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DESPITE their unimpressive outings so far in this ongoing World Cup, Pakistan are hanging on to their lifeline, praying for a miracle which may turn around their fortunes and improve their rankings which at this stage do not make one believe that they would as they did in the 1992 when they came from behind to emerge as the eventual winner.

Their renewed optimism stems from the fact that the highly fancied England lost to the unfancied Sri Lankans on Friday, offering some hope to the bottom place teams like Pakistan and South Africa to come into reckoning once again.

It, however, depends on how successfully a team like Pakistan with only three points so far performs in the rest of their matches. This crucial and a life-saving fixture against another lowly placed team like South Africa at Lord’s today will obviously make it clear for all of us as to which way Pakistan or South Africa will be heading.

There is a buzz around this game within the supporters of both teams. The ‘Chokers’ as they are tagged, the South Africans have become a team of ‘Jokers’ who invariably buckle in pressure gams.

Pakistan at least have a better record than them, twice reaching the semi-finals and once lifting the coveted trophy.

A World Cup final win, a World T20 Trophy and a Champions Trophy has been theirs, even when they did not have the billing to do so. But that is Pakistan, the most unpredictable and yet impregnable at times. But what really has spoiled their march ahead has been their inconsistency which has been their enemy and that has been worrying.

Same is the case now that despite all the preparations before this mega event, they have not been able to strike and attract the attention of their swooning fans.

Rumour mongering about dissensions within the team in social media and also in print and electronic channels has portrayed them as the villains who have been at each other’s throat for their recent failures.

When that happens, then the debris fall on whoever is responsible to look after the team and that includes the whole management, coaches and trainers and with it the captain himself. In the present case, it is the captain of Pakistan, Sarfraz Ahmed who is taking the flak from every direction.

I have gone through all these situations before. Winners have no enemy and defeat has no friends, that is what my experience says and this is not unusual.

Having had a session with the manager of the team Talat Ali on Friday and with the Pakistan captain Sarfraz on Saturday, I have no doubts in my mind that all that we have been digesting, the nasty rumour mongering about infighting and grouping in the team are nothing but tell-tale stories cooked up by those who revel in such situations to fill their columns or airtime.

Dressing rooms are not a happy place when the team is losing and that is what the present situation is; nothing more or nothing less.

Sarfraz made it clear on Saturday that all the stories about groupings in the team and dissension does not do any good to lift the sapping morals of the team. “We have been not doing well at all with bat and ball and that has been a problem. But united we stand and divided we fall,” he said. “We all know about that and all the irresponsible and damaging comments and stories that we hear do not help us or our families. We have been trying our best but somehow we have not been clicking. We have experienced good and bad days too and this is nothing new,” said Sarfraz on the eve of this vital game which would finally ascertain whether they would survive or go out.

Published in Dawn, June 23rd, 2019