Pakistan travel to the World Cup on the back of success in New Zealand
Even for a team used to controversy, the last few months have been bleak for Pakistan.
Predictably unpredictable, their World Cup fortunes have lurched from glory in 1992 to tragedy in 2007 and covered just about everything else in between.
Even before the spot-fixing controversy, Pakistan will have felt wronged when they were robbed of the chance to co-host the tournament after gunmen attacked the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore in 2009. Motivation should not be a problem, which could spell danger for the rest.
WORLD CUP RECORD
Undoubtedly Pakistani cricket's finest hour came in 1992, when, inspired by captain Imran Khan, they lifted the trophy for the only time. After coming within a whisker of an early exit, Imran told his team to "fight like a cornered tiger" and the rest, including a 22-run win over England in the final in Melbourne, is history. Pakistan were well beaten by Australia in the 1999 final and their recent history is poor, going out in the first round in 2003 and 2007, the latter being overshadowed by the death of coach Bob Woolmer following their shock defeat by Ireland in Jamaica.
No player better sums up the mercurial nature of Pakistan cricket than Shahid Afridi. His ability for destruction, with bat, ball, or his own reputation and career is matched by few in the international game. Afridi's game-changing powers may have been on the wane in recent years, but he remains as likely to blast a match-winning hundred as he is to quit the captaincy mid-way through the tournament.
In the absence of Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir, Umar Gul will lead the Pakistan pace attack. An exponent of reverse swing with few peers, the right-armer specialises in late-over toe-crushers. In a tournament that boasts few top-quality pacemen, Gul is a genuine match-winner.
Pakistan's inconsistency is highlighted by the eight wins and eight defeats in their last 16 completed one-day internationals, but that could perhaps be seen as a successful run considering the hullabaloo that has surrounded them in that time. Nothing should be taken for granted, but a place in the quarter-finals should be easily achieved. After that, for Pakistan in particular, anything is possible.
Pakistan squad: Shahid Afridi (capt), Abdul Razzaq, Abdur Rehman, Ahmed Shehzad, Asad Shafiq, Junaid Khan*, Kamran Akmal (wk), Misbah-ul-Haq, Mohammad Hafeez, Saeed Ajmal, Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Akmal, Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz, Younus Khan.
*Called up as a replacement for Sohail Tanvir