With the Cricket World Cup raging on, I thought I would also drop my two cents into the deluge of vitriol being flung the Pakistani team’s way. I hear Moin Khan also wanted to do so, but he lost his two cents at the casino the other night. And yes, this article may make continuous references to that, so apologies in advance.

Before the World Cup started, and thereafter, I heard various premonitions from friends who probably know more about cricket than me: we will finally beat India, West Indies we will beat obviously, there is a feeling we will make it to the semi-finals. I think this has less to do with logic and patriotism, and more to do with backing the high-odds horse, for the sheer pleasure of saying, ‘See, I told you so’.

So far, Pakistan has lost to both India and West Indies heavily. It is true, we played below average. I say that because looking at the batting averages of our line up, our grand total comes to 260. So yes, we did not score 260, which would have still resulted in us losing. And this is where the problem lies: we aren’t losing because we performed below average, we are losing because even our average play is not good enough. We are overly reliant on an individual brilliant performance to bail us out. An Afridi 70 off 35, a 60 off 40 from Umar Akmal, a Misbah guided 80 (as far as the target is below 180 in the last case, of course). This is how minnows win or pull off upsets, not how a ‘contender’ performs.

For Nasir Jamshed, I have now thrice in three tries successfully predicted how he will get out. That was not a stroke of luck, that was me putting my chips where I knew for a fact the roulette ball would land. Betting on Jamshed’s manner of dismissal is easier than predicting who wins the battle between Steyn and Hafeez. Yet, we have included Jamshed in a team because we were in apparent need for an opening batsman. What followed was sheer brilliance: against the only team where Jamshed has scored, India, we excluded him from the squad and decided to open with the experienced Younis Khan. Younis, who had opened thrice in his entire career. Younis, who is by all accounts a below-par ODI batsman, let alone an opening batsman (this is with all due respect to Younis, the test player, who is a class of his own).

There are too many baffling selection issues that can be discussed, but I guess selection was also a game of chance; for example, Sohail Khan and Ehsan Adil. Sohail played 3 ODIs in 2008, and one each in 2009 and 2011. Ehsan played 2 matches in 2013 (totalling 10 overs), and then 2 this year. Regardless of Sohail’s 5 wickets against India, it is unfathomable how they merited selection. As for fielding, ESPN Cricinfo mentioned a lovely comment the other day: “the apple on Newton’s head was dropped by a Pakistani fielder”. Enough said.

But before we play Zimbabwe and win by a mile (which is also doubtful), and all is forgotten, it is time to reveal our cards and cry a little. Just a little, because to cry you must feel an emotional association with the team. This team, unfortunately, does not deserve that. We are a below par team, easily the worst among the top 8, and competing fiercely with the ‘minnows’ to retain that position. We are not underachievers like England in football, where on paper it is always a worthy team, but disappoints everytime. We are achieving what we are, and that means a struggle to make the quarter-finals. It may all boil down to the final group match with Ireland, where run rate might also come into play.

It may be that I am spoilt by the heroics of Imran, Wasim, Miandad, Inzi, Shoaib and the likes that I feel the way I do right now, but a part of me is hoping that we fail. It is not because I want Pakistan to fail; there will never be a feeling worse than that. But I hold that hope because it is only in the abyss of such mediocrity that one finds the strength to improve. Should we somehow qualify for the quarters, one good day for us or an off day for the opposition could mean we would be in the semi-finals. If that happens, we will all forget how bad our team is, how bad the management is, how bad the coaching is. The need to improve, the hunger to climb higher, would get lost in the petals thrown at the airport upon the team’s return. This bunch does not deserve accolades, they deserve criticism and disapproving shakes of the head.

Pakistanis are emotional by nature, and we forgive and forget. It is for this reason that to some extent, I do wish Shahid Afridi has an excellent tournament. However many shortcomings he may have, he was the face of our team for the past decade and I wish he ends his career on a high. The same for Misbah and Younis I guess, but their highs may not be delightful enough unfortunately.

Come 29th of March, some people may laugh at articles like these as Misbah holds aloft the World Cup trophy. If that happens, I would be happy for Pakistan, but extremely wary of our future. Exiled from our own home grounds and denied the opportunity to play in premier cricket leagues, we are already losing any edge our ‘natural talent’ may have given us. Coupled with complacency which is bound to follow such unexpected success, there is no doubt in my mind that we will only fall deeper into the pits of mediocrity.

So let the wheel of fortune turn, Pakistan. But for once, I believe it may be better for the long run that we crap out.