Win the toss, start Asif Ali from ball one, aim for 500, bowl out Bangladesh for 100, and restart the it-also-happened-in-1992 drumbeat.
It’s crazy how some super optimists are still plotting ways to semi-finals which do not exist. Or exist only in mathematical possibilities and fantasies. Pakistan are out of World Cup 2019, and so are Bangladesh.
Today’s game will have no bearing on qualification. The only chance is that Asif Ali turns into a superhuman wrecking ball. It’s akin to expecting lightning to strike not twice but a few hundred times.
To expect that a team which was bundled out for 105 not too long ago would beat Bangladesh by 300 or however many runs they are, is not just madness it is outright disrespectful of the Tigers.
To be dismissive of Mashrafe Mortaza’s men until 2015 would have made sense. Till that year, Pakistan’s record against Bangladesh barely qualified as a record. It was more a tale of Bangladeshi misery. Of the 32 matches the two sides had played till then, Pakistan had won 31 and Bangladesh just once. That’s one victory in almost three decades of ODI cricket played between the two sides.
Then 2015 happened. Pakistan toured Bangladesh, which in hindsight they shouldn’t have. The then Azhar Ali-led side suffered one of the most lopsided of whitewashes ever. 31-1 became 31-4.
Then at the Asia Cup 2018, the two sides met again in a winner-makes-the-final encounter. Pakistan were again brushed aside by the Bangladeshi bowlers.
For a side that has lost four straight to another, it is almost laughable that some expect them to pull off a historic, never-seen-before result. Bangladesh are no joke. They haven’t been in years. They also have arguably the best all-rounder in the world in the form of Shakibal Hasan.
While a victory would do neither side any tangible good, it will help them cap their World Cup campaign on a high. Then there also is the consolation prize of finishing fifth and as the best of the rest.
The game can be won but the World Cup can’t be. Keeping that in mind, it would be best if Pakistan try out the young Mohammad Hasnain who has yet to feature in any matches. Wahab Riaz would naturally be the player making way since he is nursing a fractured finger.
Misfiring Shoaib Malik is another one who could be given one last chance before he bows out.
For Bangladesh, the situation isn’t vague. They’ve known a while that they are out of the World Cup, which makes it easier for them to tinker their line-up. Mahmudullah and Rubel Hossain are expected to be drafted into the side.
Question here is who needs the victory more? To whom does it matter the most? The answer is Pakistan. The Men in Green will undergo major changes post-World Cup. Whoever would do well today will leave that as the lasting image, and may survive the axe.
By that argument, Pakistan players are bound to try harder than Bangladeshi ones. Expect Sarfaraz Ahmed’s men to make it four straight wins today.