Mirpur, Mar 22: When Pakistan take on West Indies in the first quarter-final of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 at Mirpur on Mar 23, both the teams will face off for the seventh time in the history of ODI's premier tournament. Apart from the differences in the number of times they have lifted the coveted trophy, there isn't much to separate the two sides in this world cup. However, among all their similaraties, there is one that stands out and that is the their fall from the lofted perches they were entrenched in the 1970s and 1980s. And after some dismal performances in the past few world cups, both the sides are now on the verge of rebuilding and starting of a new era in their cricketing history.
Pakistan, the champions of the 1992 World Cup have always been noted for their inconsistent supremacy in the game. A nation that has produced some of the fiercest fast bowlers ever has either fallen short of quality batsmen or been a prey to the infighting in the team that is so sadly a manifestation of the ever-prevalent chaos in the country. In the 70s and 80s they were probably the second best side behind the West Indies. They almost matched the Caribbean side in terms of bowling fire-power. Imran Khan, Sarfaraz Nawaz, Wasim Akram, Abdul Qadir, Wasim Bari were if not more but still equally potent attack as that of Joel Garner, Michael Holding, Andy Roberts and Malcom Marshall.
The batting line-up starred Zaheer Abbas, Javed Miandad and Majid Khan. And that is where, despite the presence of these stalwarts they lagged behind the West Indies, who had equally talented batsmen in Desmond Haynes, Gordon Greenidge and Rohan Kanhai. But the crucial difference was the presence of Sir Vivian Richards who ensured that West Indies were always ahead of the Pakistanis in men for men comparison.
It was not until the 1987 World Cup in the sub-continent that Pakistan ever beat West Indies in the gala-event. They met twice in the tournament with each winning one. West Indies again got the better of Pakistan in the league matches of the 1992 World Cup but the south Asian team still managed to go through and lift the trophy. West Indies had shown the signs of decline and it seemed it was Pakistan's turn to rule the roost, but that was not to be.
Imran Khan hung his boots, Javed Miandad's effectiveness was on the wane and despite the presence of Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, Pakistan was never the side it was in the heydays of Imran Khan and Javed Miandad. But you could never write them off. In 1999, they raced through to the finals and lost to what was probably the second best Australian ODI outfit ever. And from then it was never the same for the Pakistanis. In the subsequent editions of 2003 and 2007 they couldn't even manage to go beyond the league stages. And even worse was to follow, with match-fixing scandals, death of coach, infighting and some insepid and spineless batting performances.
West Indies have almost followed the Pakistan way since 1992 from when onwards they have heightened hopes only to crush them later. With the golden era of Richards, Lloyd, Roberts and Marshall gone, West Indies had dropped to the mediocre levels of any ordinary outfit. Such was the vacuum that even with the presence of the likes of Brian Lara, Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose they never ever managed to go past the semi-finals of ODI's premier tournament.
However, both the teams are set to meet again in the World Cup and the one that wins will eventually move another step closer to start their upward journey to join the ranks of their illustrious predecessors of the 1970s and 1980s. More than a battle of two sides to move into the next level this might very well turn out to be the battle for resurrection of once great kingdoms of cricket.
Can Afridi do a Imran or Sammy imitate Lloyd? It's not a quarter-final anymore it has got to be the ultimate battle for resurrection of two erst-while supreme teams.