Prior to every World Cup in my living memory, team Pakistan heads to World Cup with confusion. Teams they say work 4 years on their combination. World Cups are seen as cycles of change. Pakistan don’t prepare for 4 years, and panic sets in.
1999 World Cup the coach pretty much accused the players of fixing matches. Later we did found that there was merit in his argument. Players nonetheless were focused and talent enough to make it to the final. 2003, a number of players had over stayed their welcome. This was a fragmented team. Having a series in South Africa, there was reports that Waqar Younus will be replaced as captain. But Justice Qayyum’s feeble report became a hurdle to bring back Wasim Akram as captain.
Months before the 2007 World Cup Mohammad Asif and Shoaib Akhtar missed the tournament due to ‘injuries’. Or why the hypocrisy, they took banned substances and PCB didn’t want to be banned for months after being tested by ICC. 2011, the arguably world’s best opening bowling pair, Amir and Asif were banned, along with their ringleader Salman Butt. In the last World Cup, our main weapon Saeed Ajmal and the all-rounder Hafeez were banned from bowling. Everything that could go wrong, does go wrong.
This time around, it has been a bit quieter. No bans as of yet (fingers crossed). The question isn’t who to drop, rather it is who to pick. Except for Shadab Khan. There has been some conjecture about his fitness status. PCB, oddly did mention what sort of virus he has had. So this leaves much to imagination for someone like Shoaib, who initially said that the leg spinner is out for 6 months. There were some suggestions of usage of banned substances as well.
However, as per latest reports Shadab is likely to recover in the next 12-13 days. Shoaib Malik’s departure for personal reasons, is another possible flare up. What happens if Malik’s return is delayed and Asif Ali grabs his chance?
Nevertheless, this time around things have certainly improved as far as the lead up to the tournament is concerned. The team is settled except one or two roles, there are no questions over captaincy, the coach is happy and none is getting banned for anything.
Can we even ask for more?