Cricket World Cup 2015: Forget Making Semis, Lara Tells Top Pakistan Players to Wake up First
Pakistan's World Cup campaign has started on a poor note and despite a solitary win against Zimbabwe, the 1992 champions have a long way to go from pretenders to contenders.
Pakistan flew down to Australia with much hope but little gas. Millions of their faithful fans expected Misbah-ul-Haq's men to repeat what Imran Khan's did Down Under in 1992 - win the World Cup. After defeats against India and the West Indies and a narrow win against Zimbabwe, some still feel Pakistan could repeat their feat of 23 years ago. Poor start then, horrid now. Similarities? West Indian legend Brian Lara does not think so.
Lara felt comparisons between the Pakistani teams of 1992 and 2015 were irrelevant. This team has not looked cohesive, there are barely any match-winners and the batting revolves around Misbah-ul-Haq, who despite the best intentions, is miles away from the best in the world. The likes of Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, David Warner and Brendon McCullum have taken ODI batting to a different level - Pakistan don't have one youngster who could bat like any of these four gentlemen. (Pakistan Summon Spirit of Imran Khan)
Far from drawing parallels with Imran's side, who were called 'cornered tigers' after initial defeats to West Indies and India before bouncing back to lift the trophy, Lara said no one in the world was scared of the Pakistanis anymore.
"Back in 1992, Pakistan had a lot of match-winners. Imran was an inspirational leader. His team members spoke of them being cornered tigers. This Pakistan won't create any fear in the opposition. Even if they do reach the quarter-finals, they certainly won't make it to the semis," Lara told NDTV. (Shoaib Akhtar Feels Onus on Misbah-ul-Haq to Change Pakistan's Fortunes)
The graceful Trinidadian batsman, who took pleasure in surgically destroying the most dangerous bowlers, was a lot more brutal as he continued to take Pakistan to task, off the field. Lara said even Ireland would fancy their chances when they meet Pakistan - for good reasons too. The Irish had defeated the sub-continental giants in 2007 to knock them out of the World Cup in the West Indies.
Pakistan have often been branded mercurial - that nice word which would describe a certain sense of unpredictability. On their day, they could come out and stun the best sides in the globe. But that sense of mystery and aura is gone. They do not just have the resources to threaten teams that know how to play a lot more aggressively than them.
Lara, who had seen and played out the best of Pakistan's attack literally implored the senior players to wake up from their slumber: "Pakistan will have to wake up some time in the tournament. Some of their top players are still asleep, they have to wake up."
It was not just Lara who came down heavily on Pakistan. Another batsman from another era, as pleasing to the eye as Lara himself, used equally harsh words to some the Pakistani display Down Under so far.
"Pakistan are looking out of depth. Zimbabwe had a good chance of winning the game (on Sunday). They restricted Pakistan for 235, a par score. Pakistan batsmen have let their side down. They are talented, yes but there's too much responsibility on Misbah," Laxman told NDTV, assessing Pakistan's 20-run win which gave them their maiden points in the tournament.
Pakistan cricket has been through its usual round of turmoil in the lead-up to the World Cup. Saeed Ajmal was lost to suspect bowling action, Umar Gul, Junaid Khan and Mohammad Hafeez fell prey to injuries and Younis Khan's presence has clearly not helped.
Pakistan have to overcome all these odds and mount a serious challenge if they want to be taken seriously by the other big teams. Their next game is against the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday - a great chance to register a comprehensive win and iron out some flaws before clashing with South Africa on Saturday.