Their brand of cricket often oscillates between brilliance and hara-kiri but the ability to win games purely on natural talent and chutzpah certainly makes Pakistan a fascinating team to follow during the ICC World Cup.
The 1992 World champions have lost 10 ODIs in a row and a reverse against Afghanistan in a World Cup warm-up have added to their woes but no opposition can take them lightly when the tournament proper begins on May 30. With Pakistan arriving in England a month ago, it was supposed to be an ideal build-up for the 50-over mega event. But a 0-4 result in the ODI series against World hosts England has compounded their worries.
The Sarfaraz Ahmed-led squad was also blanked by Australia in a five-match series in the UAE and its last ODI win came against South Africa in January when it eventually lost the rubber. A parallel of Pakistan's winless run can be drawn with their poor start in the 1992 edition which they eventually won under Imran Khan's inspiration leadership. Not to forget that they are winners of the 2017 Champions Trophy which was also staged in England. Though it would be pre-mature to write them off at this stage, Pakistan have very little time to fix the flaws in the bowling and fielding department, something that has been acknowledged by their coach Mickey Arthur. They posted 358 and 340 in the third and fourth ODIs against England earlier this month but the bowlers were unable to defend them and fielding too let them down. In the other two games, the bowlers ended up conceding more than 350 runs.
On the contrary, the batsmen piled on the runs and are in good frame of mind ahead of the World Cup. "I thought our batting has gone to another level. Our bowling has been average at best and our fielding has been average at best but we have batted really well. People, coming to England, said we were a 280 team. We have dispelled that and that's given our batting unit a massive amount of confidence," Arthur had said. The inconsistencies in the team selection has also been a talking point with Pakistan making three changes in their provisional squad of 15, recalling Wahab Riaz who has not played an ODI in two years. Mohammad Amir who has been unable to take wickets of late and middle-order batsman Asif Ali, who is grieving the loss of his 19-month-old daughter who succumbed to cancer earlier this week. Captain Sarfaraz's batting position is also a subject of intense discussion with experts wanting him to bat higher up the order.
However, this crisis-like situation is not new in Pakistan cricket and when they open their tournament campaign against the West Indies on May 31, one can expect them to be at the top of their game. They have another warm-up game to play, against Bangladesh, on Sunday and following the loss against Afghanistan, Sarfaraz insisted the morale in the dressing room remains high. "If you see all these matches, we were close. We made a few mistakes that's why we lost. We will need just one win and we will be back," said the skipper.