They have been defeated in 11 successive one-day internationals, contriving to lose everywhere from Cape Town to Dubai, Sharjah to Southampton. Many of these defeats have been thumpings, too: at least five by six wickets or more. And the worst of the lot came in their opening World Cup game, when they were bundled out for 105 by the team ranked eighth in the world. Were they called anyone else bar Pakistan, their quest to make the final four of the World Cup would be derided as an exercise in futility.
But they are called Pakistan: a team for whom, in world events, early disaster seems a necessary, if not sufficient, condition for later triumph. And so every ignominious start to a world event cannot help but invite comparisons with the 1992 World Cup, when Imran Khan’s cornered tigers won the tournament; their legacy would then help propel Khan to the presidency of Pakistan.
The magnificent encore in the Champions Trophy in England two years ago revived the legend. Then, Pakistan lost their first match to India after a display that married ineptitude in all three facets of the game. It was the prelude to a stirring run of four consecutive wins, culminating in dismantling India in the Champions Trophy final, one of those rare days when all three facets of a side’s cricket are perfectly in sync.