MANCHESTER: With their shoulders slumped, Pakistan’s players walked towards the team bus at the County Ground in Taunton on Wednesday evening. Some fans, who had lined to catch a glimpse of their favourite cricketers cheered while others booed.
However, there was one player, who walked with his head held high amidst applause from the fans.
Mohammad Amir acknowledged the crowd as they hailed him with chants of ‘Amir, Amir!’
Amir was also the only man, who performed to his true potential in the key World Cup game against Australia on Wednesday. But despite his career-best 5-30 – Amir’s first five-wicket haul in ODI cricket – the error-prone Pakistanis crashed to a 41-run defeat against the Aussies.
Despite the tournament’s forgiving format, Pakistan now find themselves walking dangerously close to thin ice. With just three points from four matches, they languish at the number eight spot in this ten-nation contest. And their next game is against high-flying India, who will begin Sunday’s big match at Old Trafford as firm favourites.
So can Pakistan bounce back, the same way they did by stunning England following a timid showing in a seven-wicket loss against West Indies?
“Of course they can,” says Zaheer Abbas, the former Pakistan captain. “I know the Indians are, at the moment, a very good side in all three departments of the game but that doesn’t mean we can’t beat them. We defeated them in the ICC Champions Trophy final and we can do that again,” he told The News on Thursday.
Zaheer believes that the back-to-form Amir will be Pakistan’s key man in Sunday’s match.
“Amir showed yesterday that when he is at his best, he can dismantle any batting line-up. I think he will be all pumped up against India. He is going to be our key man.”
But Zaheer was quick to add that Amir will need support at the other end.
“If the rest of the attack had supported him yesterday, I’m sure we would have beaten Australia. Unfortunately, Amir was the only one playing to his potential and also maybe Wahab Riaz. But the others weren’t really able to contribute towards the team’s cause.
“Our other players will need to emulate Amir and Wahab and give their best. That’s the only way we can beat India and make a comeback in the World Cup. If we beat them, it would give us the sort of confidence boost that you need to win a major title like the World Cup.”
Amir, meanwhile, believes that a positive frame of mind can help Pakistan bounce back despite the morale-shattering defeat against Australia.
“It’s great that I’ve finally taken a five-wicket haul after having made my ODI debut in 2009. But I would have really enjoyed it had we won (against Australia),” Amir said after Wednesday’s game.
Amir rued the fact that the Pakistani attack failed to make full use of the conditions after asking Australia to bat first.
“I knew right away that the ball wasn’t swinging but it was seaming. You needed to hit the right areas. We couldn’t really do that. The Australians batted well and we couldn’t control the game.”
Amir knows Pakistan are now in danger zone as they need to win at least four of their last five World Cup matches to have any realistic chances of qualifying for the last four. So does he think that they are now under great pressure?
“Every team is under pressure, after all it’s the World Cup,” he said. “If we play positively then we will definitely win, Insha'Allah”.