Despite all that potential bashing that our baRey Khan Sahib invited at the hands of patriotic and sensitive Pakistanis, I highly feel tempted to echo his views on Dhoni and Indian team. There is a difference between being realistic and patriotic just as between being emotional and rational. Sometimes the games are won by sheer passion but only once in a while.
With increasing technological breakthroughs and professionalism coming into play, cricket is transforming into a strategic warfare. Physical and mental toughness, accuracy, flexibility and versatility, strengths and weakness of the individuals and limitations as a collective lot, weather and surface behaviour and conduciveness of the conditions and environment are analyzed to the last shred to devise a strategic game plan for each opposing outfit. How much room does that still leave for the cliche ‘cricket by chance’ to govern is anybody’s guess!
So when Ian Chappell analyzes and picks up the five prospective world cup champions and Pakistan figures NOWHERE, I feel despondent but not surprised at all. If I sniff an element of bias and malice in the claimed rankings that may well be intended against England for obvious reasons but certainly not towards Pakistan.
He is very right when he says that tournament is potentially the most open since the inaugural world cup in 1975 and not anymore the case of ‘Who’ll meet Australia in the final?’
Once again India riding a high tide with a lethal and mesmerising batting line up, braced by its seasoned and calm leadership, that makes up for its ordinary bowling resource comes out as a favourite. The question remains whether the co- hosts would be able to sustain the immense pressure and expectations of home crowd to belie the maxim that ‘the home team never lifts the world cup’?
Australian team looks far from the best. Ponting, with his drooping shoulders, is not the near invincible captain that he once used to be. Michael Hussey, the most accomplished and gifted lower middle order batsman, is a great potential loss. With a prospective mouth watering quarter final clash against the arch rivals England, even with a recent one sided one day series win against them under their belt which they swept away 6-1, it won’t come as a surprise if the howling lions seeking their fourth consecutive trophy are shown the exit doors at such an early stage.
That brings us to another prospective winner. What about the chokers? As strong and balanced as ever and one of the best on the paper, do the Proteas have the temperament to deliver? They have the potential to beat every side and can never be underestimated to emerge from the wings to break the myth.
The Sri Lankan tigers can may well prove to be the dark horses yet again. Having already one a world cup on subcontinent soil, they have every capability to repeat that feat again. Not to be forgotten, the match winner in Muralitharan can tilt the balance with his quest for glory during the farewell series.
England has come a long way from the ordinary and ‘bits and pieces’ side of yester years. It has finally evolved and forged into a team well worthy of winning their maiden world cup. Their chances may hinge on their capability to overcome their traditional weakness i.e to counter spin bowling. Although in the one day version of the game the balance is skewed highly in favour of the batsmen, the spin still can sometimes play a role on subcontinent’s surfaces.
The rest of the teams including Pakistan can, at best, be given an outside chance. What goes in our favour is a recent surge in the form and blending into a team with better cohesion and co-ordination as a singular unit. The conditions are better suited to our liking and spirits will be at all time high while performing before the Indian crowds. Fitness and fielding remain nagging issues and Pakistan will have to count highly on one factor that it is conventionally and most known for_ its unpredictability.
Unless that unpredictability pops up repeatedly with some consistency against the top notch sides, Pakistan’s chances to fare well during the world cup remain slim.