive takeaways from the tournament. The country's biggest USP of producing some of the best fast bowling resources was on display.
Babar Azam and Haris Sohail looked good on the batting front. The bowling unit was in good form, with Mohammad Amir, Wahaz Riaz and Shaheen Afridi complementing each other. If the openers can give them runs in the future, Pakistan will be a force to reckon with in the coming years.
Also read – World cup winners listPublished 15 Jul 2019, 01:48 IST