As West Indies dismiss Pakistan in World Cup opener, 1992 victory offers little comfort

As West Indies dismiss Pakistan in World Cup opener, 1992 victory offers little comfort
A blistering Oshane Thomas-led pace attack swept Pakistan away for a dismal 105 on Friday as West Indies wrapped up a seven-wicket victory in their World Cup opener at Trent Bridge on May 31, 2019. (Photo India.com)
Updated 01 June 2019

As West Indies dismiss Pakistan in World Cup opener, 1992 victory offers little comfort

As West Indies dismiss Pakistan in World Cup opener, 1992 victory offers little comfort
  • West Indies 108 for 3 beat Pakistan 105 by seven wickets at Trent Bridge on Friday
  • The two sides are often considered twins, similar in many ways including their unpredictability

KARACHI: One of the most enduring tropes of South Asian storytelling, particularly Bollywood film plots, is that of twins or siblings separated at a mela (festival) and then reunited many years later in a symbolic twist. For cricket lovers, the two teams that most resemble long lost twins are Pakistan and West Indies, the Karan and Arjun of cricket, who faced off in Nottingham on Friday for the second match of the World Cup, with West Indies dismissing Pakistan for a paltry 105.
What makes the two sides so similar is that they are both routinely unpredictable. When they are good, they perform barely believable acts of genius to overcome their many flaws. When they are bad, their many flaws lead to performances so demoralizing there are calls to banish them from the sport. Both teams also come from regions where cricketing achievements often stand in for the national or political pride that the countries themselves often don’t provide. Both teams have regularly challenged both the conventions of cricket as well as the patience and goodwill of their fans: just when you think they’re good they’re terrible and when you accept they’re terrible they become brilliant.
“It was a bad day for us,” Pakistani captain Sarfaraz Ahmed said after Friday’s match. “I think we have to bat positively, but we didn’t do it well today.”
Two years ago, Pakistani narrowly pipped West Indies for the final qualifying spot in the Champions Trophy, before going on to win the tournament itself in a huge shock. Coming into the World Cup, the Windies had struggled to qualify and barely made it. But facing up against the nominally superior Pakistan side, the West Indies subverted expectations by dishing out one of the most resounding thrashings in World Cup history.
Pakistan’s curious tactics certainly didn’t help. Playing on England’s highest scoring ground against a team stacked with batting power, Pakistan decided to drop their most powerful hitter, Asif Ali, and instead went with extra spin bowling options, which they never used after the pitch ended up being conducive to fast bowling. Having messed up the things they could control, fate then decided to mess up what they couldn’t control as well, as Pakistan lost the toss under tough conditions.
“If you lose the toss and lose so many wickets early on, it’s tough to come back into the game,” Pakistani captain Sarfaraz Ahmed lamented, adding that “it was tricky for half an hour, but this is a good batting track, we didn’t bat well.” 
That was quite an understatement. Pakistan’s innings was the second shortest in World Cup history, a record that outdid efforts by teams that were often made up of amateurs. Moreover, the scale of the defeat also put Pakistan’s net run-rate (NRR) in an irredeemable place. The NRR is used to differentiate teams that end up on the same number of points at the end of the group stages, and Pakistan’s extremely low NRR after this match means that this essentially counts as one-and-a-half defeats.
For the West Indies, the win was the latest boost of quiet confidence that has surrounded a team which has spent years in the doldrums due to infighting between the board and the players. Writing in the Guardian, analyst Vaneisa Baksh had said that given their unpredictability, “it’s all in the spirit they muster because that could be the game-changer.” But they didn’t even need to reach out for that — Pakistan offered such lack of spirit that that became the game-changer instead.
After such a comprehensive and strangely unstrenuous victory, the West Indies soft-spoken captain, Jason Holder, was keen to manage expectations. “We wanted to start with a win and we’re very happy we’ve done that. Once we stay fit we can compete — we have no expectations and don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves.”
In a sense, Holder’s response offers the most hope for Pakistan as well. This was only one game, and there is plenty of the tournament left, with a lot of time before the last rites are performed. But worryingly for Pakistan, despite their recent form, the West Indies are one of the weaker sides in the tournament. If they are so far behind the men from the Caribbean, how exactly will they deal with the likes of England, Australia and (gulp) India?
“You should all put a tenner on Pakistan to win the tournament,” Duncan Folkes, a reader of the BBC cricket live text, said. “I was in Australia for the tournament in 1992 and they were abject, got very lucky (England bowled them out for 70-odd and only rain kept them in the cup). They slowly got better and better and then beat England in the final!”
Like Folkes, many other fans, both in earnest and in irony, too have turned to the evergreen meme of relating everything back to the 1992 World Cup. Just like now, Pakistan was thrashed in the opening match by the West Indies, and just like now, the 1992 World Cup had the same format which allowed the sputtering efforts of the men in green to eventually lead to the knockouts and eternal glory. Of course, the problem is that Pakistanis have been telling themselves about the 1992 World Cup for over two decades now, and that timeless victory has yet to be repeated in this format.
Instead, there is now genuine concern that this could be Pakistan’s worst ever World Cup. Previous disasters, like in 2003 and 2007, when Pakistan were knocked out in the first round, ended much faster as those formats had lesser matches. This time, Pakistan will have to play every team, and there is a realistic possibility that they might end up as one of the worst teams. Pakistani fans, then, might want to consider supporting their twin-team rather than losing their sanity over their own side.