Tomorrow we play the UAE at Napier, in a different mood altogether. The self-doubt inflicted by the two heavy defeats in the first two games, and the pall of gloom that it brought in its wake, have completely disappeared from the horizon.
It’s true that the win against Zimbabwe was a hard-fought one, where the extremely hot and sultry conditions and a determined opposition tested us. But the fact that we prevailed against these odds as well as our own anxieties that were bound to creep in after a set of reverses has done us a world of good.
Other than rejuvenation in self-belief it has brought into sharper focus some of our strengths. Our pack of fast bowlers displayed awesome firepower, and ability to rout an opposition – any opposition. Mohammad Irfan and Wahab Riaz both had a four-for return for their effort, but more than the sheer statistics impact both made was important. Both made the ball talk, and while Irfan made a telling impact from the other word go, the rest amongst the pace foursome too made a huge impact.
With batting having wobbled, Wahab Riaz’s contribution with the bat took us to a total that we were quite confident was defendable.
Our batsmen are not striking the kind of form that all of us expected them to, particularly the young guns in the upper and middle order, but the feeling deep down amongst the support staff headed by head coach Waqar Younis and batting coach Grant Flower is that they would come good, just like the bowlers have.
Skipper Misbah meanwhile is as usual anchoring with the same aplomb that has been his hallmark these past five years. Once others join him, the momentum shift in our fortunes would be quite discernible.
The palpable feeling in the Pakistan dressing room is that the team has turned the corner. Those who have a sense of history tell me that a similar win against Zimbabwe in 1992 had reenergised the team then, eventually taking it all the way to the top.
This is the influence that a win can make on the mindset.
There were many who predicted that the rails would come off our World Cup 2015 campaign, and the criticism back home reached a crescendo. But this squad, which may not have the best or even one with a settled look that Pakistan has sent for this World Cup owing to circumstances beyond anyone’s control – injuries and suspensions all coming at a time most inopportune – yet I am positive that we would hang in there till our last group game against Ireland on March 15 at Adelaide, and qualify for the knockout stage.
I know there would be many doubters, but I am sure that Misbah, Waqar and company have different ideas.
Naveed Akram Cheema, until recently the chief secretary of the Punjab, is presently Manager, Team Pakistan