CHENNAI: Pakistan cricket is on the brink of a disaster. Being thrown out of contention for the semifinals with three games left in the league stage would be the worst nightmare for a nation that goes crazy about cricket.
But that’s exactly where Pakistan stand after the humiliation against Afghanistan on Monday at Chepauk. And facing a red-hot South Africa at this stage of the tournament wouldn’t make the 1992 World Champions too confident.
But 1992 reminds us of a comeback by Pakistan that can still be regarded as the greatest World Cup fightback ever.With their backs to the wall after a series of lows in a format similar to this year’s,Imran Khan‘s Pakistan won five back-to-back games to become champions.

This generation of Pakistan cricketers have grown up with memories of that magnificent triumph. Just that their skill sets fall way short of their famous predecessors.
Add to that a constant clamour that captain Babar Azam‘s captaincy is on the line. The scrutiny is increasing, the PCB, in a convoluted statement, has urged the fans to stand by the team but has not forgotten to add that Babar and chairman of selectors Inzamam ul Haq were given the freedom to choose the team.
“Looking ahead, the Board will make decisions in the best interest of Pakistan cricket based on the team’s performances in the World Cup,” the statement said.


Everything adds to the pressure but struggling allrounder Shadab Khan tried to put up a brave front ahead of a training session on Thursday.
“The fact that it is a do-or-die game reduces the pressure because you have no option, nothing to lose…If you lose, you’re obviously out of the tournament. So, it’s better to be positive,” Shadab said.
The leggie, who lost his place a couple of games back only to come back against Afghanistan and dish out another poor show, must shoulder the burden of the spin-attack.


On Wednesday, he was seen bowling off-spin in the nets, even though he suggested that “it was only an experiment and warm-up”. With the finger-spin options running thin, a fit left-arm spinner Mohammed Nawaz should come back into the team in place of struggling leggie Usama Mir. Medium-pacer Mohammed Wasim jr is also likely to find a place with a below-par Hasan Ali making way.
Attacking opener Fakhar Zaman also had two long stints in the nets but sources close to the team suggested the left-hander, coming back from an injury, isn’t looking up to scratch. It will mean that Imam ul Haq will hold on to his place despite doing nothing special till now.
While it’s all about chopping and changing on the Pakistan front, things have been relatively smooth for South Africa. Skipper Temba Bavuma, who was out with a stomach illness, is likely to back in place of Reeza Hendricks, who was also fitting in well.


The explosive South African top-order has been superb so far in the World Cup while the pace and spin attacks have looked the part. The only concern for South Africa could be chasing a big total – they lost to Netherlands in Lucknow – on a Chepauk track where the ball can stop a bit in the evening session.
But Pakistan will also have their demons of being unable to defend 282 against Afghanistan and all these will add to the intrigue of a crucial clash just before the World Cup gets into the business end.

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