Asad Shafiq: A star in the making
Pakistan have a golden opportunity to reverse the history of their last two World Cup outings.
Pakistan's victory against Australia provided us with some key insights into the 1992 champions' strengths, as well as, weaknesses. Much has been said about the exceptional bowling performance that was on display from the men in green.
It is a well-known fact that it has been the bowling that has time and again provided the team with the ability to excel against the best sides even during periods when we no longer possessed the starpower that we once did.
Here, however, I want to focus on the performance of a future star in the making, who has exhibited extraordinary temperament and has delivered well in the limited opportunities that have come his way. Asad Shafiq is indeed an excellent prospect for the future.
Many of our younger players are talented stroke-makers but there are often question marks hanging around their maturity, temperament and ability to handle pressure situations. Shafiq may not have all the shots in the book at present, but has proved that he possesses all the ingredients that are the hallmarks of a great player.
In the long run, what distinguishes the good players from the great ones is the strength of character they display when it matters most, and I feel the youngster has demonstrated that he does possess that trait.
The other aspect of the victory against the four-time champions was Pakistan's much-lamented weakness when they chase.
Admittedly, despite the small target, the team was facing a quality pace attack and the prospect of ending Australia's 12-year unbeaten run in World Cup matches, and that could have played on the batsmen's minds putting them under pressure.
Pakistan, as expected, put up a jittery batting display but now that they have won chasing against a formidable opposition like Australia, they will be in a much better frame of mind, if they have to face a similar task later on in the tournament.
However, I believe that for Pakistan to succeed again while batting second, Younus Khan will have to play a key role. He is the lynchpin of the batting line-up, and while his performance so far can be termed satisfactory, he needs to step up a notch and deliver the kind of sheet-anchor role that a player of his experience and calibre should be exhibiting on a regular basis. He is the kind who can hold one end up and let the others bat around him and play their natural game. This gift of his can hold Pakistan in good stead in the quarter-final.
Pakistan have a golden opportunity to reverse the history of their last two World Cup outings and put up a stellar show against the West Indies, as they are possibly the weakest side that qualified for the last-eight. However, with match-winners like Chris Gayle and Kieron Pollard in their ranks, Shahid Afridi and his men will do well to not take the opposition lightly.
A place in the World Cup semi-final should be incentive enough to put the players on their toes in the all-important encounter.