Pakistan cricket has been in free-fall for well over a year now. Problems both on and off the field have hampered the performance of the team dramatically. Now, with the World Cup around the corner, the countryís passionate cricket fans are hoping that a World Cup triumph will bring back the glorious days of Pakistan cricket.
It is hard to believe that a team as talented as Pakistan has failed to win a one-day international (ODI) series since 2008. The Men in Green last won an ODI series 3-0 against the West Indies at home. Their record in Test cricket reflects an even more disastrous situation. The last Test series Pakistan won was almost five years ago in 2006, which was also against the West Indies. As a result of constant series defeats, Pakistan has dropped down to sixth spot in the International Cricket Council (ICC) team rankings in both the Test and ODI formats.
Pakistan has also relinquished the number one spot in the Twenty20 rankings; the former World Champions have remarkably slipped to fifth spot. The team has lost six of their last seven Twenty20 games. Their only win came in the third match of the series against New Zealand, after the Kiwis had already clinched the series by winning the opening two games.
A World Cup win will not only enhance the teamís performance on the field, it will also help in sliding off-field controversies under the carpet. These controversies began early in January of last year, when Pakistan was on tour in Australia. Pakistan failed horrendously on that tour in all formats of the game, and limited-overs captain Shahid Afridi received a two match ban for tampering with the ball. Videos of the match showed Afridi biting the ball on more than one occasion during the fifth and final ODI match of the tour.
Even a quality performance in the 2011 competition though, will surely not be able to redeem Pakistan from the humiliating spot-fixing scandals that have engulfed the team. However, it will certainly put the events of the 2010 Lords Test between England and Pakistan (the match in which three Pakistan players were accused of spot-fixing) in the back drop and put the spot light on Pakistanís cricket. Spot-fixing allegations were levied against Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif, who are still provisionally suspended and awaiting a final verdict on their future by the ICC.
Another issue which needs to be resolved is the Pakistan Cricket Boardís (PCB) tussle with its players. Players like Shoaib Malik, Kamran Akmal and Danish Kaneria were not being allowed to play international cricket. Akmal has now been cleared to feature in the team again, but differences with other players still persist. A successful 2011 World Cup campaign will bring the nation together and is bound to reduce differences players have amongst each other and with the PCB.
Regardless of all these issues, perhaps the most important concern for Pakistan is the absence of international cricket at home. Pakistani spectators have not seen an international match being played on home soil for well over a year. The attack on the Sri Lankan team in 2009 has barred international cricket from the country. Glory in the World Cup might also help in attracting teams to play in Pakistan once again.
The World Cup begins on 19 February in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Pakistan is not considered among the favourites for the tournament. However, since the matches in the competition will be played on home-like conditions, opposing teams will certainly be wary of the unpredictable Pakistan team.