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June 16, 2019

Mercurial or mediocre?


June 16, 2019

So far, Pakistan’s Cricket World Cup plans have not gone well. On Sunday, Sarfaraz Ahmed’s men take on Virat Kohli’s powerful Indian side which has so far won each of the matches it has played and done so with considerable verve and confidence. The Pakistan team which won against England, but lost by significant margins to both the West Indies and Australia, with one match washed away by rain, has at times shown promise and poise. But a lack of thinking and strategy seems to handicap it, as does the fact that it lacks star performers who could possibly turn around a game on their own. This means the entire unit must perform consistently and reliably, as it did against England, if a victory is to be its reward.

In the game against Australia, which seems to have plunged people into something resembling despair ahead of that crucial game with India, there has been criticism over team selection, the lack of attacking approach and the manner in which Pakistan’s bowlers handled the first 30 overs of the game, frequently pitching short and not taking advantage of the slightly overcast conditions and a green wicket by putting the ball at a fuller length. The middle order backing did not quite come off either at the most critical moments. Sarfaraz is being called a poor captain. But the problem perhaps lies with selection as well and the overall capabilities of a team that has struggled with all forms of cricket except the abbreviated T-20 version. It is too late at this point to go into the intricacies of selection, captaincy or the overall structure of Pakistan cricket. For now, what we must do is hope that Pakistan can plan more effectively to make best use of its resources. The team has been called mercurial by some, and mediocre by others who have been less kind. But what we can agree on is that there is plenty of potential. It just needs to come together.

In the upcoming contest on Sunday, tensions are especially high. Many Pakistanis, both at home and around the world, will be banking on their team. The nature of sport and subcontinental cricket makes it inevitable. But it is also necessary that we exhibit dignity and good sportsmanship. The resort to ugly slurs and unpleasant attacks on either our own players or those wearing the Indian colours are not welcome. India’s recent use of military insignia on the playing field is even less pleasant. Many in that country as well as others have been appalled by it. But in the end, at the moment, it is the game and the individual performances of all 22 players on the field which should matter.

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