On October 6, Pakistan will take on the Netherlands in their opening game of the ICC men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 in the Indian city of Hyderabad. The national team’s opening game of the quadrennial spectacle will come just a few weeks after its shocking exit from the six-nation Asia Cup following back-to-back defeats against India and Sri Lanka in rain-hit games in Colombo. The disappointing performance in the Asia Cup, an event hosted by Pakistan and in which they started out as one of the title favourites, isn’t the only setback for the Pakistanis in the lead up to the World Cup in India. Two of their key fast bowlers – Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf – are nursing injuries and there are doubts whether the duo would be at their best in the World Cup, a physically demanding tournament that will conclude on November 19. Their batting lineup also has a few chinks in the armour with potential match-winners like Fakhar Zaman completely out of form.
Questions have also been raised about the captaincy of Babar Azam in the Asia Cup in which Pakistan were hammered by arch-rivals India by 228 runs. It has been a rapid and rather surprising fall for Babar and his team as just a few weeks ago their fans were celebrating Pakistan’s rise to No 1 team in the One-day International rankings following a clean sweep of Afghanistan in a bilateral series. It is important for Pakistan to quick remedies to ensure that the national team is able to give its best in the World Cup.
On October 14, Pakistan will face India in the biggest game of the World Cup’s initial rounds at what is the world’s biggest cricket stadium in Ahmedabad. This will be a perfect opportunity for Pakistan to not only avenge their embarrassing Asia Cup defeat but also settle scores with the Indians, who made a mess of the Asia Cup. Pakistan were looking forward to hosting the event, the biggest on their soil in a long time, but the Indian cricket board spoiled their party by refusing to send its team to Pakistan. Most of the Asia Cup games were moved to Sri Lanka where wet weather affected most of them. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) failed to deal with the rich and powerful Indian cricket board (BCCI) which was able to minimize Pakistan’s role in the Asia Cup despite the country being a host. The only way for Pakistan to fight back is by shining on the cricket field. They failed to do that in Colombo. But one hopes our players will pull up their socks and give their best in India. There is a lot for them to play for.