Pakistan's thumping victory over Bangladesh on Friday went in vain as the Men in Green crashed out of World Cup 2019 due to their inferior run rate than New Zealand's. Here are our five takeaways not just from that match, but from the entire campaign:
We’ve not been here before
This is probably the first time or at least first time in a long while that we don’t finish a World Cup uttering the buzz word: rebuilding. The core of this bunch is so young and reasonably talented, most of it would go onto feature in at least the next World Cup. Imamul Haq, Babar Azam, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi — these are all young guys. Even the veterans, apart from the now-retired Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez, will likely reprise their roles.
Four years later, the young’uns, all of whom impressed in individual capacities, will be four years wiser. Their team couldn’t go all the way this time but this was despite their contribution than lack of it. Besides, which starlet has ever contributed like a true superstar in first go? It takes time. Even the great Virat Kohli had the lowest average (35.25) of all Indian batters at the 2011 event.
It didn’t happen this year, but we have the right tools. 2019 came too early for them but come 2023, the fast maturing young core, some veterans coupled with new talent could be in their prime. Keep your chin up. There are things to look up to.
Murphy’s Law at work
Not so fast. We can’t already look ahead without discussing what went wrong here. And what did go wrong exactly? Luck. Luck as in we didn’t have any and others had it of the Irish. Murphy’s law was in overdrive.
How else do you explain a lopsided loss to the woeful Windies; the washed out game against Sri Lanka which Pakistan should have won; the washed out game against India that New Zealand should have lost; Aaron Finch’s last-second review of Wahab Riaz; decision to bowl first against India; decision to keep Haris Sohail benched; India’s go-slow; England winning the toss against New Zealand.
Some of it was their own doing too but they also did not get the rub of the green even once. Pakistan were a special kind of unlucky. The kind that sees you hold notable wins over two of the four semi-finalists but still have a side that has no victories over the other three semi-finalists advance.
Nowhere to hide for Sarfaraz
While a bulk of the team can be retained, a decision will have to be made about their leader. Virat Kohli, Eoin Morgan, Kane Williamson, Aaron Finch — what do they all have in common? The obvious answer is that they are all captains but more importantly, they are all excellent players. If not the best players of their sides then at least the second or third best.
No modern side retains its captains just because he is the captain. Those habits are a thing of the past. Sarfaraz Ahmed is a decent player but he is not a great player, which is the minimum you expect of your captains in the modern game. This is not about hating on anyone but a simple requirement of standards these days.
The big decision for the PCB to make is whether to stick with the incumbent who will be 36 by the 2023 edition or groom one of the top young performers for future.
Goodbye or good riddance?
With this World Cup we also said goodbye to Shoaib Malik, and we hope that we’re also saying goodbye to Mohammad Hafeez. Both have had near 20-year careers at international level, but were similarly limited allrounders who performed nearly every role available, except for perhaps the wicketkeeper.
Both did most things well but none greatly. Both were good fielders, both were from the off-spin generation that tried to copy Saqlain Mushtaq but ran into bowling action troubles. One has made his decision, the other one should too as there is nothing left for him to hang around in the ODI game for.
May there be a new champ
And with that, the 2019 World Cup from the Pakistani perspective ends, even if it hasn’t really. The semi-finals line-up has a side that always wins these championships, another that never wins these championships, a third one that doesn’t deserve being in the semi-finals, and India.
The line-up is just as many had predicted pre-World Cup, and that’s exactly where the problem is. What’s missing is that je ne sais quoi that a Pakistan or a West Indies would have brought. Good luck livening up these stock standard semis. The least one can hope is that we see new world champions.
The writer is a lifelong cricket fan who lives for the Pakistan cricket team and PSL but is also a realist and has no problems calling spade a spade.