WITH almost all routes closed for Pakistan to get into the last four and qualify for the semi-finals, the game at Lord’s today against Bangladesh would be a case of saving grace for Sarfraz Ahmed and his men it they win the contest.
With England’s victory against New Zealand the other day, it is highly unlikely that Pakistan would beat the heavy odds here to spring a surprise and get into the semis.
Not even a single factor or permutation allows us to think that Pakistan could still make it to the semis but a victory here would at least help them to redeem their faults which in the early stages of the Cup let them down. For this they have to blame themselves entirely and while the other factors responsible for their failures are negligible.
Their lack of form in initial rounds of the matches against West Indies and Australia put them on the back foot right from the word go. They had the game against Australia well in control when they failed to tighten the grip and getting out against the West Indies for 105 did not help either.
That they climbed up the rankings to get into the first four momentarily after beating South Africa, England and New Zealand goes to their credit. Blaming India for their alleged connivance to play a dud game against England or blaming other factors of team not being in cordial relationship with the captain were conjectures to divert attention.
What we must understand is that even before the start of the Cup, Pakistan as a team was placed seventh in the ODI ranking and they played like one in the competition till they were able to strike a balance and show a bit of grit to elevate their sinking reputation.
Yes all of us had come into this World Cup with high hopes and with our reputation on a wing and a prayer, always citing similarities on how we performed in the 1992 World Cup in Down Under. But things don’t always work that way. To achieve something out of the ordinary there has to be proper material to go with it.
In this team their vulnerability against extreme pace like we witnessed against South Africa in Africa and their failure to be in control when situation demanded has no doubt contributed to where they unfortunately going to end up.
But they will at least have the consolation of beating the favourites of this tournament on their way in England and New Zealand.
The picture is now pretty clear as to who would, with a bit of luck, end up at Lord’s in the finals.
So let us not be unkind to our own players. They have done better than we had expected and let us hope that they finish on a winning note in today’s match against Bangladesh which also has showed signs of vast improvement as a team in this event. Pakistan can not afford to take them lightly.