FORMER England captain Nasser Hussain believes Pakistan could be the surprise-package of this summer’s World Cup.
Sarfaraz Ahmed’s side are already in England ahead of a five-match warm-up series with the hosts before their tournament opener against the Windies on May 31.
And despite England remaining overwhelming favourites to triumph on home soil, Hussain isn’t ruling out Pakistan – despite the 5-0 whitewash defeat they suffered to Australia in March.
Speaking to PakPassion.net, Hussain said: “Many Pakistani fans will say they have followed their team for too long and had their hearts broken many times, but I love them, and I love their cricket.
“I love them because they are mercurial Pakistan and you wonder which Pakistan will turn up on the day. The fact is that you cannot write off Pakistan for this World Cup.”
All eyes will be on teenage pair Shaheen Afridi and Mohammad Hasnain, who have already proved to be capable of producing rapid 90mph-plus deliveries.
And that youthful fearlessness could be priceless when coming up against some of the world’s best this summer.
It’s the younger Pakistani batsmen that I am looking out for at this World Cup.
Hussain continued: “This is what Pakistan do, they play them, they pick [youngsters], and they give them a chance. It doesn’t matter how old they are, it’s all about whether they are good enough.
“If you can clock 90mph as Mohammad Hasnain and Shaheen Shah Afridi can, then that is the sort of wicket-taking potential that will win this World Cup.
“If Pakistan can get one or two of their star younger players doing a Virat Kohli or being like a Jos Buttler or doing a Kane Williamson or a David Warner, then that’s when Pakistan will be right in the tournament. So, it’s the younger Pakistani batsmen that I am looking out for at this World Cup.”
Skipper Sarfaraz returned to action against Kent and managed 10 with the bat as his side cruised to a 100-run victory.
And Hussain believes that the presence of a ‘street fighter’ character will be a key factor in getting the best out of the younger players.
He said: “Pakistan is a very emotional, cricket-loving nation and what Pakistan need is a street-fighter-type in charge of the team. I mean that in the nicest of ways and Sarfaraz is that street-fighter and someone that I would definitely want to go to battle alongside against any opponent.
“I don’t see Sarfaraz as a bottler, I see him as a real fighter and the Pakistan fans that I know and have known over the years they want their team to fight, and with Sarfaraz and Mickey Arthur you get that fighting spirit in abundance.”
Ahead of the World Cup, Pakistan face England in a five-game ODI series, with the first match on May 8 at the Oval.
Pakistan squad: Sarfaraz Ahmed (c), Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Abid Ali, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Hafeez, Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim, Hasan Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Hasnain.