Tamil Diplomat

Pakistan need to find best XI early

Pakistan have an impressive World Cup record with one title, one runners-up finish and four semi-final appearances over the last ten editions of the tournament. However, the 1992 champions arrive at this year’s tournament after a string of below-par performances in the ODI format in recent times. In this episode of CONTENDERS, former India captain Rahul Dravid and former South Africa captain Graeme Smith analyse Pakistan’s chances to upset the apple-cart and replicate the glory of 1992. Can the young batsmen find consistency? Can the bowling attack cope with the loss of Saeed Ajmal? And can veterans such as Misbah-ul-Haq, Younis Khan and Shahid Afridi rise to the occasion?

What they said about…

The lack of aura around the side, compared to previous years
Dravid: They lack those big-ticket players or game changers which you would associate the Pakistani team of the past.
Smith: They’re looking for stability, looking for someone who can create some consistency. The younger generation of batters hasn’t quite stepped up to the plate in terms of consistent performances.

Saeed Ajmal’s absence
Smith: Every batsman in every team is breathing a sigh of relief that Ajmal is not around. Believe me, I wish I could go play a Pakistan team without Ajmal in it.

Drawing inspiration from the 1992 win
Dravid: In 1992 also, they started off very badly and they struggled for a while with a similar kind of team in which they had a lot of young players but who later on went to become absolute legends for Pakistan. So Pakistan can only hope that history repeats itself.
Smith: When you go back to 1992, a charismatic captain. Who can forget Wasim Akram in the final of the tournament? And they had some x-factor. That’s what they need to find now, early in the tournament, find their best eleven.

Misbah, the captain
Dravid: You can just sense that he has a lot of respect from the players in the team. They respect that he brings that stability to the team. He’s been able to work really well with the board and with the coaching staff. And makes the best of the situation he finds himself in. So you can’t fault him on his effort and he’s trying to do the best that he can.
Smith: He comes across as very serious, very methodical, and I think my favourite quote by him is, “My name is Misbah, my nickname is Misbah.” You know that sums up the personality


Fawad Alam’s exclusion
Dravid: He seems to have a fantastic record, but for some reason they don’t seem to pick him. I read somewhere, that they think that his game wasn’t going to be good enough in Australian conditions. That’s a presumption and they’re playing a lot of games in New Zealand.

Afridi and the big stage
Dravid: It’s almost like when he goes out to bat, there’s this red mist that comes over him, he just swings at everything. But I’ve seen him play a different kind of game. I’ve seen him play sensibly at times and construct innings. But it just hasn’t happened of late for some reason or the other.
Smith: He’s going to be a key performer, he has huge experience, with 350+ ODIs. That’s immense. They are going to need more from him in this tournament.

Umar Akmal’s role
Dravid: If he can turn that obvious ability and become a run-hungry consistent batsman for Pakistan, sure enough he’ll find a spot. He could bat at No. 4 consistently, or at 3 or 5, or bat anywhere really if he wants to.
Smith: He’s one of those cricketers, who comes in and plays some good shots, gets to 25 or 30 and you think this guy is going to do something special. But he’ll just get out to a soft shot or won’t really follow through on the innings and continue his good work.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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