A contest wide open

As the ICC World Cup 2011 gets underway, it is a travesty that Pakistan will be the only sub-continental nation from the recognised quartet to take part in the event as a guest. That when in early 2005, with Shehryar Khan as the PCB chairman, Pakistan’s endeavours were instrumental in winning the bid to host the global spectacle over a well-complemented effort of Australia and New Zealand. It indeed is a direct consequence of Ijaz Butt’s utter diplomatic failure and the board’s most contemptible inability in ensuring the promised presidential protection in March 2009 to Sri Lanka, the only major team willing to visit us then. This is a reflection of management malfunction of gargantuan proportions that in the corridors of world and continental cricketing power, Pakistan stands uniquely isolated. As a corollary, our team, not so long ago a source of pride and joy for the whole nation, has been consigned to the status of a nomad.While we must ponder over and rectify this steep fall, the World Cup is also a time for hope and joy. Hope that our boys will redeem themselves at this magnificent stage and recapture the respect and glory lost through their on- and off-field shenanigans. And joy for the crème de la crème of the world’s best will showcase its sparkling talents here. For a long time, to be exact after the first edition in 1975, no World Cup has been deemed as open, with so many potential winners. So much so that six sides seem well-equipped to capture the Cup. This partially owes to the new format, where unless they flunk big time, all top nations are almost guaranteed knockout stage spots.

With the powers of Australia – topmost with four titles, three of these on the trot – so visibly on the wane, pretenders for the crown are India, Sri Lanka, South Africa and England, with Pakistan the proverbial dark horse. India and Sri Lanka are masters in their own backyard but the inexorable tide of hype and hysteria is the flip side in this double-edged sword. South Africa and England each look the team that can combat sub-continental conditions and prevail over the competition. With its many mercurial talents, Pakistan too has shown signs that it is peaking to explode at the right time. A super contest thus is all set to unfold – PT