Australia and New Zealand as the venue? Check. A captain with roots in Mianwali? Check. Fast bowling spearhead injured just before the tournament? Check. Now if only we could somehow get the services of Intikhab Alam....

One could be forgiven for thinking that the stars are aligning once again for the team to lift the cricket world cup but nothing could be farther from the truth. At the current rate, Pakistan would be lucky to even reach the quarter finals, which given the format, should be a walk in the park.

The Pakistani fan, over the years, has made peace with the fact that our batting will find new and enterprising ways to let us down but our dependable bowling, so often the envy of others, will come to the rescue. However, with Junaid out injured, Hafeez and Ajmal unable to bowl, Pakistan’s second most experienced bowler is one Wahab Riaz; hardly the most comforting thought.

Hafeez’s suspension arguably hurts the team more than the others for it not only weakens the bowling attack. It also messes up the team balance and composition. Finally and perhaps most critically, by virtue of playing him just as a batsman, and as opener no less, the batting line up, already not the greatest, is further crippled.

Seeing the absence of a suitable contingency plan, one almost gets the feeling that the team management’s plans hinge on Hafeez getting his action cleared prior to the tournaments start. It is hard to recall when Pakistan last played for an extended period of time with only 4 regular bowlers. It is no surprise then that the team failed to defend scores in excess of 250 (313 and 267) against a President’s XI and conceded as many as 369 against the Kiwis recently. With the bowling resources depleted, Pakistan is like a one armed boxer whose hand has been chopped off.

Combine this with aforementioned batting woes, and the team finds in the worst possible situation: bowling not good enough to defend a modest target or restrict the opposition to a low score and batting not good enough to chase down a big target or bat the opposition out of the game.

While the constraints on bowling are in some ways circumstantial, the ones on batting are self-inflicted. Ever since that fateful day in ’92, the default strategy for our batting unit has always been to save wickets initially and go berserk at the end. That we almost repeated the feat in’99 using the same modus operandi only served to lend further credence to the tactic. Given that the current head coach, spin bowling coach and team manager were at one point or another, vital members of that era, one can expect much more of the same. The only problem is that cricket has evolved much since then and successful limited over sides no longer wait till the 35th over to go hell bent for leather. They put their foot on the accelerator right from the start and keep it there.

Nothing encapsulates this muddled and flawed thinking more than the selection of Younis Khan , one can safely assume over Fawad Alam . While both are not hard hitters by any stretch of the imagination, the latter, as an accumulator is much better than the former. The sad reality is that Younis’s average over the last 3 years combined is still less than what Fawad managed in 2014. But hey, he can throw a tantrum and score heavily in Tests so that’s alright.

So is it all doom and gloom then? Not quite. Other Asian heavyweights India and Sri Lanka are not in the greatest of form either while pre-tournament favourites New Zealand and South Africa are not exactly known for their prowess at the knockout stage. The tournament format, as alluded to earlier, is such that Pakistan need only win three meaningful games and the cup could be theirs.