Pakistan: A reprise of 1992 or 2007?

Posted on February 11, 2011 by

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Brian Philips, in a recent post of his (which is perhaps the kind of blog that pays off all that money wasted on your liberal arts degree), asked if “story [is] something a lot of sports-writing struggles with? I mean story at the simplest level is, the this-happened-and-then-this-happened level, the level of basic immersion and suspense. Compared to, say, fiction, which is deeply invested in being able to create those sorts of total, head-spinning reality-transformations…

What would it mean to open up a newspaper or a blog and find a bunch of pieces that threw out the familiar conventions and tried to give you a vivid sense of what it was actually like to watch a match? What would the conventions of that genre be?”

That is some challenge, if you think about it.

Don’t worry, this is not how we are going to change the genre of sports-writing, but perhaps seeing as we are writing about this love-child of Salvador Dali and Christina Aguilera which is Pakistani cricket, we suppose it can’t be done the normal way either.

First things first, we Pakistanis are a very superstitious lot. It is generally agreed amongst devotees of Pakistan cricket that contrary to popular doctrine, our cricket is not really as mercurial as it seems. Instead, if everyone thinks we’ll do well, we fail. As soon as everyone thinks they’ll fall on their asses, Pakistan hypnotizes the world like a jiggling samurai in super slow-mo. So apart from sounding Rambo Rameez Raja bots, we’ll be as negative as possible in this article so that all of you think we don’t stand a chance…

…and then. [cue dramatic music]

Match Previews

If Mr. Phillips likes for us to think of sports writing in the sense of providing perhaps the visceral experience of describing what it feels like to watch Pakistan play a cricket match, then we don’t quite have the literary chops for it, but then if it wasn’t for keeping interest in different formats and aspects of this sport alive, Pakistan wouldn’t feature. It’s a simple rule of thumb.

So the question is, which teams will Pakistan lose to in a humiliating fashion?

Supposing if Pakistan lose two of their first three matches, it would mean a possible must-win match against Australia. New Zealand are our World Cup b****es, so they’re not a concern, and Zimbabwe are not as weak as the others, so losing to them would not provide the true gut-wrenching vomit-fest which a nail-biting loss to Kenya or Canada would. But Australia have no Hussey, and every time we don’t lose to them in a world cup group stage, we seem to make it to the final. Still, I think we’ll probably need the rain to save us. Possibly in a wash-out which coincides with Sri Lanka tying with Kenya or Canada.

On the note of disappointing all betting maestros- which also means being brutally honest and scarcely positive for a Pakistani- we are expecting walk-overs against the formality kids, i.e. Kenya, Canada and Zimbabwe. As for the stronger teams, we would really like to win at least one but you know if we do, there’s every possibility that we won’t win the cup since our Pakistani formula says win 3 major games against 3 major opponents and run away with a world title (circa 1992, 2009).

Will they be partying like it's 1992?

The major concerns (honestly) are the day-nighters against Sri Lanka and Australia at Premadasa. Our odds see us chasing under lights with that white ball making us dance like we have always done in such scenarios. But we already told you, we are not winning them, so we would like to advise Pakistani readers to do away with these concerns. On a side note, the gaps between our games are pretty constant and ideally suitable for our boys to beach around in the Lankan islands.

Strategy and Team Composition

How comical does this sound? Discussing a game plan for Pakistan team? Shredding notions here, we will try to make a feeble attempt. And if it wasn’t for the last couple of ODI series, we would have been even more clueless. So, what we observe is a revival of the famous 1992, 1999 WC approach, i.e. a solid start, improvise in the middle, end like programmed lunatics. Considering our divine ability of screwing up with the bat, a Pakistani fan should endorse this and hope we put up competitive totals for the bowlers.

We don’t remember any World Cup wins for Pakistan that involves tense chases. We either do comfortable chases, or implode. Hence, if we are to click, it’ll be the time old strategy of bat-first, bowl-em-out later. Anything other than that breaks the script and we’ll have no chance of winning. We are including the dew factor in this. Don’t worry. The paradoxical fact here is that out of the last 6 ODI run chases (versus SA & NZ), we have been successful in 3, came mighty close in one. So going by the seemingly existing game plans (surprise surprise), a good run chase can’t be ruled out, especially taking the placid nature of certain subcontinent tracks.

The bowling should not need much previewing. We are kept being told we have a bowling attack that can get teams cheaply or defend any total, given their switches are turned on; therefore we will just stick to the belief. Ideally, we shall start with Shoaib Akhtar/Wahab Riaz and Abdul Razzaq; with Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi and Mohammed Hafeez in the middle, finished off by Umar Gul, Wahab and Ajmal in the death overs. Practically, brace yourself to witness Afridi screwing up the changes and overs quotas big time.

If Pakistan is to win this world cup, it would need a disastrous team-chemistry and wide spread dysfunctionalism. Which means that there will be great drama, and for every great drama there are heroes and villains – So who will Pakistan’s be?

Villians

Kamran Akmal – Do we even have to explain this?

Middle Order – The pitches and humidity and occasional swing will mean that the middle order is going to play absolutely shit while eating up an insane amount of overs. More importantly, their failures would also assist our greatest assets.

Shoaib Akhtar – (How my heart bleeds writing this) He’ll huff-and-puff and eventually we’ll drop him, with his subsequent affair with a Bollywood child-star providing the requisite scandal overshadowing our knock-out game victories.

Heroes

Abdul Razzaq – Late order madness, Chaminda-Vaas-in-his-grave bowling in Sri Lanka, looking perma-stoned while doing all this – the list of his qualities can go on.

Shahid Afridi – Expect him to keep baffling you with his captaincy talent. He just had the scare of his life by being cornered for a mere captaincy issue by the Butts, with the spot-fixing Butt doing more harm to his ghairat (ego) through his views than the puppy-face senile Ijaz. Moreover, being the Lala loyalists, we are tipping him to behave like the horny bulldog of 2009 and come big in the knock-out games with both bat and ball, preferably on April 2.

Wahab Riaz – We know this maybe a surprise for many since here we pick the fast bowler who will blow the horns and you all would be singing Gull-y Gull-y. Sorry, as much as we would want Gul to be the sorcerer, there’s a feeling that Jacket boy with his yorkers (reverse swinging ones too), change of pace, length variation etcetera could be the surprise package in this regard.

Verdict

Rambo-Raja says: Win the matches against the minnows and progress to the knock-out stages. From there on, be smooth operators and stream-roll teams in the next three. Take the Cup.

We think if Pakistan makes it past the first stage, there’s a high likelihood that it will face India in the quarters. If we beat them… (We can describe what that would feel like, but we think the emotions generated by even the possibility of imagining beating India in India during a World Cup would be so intense it is feared they would rip the space-time continuum).

However, since we always lose to them in the World Cup, playing them would end our Cup right there and then. So we will avoid them. By any means necessary. [Paging Mazhar Majeed, come in Mr. Mazhar Majeed]

After that we’ll need maybe a walkover or an earthquake to make it past one of the teams in the quarters and semis, while winning the other comfortably. Once that happens, unless we’re facing Australia in the final, we’ll script a scarcely believable story that would theoretically defeat extremism, corruption, poverty, ideological identity crises and bad smells from our country, and win the bloody World Cup.

Or first round exit.

Amen.

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Preview by Masuud Qazi and Ahmer Naqvi

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