In a few days from now, Pakistan will kick off its campaign for the Cricket World Cup 2011. With the last two world cup campaigns in 2003 and 2007 ending disastrously for the Boys in Green, there is a lot of buzz around the team this time around - and its not just typical ultra optimistic buzz... its real!
Think about it.
Pakistan have got the team that can go all the way.
I'm not too sure why I am often met with laughs and sarcasm when I speak up Pakistan's chances of winning the world cup - I really do think they can.
Yes the team has been through an utterly disappointing phase over the last year or so with all the drama surrounding it. But then again, when has drama and the Pakistan cricket team not gone hand in hand?
We have always had drama, and yet we have produced match winning performances to out perform the best on our day.
The win in the series against New Zealand was surely a confidence booster, but besides that there seems to be a lot of harmony within the team - or atleast that is how the media is projecting it.
And as someone said the other day - "A united Pakistani outfit is a really dangerous team".
Its not only the Pakistani media that is buzzing, the fans are as well. A friend of mine created a group on Facebook called "The Boys in Green" and the group has crossed a 1,000 members in only 48 hours!
You just need to hop on to the page and go through the various videos dedicated to the Pakistan team that are being shared and it will give you an indication of the hope that people have for this World Cup.
The Pakistani fans have dared to dream again... and I see no reason why the dream may not be realised.
Just take a look at the team.
In Mohammad Hafeez and Ahmed Shehzad, Pakistan have got an opening combination that is as good as any that they have had in the recent past. Hafeez is probably in the form of his life, While Shehzad has come back to international cricket with a bang. The boy is good. He had a super domestic season last year and he has maintained his form in the international arena. What a stage the World Cup is for Shehzad to shine.
Younis Khan, Misbah Ul Haq, and Umar Akmal provide for a solid middle order. Younis will be key and considering that he has many points to prove, he is sure to perform. Misbah, like Hafeez is also going through a purple patch - He has had one of the most consistent runs in ODI cricket since making his comeback late last year. What a time it is for Misbah to maintain that form on a global stage. While Umar, as we all know, can rip the heart out of any bowling attack when he gets going. It is the perfect mix of experience and youthful aggression in the middle for the Greens.
The best part is that Asad Shafiq can walk in to the team and ably replace either one of them. Finally we have good promising young batsmen that are eager to get going.
The top 5 With Kamran Akmal, Shahid Afridi, and Abdul Razzaq in the batting line up should give many teams a scare. No captain or bowler would want to see these players walking to the crease in the last 15-20 overs of an innings.
The more I think about it, the more balanced the Pakistan team looks.
The bowling is a worry, but all of them - Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz, and Junaid Khan - have something to prove. And Pakistanis are best at doing just that - proving people wrong!
Shoaib needs to show the world that he's still got it, Gul and Wahab need to prove that Pakistan can rely on them in the absence of an illustrious banned duo , while Junaid is probably still pinching himself to believe that he is actually playing in a Cricket World Cup for Pakistan. Junaid is an exciting pacer and he has a proven domestic record - his performance in the warm up game showed what he is capable of and if he manages to get a spot in the starting XI, I'm sure he will not disappoint.
The spin department is as strong as ever with Saeed Ajmal and Abdul Rehman both being wicket taking bowlers. With both of them competing for one spot in the XI, they are sure to give their best when given the chance.
Healthy competition within the ranks is always good, and Pakistan finally has that.
So then, would you again think that its just typical Pakistanis being optimistic and dreaming?
I don't think so.
I think its real. Like I always do.
We had star studded teams in 1996, 2003, and 2007 and we all know how those campaigns ended.
Pakistan's best campaigns have been with teams that have included new faces and players just making their mark in international cricket. We saw it in 1992, and we saw it again in 1999.
And I believe we can see it in 2011!