Pakistan are in the semi-finals of the World Twenty20 with just two wins from five games - and that could be a cricketing lifeline for the troubled nation.
Out of the chaos comes a chance
Pakistan are in the semi-finals of the World Twenty20 with just two wins from five games - and that could be a cricketing lifeline for the troubled nation. Pakistan cricket has endured a torrid time over the past 15 months, with their triumph at the last World Twenty20 in England being the only consolation. The militant attack on the visiting Sri Lanka team in March last year saw them lose their right to host the 2011 World Cup and they have been forced to live the life of nomads, unable to stage international cricket at home.
Misfortune and controversies ensued, with a whitewash in Australia and sanctions against seven leading players in the inquest that followed over allegations of infighting. Umar Gul, T20's leading paceman, then hobbled out on the eve of their title defence in the Caribbean and more recently, a former coach accused the players of lacking sanity. Putting all those setbacks and misgivings aside, Pakistan won the one match that mattered the most - beating South Africa by 11 runs in the Super Eight - to get through to the semi-finals with a little help from England, who defeated New Zealand.
And now, they are looking to get past Australia to reach Sunday's final. "We are focused on beating Australia," Shahid Afridi, the Pakistan captain, was quoted as saying by agencies. "I think we are feeling good. "We have played well, but just missed some opportunities, against England and then just losing [on the last ball] against New Zealand. "Overall, the guys are very confident after the last game and I think it will be a great game against Australia.
"I have full confidence in my players that we will reach the finals and give the nation something to be happy about. A strong Pakistani team beat South Africa and we will not be under pressure against Australia. We have some plans, we will show them on Friday." If nerves do start to creep in, Pakistan can cast their thoughts back to their days here in the UAE last summer. That was the last time they beat Australia, sharing the four-match one-day international series and winning the one-off Twenty20 international.
Since then, Australia have beaten Pakistan in every single game, over all three formats. The run of defeats includes three Tests, six one-day internationals and two T20s. And with Australia looking invincible in the Caribbean, that run looks set to continue. Pakistan, however, could be spurred on by a greater cause. "This competition is very important," said Afridi. "We are here to play good cricket and win this competition because there is no cricket in Pakistan.
"We tell the people we still love playing cricket away and at home as well and we want to see cricket back at home. "The situation in India was not so good four, five, six years ago when Pakistan visited there and Sri Lanka as well. But Pakistan was the only team that visited there and played there. "I think this is the thing we should [have], cricket relations should continue." While fate has been kind to Pakistan in the West Indies, Australia have not needed any such favours. The team have been in imperious form, with the only worry being the form of Michael Clarke, their captain.
Brad Haddin, however, has dismissed those concerns. "Michael's still our best player," the Australia wicketkeeper told The Sydney Morning Herald. "All the teams have explosive batsmen and world-class bowlers, but what he's brought to us is to make sure we're doing our little things best, a presence in the field, taking all the catches. "We've made a conscious effort in making sure that happens and Michael is the reason for that."
* Compiled by Ahmed Rizvi