PAKISTAN are out of the ICC Cricket World Cup after playing matches that both thrilled and disappointed.
With three losses, a solitary win and a washout in the first half, Pakistan earned the ire of fans for its display of mediocre cricket. And then came the turnaround where they redeemed themselves by beating four teams and putting themselves back in the race for the semi-final spot before being edged out on the scoring rate by New Zealand.
A mercurial team that oscillates between sublime cricket and farce, and are cursed with a legendary ability to self-destruct, Pakistan entered the World Cup as the proverbial dark horse.
They lived up to the description after the stunning opening game defeat to the lowly ranked West Indies and then beating favourites including England, New Zealand and Bangladesh.
But in the final analysis, Pakistan cricket’s inherent troubles got the better of them. Besides political interference, that has seen handpicked people ruling cricket, the PCB’s failure to revamp domestic cricket and bring transparency and method to the appointment of coaches and the selection of the team have hurt the game.
Since the brilliant Champions Trophy win in England in 2017, head coach Mickey Arthur, chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq and skipper Sarfraz Ahmed have been boasting about the two dozen players who were shortlisted and groomed for this World Cup.
Those claims have rung hollow as there were at least five changes to the final World Cup squad that arrived in England.
The late induction of fast bowlers Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz and batsman Asif Ali, besides the last-minute axing of pacer Junaid Khan and Abid Ali, is indicative of the fickle-mindedness that dented team spirit in the early games.
If Pakistan managed to win four successive games, it is a credit to their talent. Prolific batting from Babar Azam, Haris Sohail and Imam-ul-Haq as well as incisive bowling from Amir, Wahab and Shaheen Shah Afridi remain the high points, though Sarfraz Ahmed’s captaincy failed to motivate the players.
The World Cup brings the curtain down on ODI career of struggling all-rounder Shoaib Malik and possibly Mohammad Hafeez. Brilliant youngsters such as Shadab Khan, Hasan Ali and Fakhar Zaman who propelled Pakistan to the Champions Trophy win were a mere shadow of themselves in the World Cup.
The team as well as the administrators need to go back to the drawing board to address the ills that have marred the game’s progress.
Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2019