“The strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack,” wrote Rudyard Kipling. Pakistan’s cricket team knows exactly what the famous English writer was talking about.
Necessity has really united the Greenshirts, propelling them from being the tournament underdogs to one of the favourites for the title within a span of just two World Cup wins.
Till just last month, very few were backing Pakistan to win the World Cup. They seemed down and out after a string of controversies in the lead up to the World Cup. They had lost three of their key players to a spot-fixing scandal. Their performance was below average at times while there was even uncertainty over who will lead them in the World Cup.
It was hardly surprising when not many counted them among the contenders for the title as experts, barring a few, predicted that actually just five teams — co-hosts India and Sri Lanka, Australia, South Africa and England — were in the run for the World Cup crown.
But back-to-back wins against Kenya and Sri Lanka have changed all that. Now Pakistan are in a position from where they can hunt the top spot in Pool A. Trevor Bayliss, the Sri Lankan coach, believes Pakistan have as good a chance to win the Cup as any other team. Not many disagree now.
So what went right with the Pakistanis?
“Unity is our secret recipe,” Shahid Afridi, the Pakistan captain, told ‘The News’ here. “The boys knew there was no other way we could win the World Cup. It was necessary for us to gel together and play as a unit. We’ve done that and now it’s our greatest strength,” he stressed.
Abdul Razzaq, the seasoned Pakistan allrounder, echoed Afridi’s views.
“The thing is that when you trust each other then you play for each other. You start enjoying whatever role you get to further the team’s cause. That’s the way we are going right now. The team is completely united and focused on winning the World Cup,” said Razzaq.
So how did Pakistan, who are usually one of the most fragmented teams in world cricket, manage to unite just months after they were left shattered by the spot-fixing scandal that involved their teamates — Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir?
Ask Intikhab Alam, the Pakistan team manager, and he will tell you that it’s all about better communication.
“Most of the mistrust within a team is created by a lack of communication,” Intikhab told ‘The News’.
“When you are not talking to each other, misunderstandings are bound to seep in because of the communication gap. Then you start suspecting your teammates.
“That’s the worst thing which can happen to a team. In such an atmosphere you can’t do well even if you have the best players available. It doesn’t work that way,” said Intikhab, a former Test captain, who was at the helm of Pakistan when they won the 1992 World Cup and the 2009 ICC World Twenty20 championship.
Intikhab said that together with the team’s coach — Waqar Younis and Aaqib Javed — and skipper Afridi, he has successfully managed to promote harmony in the Pakistan dressing room.
“It’s all about giving the players respect,” he said. “Though we are strict and don’t compromise on discipline, the team management gives each and every player the respect he deserves. We give them room to express themselves.”
Intikhab believes that the rapport he enjoys with Waqar, Aaqib and Afridi has certainly helped the team’s cause. “Both Waqar and Aaqib began their career in front of me. I enjoy a very good rapport with them. Same is the case with Afridi.”
Waqar Younis, meanwhile, said that there is ‘no dictatorship’ in the Pakistan camp. “There is a jovial atmosphere in our dressing room because the boys are happy. They trust each other and the team management trusts them.”
Coming together was a good beginning for Pakistan. By keeping together they are progressing. If they continue working together, success should be theirs.
Afridi agrees, “I have confidence in my boys because they way they are playing, we can achieve anything.”