Barred from playing in their own country, embroiled in rows and disciplinary problems, Pakistan have somehow managed to reach the semifinals of the Twenty20 World Cup.
Shahid Afridi’s team even lost the first two of their three matches in the Super Eight stage but still made it into the last four thanks to victory over South Africa on Monday and other results going their way.
Now Pakistan face favourites Australia on Friday with a place in the final up for grabs and an opportunity to defend the title they won last year in England.
The chance of glory comes just weeks after the end of a woeful tour of Australia where the team lost all three tests and five one day internationals.
The Pakistan Cricket Board banned former skipper Younus Khan and Muhammad Yousuf indefinitely and imposed 12-month suspensions and fines on Shoaib Malik and Rana Naved.
Of the current Twenty20 team, skipper Afridi and brothers Kamran and Umar Akmal were all fined.
Even while this squad was out in the Caribbean, a leaked report of the Australia tour from former coach Intikhab Alam, was published with the players accused of several faults including not knowing how to “wear their clothes and how to talk in a civilised manner”.
It is the kind of chaotic situation that would undermine most teams’ confidence but Afridi, nicknamed ‘Boom Boom’ after scoring the fastest one day century in 1996, said they were taking it all in their stride.
“It’s a normal thing for us, going through this kind of situation. The only thing is performance and if we win the games everything will be fine
“Overall the guys are very confident after the last game and I think it will be a great game against Australia,” he added.
Success would bring cheer to the cricket-mad Pakistani population who have been unable to watch their team on home soil since the visiting Sri Lanka team bus was attacked by armed gunmen in Lahore last March.
Three months later, Pakistan won the Twenty20 World Cup in England.
“This competition is very important and we are here to play good cricket and win this competition. Because there is no cricket in Pakistan, we tell the people that we still love playing cricket away and at home as well. We want to see cricket back at home,” he said.
Afridi clearly feels it is time that other teams gave Pakistan support and returned to touring in the country.
“The situation in India was not so good five years ago when Pakistan visited there and (there were problems in) Sri Lanka as well but Pakistan was the only team that visited there and played there.
“I think this is what we should [have], cricket relations should continue,” he said urging the ICC, the sport’s governing body, to look at the issue again.
For now though, Afridi’s thoughts are purely about beating Australia, the only team to have won every game in the tournament.
“We have some plans, we will show them on Friday,” he said. — Reuters