World Cup Preview #4: Pakistan

Pakistan are predictable.

Had to go for the anti-cliche there, because they are predictable in their unpredictability. Brilliant one day, hilarious the next and sometimes just downright sad. Pakistan were not really considered title contenders while they were entertaining, but now, with the dullness of Younis and Misbah in the middle order, their chances can be respected again.

Mohammed Hafeez will bowl better than he bats. He would do better at the top of the order, if he didn't have that technical glitch of not being a good enough batsman.

Ahmed Shehzad could be one of the breakout stars of the World Cup with his fearless batting and clean striking. I haven't seen him bat on a slow pitch, though, so there is that window for failure. I'd back him anyway.

Kamran Akmal will be the first cricketer to try out an on-field tool called "CricAutotune". His behind-the-stumps wailing will suddenly sound awesome.

Younis Khan will smile. A lot. And he will make many starts amidst all the smiling, not many of which will be useful, not even the 150 against India.

Misbah-ul-Haq will continue to flourish in his current purple-patch. If he makes it to the final, and India are the opponents, he will successfully execute a paddle-scoop for six. Also, he will step in as captain midway through the tournament.

Umar Akmal has shown glimpses of being back in form of late, and he will always perform when there is little responsibility on him. He will give up the ugly green make-up and take up face-advertising like Chanderpaul.

Shahid Afridi will find a novel way to be insane. It could be sitting on the stumps and finding one missing when he stands up, or it could be turning into a bat at nighttime. He will never cross 20. In age.

Abdul Razzaq only works when there is something monumental to be done, and this won't change. His bowling won't be that effective, but just watch out when Pakistan needs 65765 from 3 balls.

Wahab Riaz has, of late, looked like the bowler who has held it together the most, and even he has all those wides. I just get the feeling (©Ravi Shastri) that he might be in for a thrashing on flatter pitches.

Speaking of being thrashed, Umar Gul isn't one to restrict the flow of runs between overs 1-35. He is known as a splendid death bowler, and that's the way it should stay.

Saeed Ajmal has been kept under wraps recently, which is a little weird since he's not really a 'secret' weapon. He is a weapon, though, and a darn good one. He will be very crucial in overs 20-35.

Shoaib Akhtar at the moment is fit enough to bowl 3-4 lethargic but quick overs. He ranges from 'in-control-and-taking-wickets' to 'getting-the-warts-thrashed-off-him'. He will make a cameo in a movie and a couple of ads when in India.

Abdur Rehman is competing with Ajmal for a spot, but he'll miss out since he isn't a wicket-taking bowler. He needs to take a new picture, one that doesn't make you feel like he's about to stalk you. Yeah, didn't know what else to say about him.

Asad Shafiq won the lottery to be in this squad. It's probably the spot that would have gone to Malik or Yousuf otherwise. I'm not sure what this guy does - apparently he's a keeper batsman? Put him down as back-up then, imaginary secretary, there was probably a max limit on Akmals in the squad.

Sohail Tanvir used to be brilliant, when he was getting everyone with his whirry arms and prodigious swing. Now he's the bowler everyone goes after. He's still cocky though, look at him!

Official-looking prediction: Super Eights. Sort out your bowling, fellas. Also, the strategy of batting slowly and leaving 12 runs per over to Akmal Jr, Afridi and Razzaq seems like something that could backfire against better bowling attacks than New Zealand's.