When Pakistan's pre-World Cup England series was booked, it must and should have been billed as a coup. An ODI series against tournament hosts less than a month before the big event begins is an advantage other contenders will not have. It's shrewd planning on part of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and certainly a job well done.
The board's thinkers routinely catch flak for a variety of reasons, and deservedly so, but this was a departure from their standard operating procedure. In theory, the Men in Green are now likely to be more accustomed to English conditions before the 10-team 50-over spectacle kicks off on May 30.
There is one area of concern though that will escape the optimists' attention now, and may only reveal itself if the squad suddenly looks devoid of energy — God forbid — during the tournament. Of course, by that time it would only be taken as a point in hindsight and will thus be overshadowed by the ensuing clamour.
So, here it goes.
Sarfraz Ahmed and co started their pre-World Cup campaign earlier than all other teams by landing in England a full month and a week before the kickoff. Three days after their April 24 touchdown, they played their first tour match against Kent, and another against Northamptonshire two days later, winning both with ease.
Next up is another tour match against Leicestershire, which will make way for the only T20I against England and then the valuable five-match ODI series, also against England. Another two warm-up matches later, the team will enter the World Cup 2019.
That makes it a total of 11 matches over a month before the actual tournament has even begun. And when it does begins, there are at least nine guaranteed matches waiting for Sarfraz's two-thirds of a fit unit in what will be the longest and the most taxing cricket world cups we've ever known.
To give you an idea, the neighbouring India have only two warm-ups scheduled for the entire month of May. Just two matches in English conditions and off they will be for the World Cup.
Being well prepared is one thing, but expecting a 15-man Pakistan side to last 20 matches over two arduous and gruelling months is a stretch. Even more so when, as pointed out many times in the recent past, one squad member has a chronically bad knee, another is still recovering from a thumb surgery, another has a viral infection and two others have never been on a foreign tour, let alone survive one.
It makes one wonder if the 11-match-long pre-World Cup campaign could have been trimmed, since the World Cup one cannot be by choice. It's tough to set off the alarm bells without sounding a nitpicking pessimist. But as a Pakistan cricket fan who has seen it all, this scribe cannot help but notice that this team is being asked of more than its capacity.
If the Murphy's law sets in then this group, through no fault of their own, runs the risk of a premature burnout.