Former Pakistan stars hope history doesn't repeat itself

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The 2007 Cricket World Cup was notable for Ireland's win over Pakistan.

The setting cannot be more reminiscent of the 2007 Cricket World Cup for Pakistan, with the team facing a must-win match against Ireland to qualify from the group stages with elimination from the tournament a real possibility.

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Eight years ago, the two teams clashed on March 17 with a Super Eight berth at stake. The date was already notable for the Irish, being St. Patrick’s day and the 2007 celebrations will be forever remembered by the country for their cricketing exploits.

One would bow out of the competition, the other sail into the knockout stage. Ireland were the victors back then, shocking the cricketing world.

For Pakistan it is now a matter of pride and revenge while Ireland has already done themselves proud with some scintillating performances.

Sunday’s match promises an intense battle as the two teams in green lay it all on the line.

Former wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal – who top-scored with 27 for Pakistan in 2007 – has vowed that times have changed and it is time for revenge.

“These are totally different times right now and Pakistan will be eyeing to take the revenge of that 2007 horror,” Kamran told Sport360.

“Back then we just couldn’t get any momentum in our sail whereas right now the team’s confidence is sky high having beaten South Africa and winning three matches on the trot.

“The format in 2007 made things complicated as we’d already lost against West Indies and had no time to settle but this time Pakistan have bounced back after two losses.”

It was a disaster for Pakistan and India back in 2007, the two cricketing giants falling at the first hurdle, leading to question marks over the ICC’s format.

“The pitch had lot of grass on it and it wasn’t the true wicket you expect at a big event such as world cup. The overcast conditions and rain just helped the Irish as they opted to bowl first and we just couldn’t cope with movement of the ball,” Kamran recalled.

“When I came out to bat, there was unbelievable pressure and I tried to counter it by playing my shots. I got set and was looking to play a big knock but got out. Had I played a bigger knock, maybe just maybe we would have finished on winning side.”

It was not only the casualty of Pakistan’s World Cup exit that was to live long in the memory of its players and the wider world. Coach Bob Woolmer died shortly after Pakistan’s campaign, leaving a dark cloud over the whole tournament.

“Woolmer’s death was not just the loss of Pakistan, it was the loss of the cricket fraternity. Woolmer was someone who was revolutionizing cricket with his new ideas and methods,” added Akmal.

“Had he been alive and associated with any side in the world, he would have taken them to top of the rankings for sure, he was so good. I’ve been in pressure situations all my life but that experience was one of the toughest as we went through lot of mental agony.”

Akmal has played 53 Tests, 154 ODIs and 54 T20Is in his career, scoring over 6,000 runs across all three formats.

Akmal warned other teams that if the Pakistani batsmen get going like their bowling unit has, Misbah-ul-Haq’s charges may take some beating.

“Our fast-bowling unit has clicked but our batting is still a worry. If our batting clicks as a unit as well, then Pakistan would become one of the favourites going into knock-out stage and will be unstoppable,” said the 33-year-old.

“The batsmen have a good opportunity to make most of Adelaide’s pitch because it’s a batting friendly strip and they should try to regain the confidence ahead of the crunch matches.”

One of Akmal’s teammates in 2007, Mohammad Sami, says that it was the toss which decided the result of the match two tournaments ago, but it will not be the same on Sunday.

Sami was the pick of the bowlers for Pakistan against Ireland in 2007, claiming three wickets and bowling over 150kph.

“The toss was vital for both sides as it was overcast and the pitch was really green. Ireland won the toss and their bowlers utilized the fresh conditions well as the ball was seaming around,” said Sami.

“However, that prodigious seam movement will not be around at Adelaide and the Irish seamers will struggle whereas Pakistan’s pace attack will enjoy bowling.”

Another to taste defeat against the Irish was the now-banned spinner Danish Kaneria. Kaneira, currently serving a life-ban from the sport for match fixing, was dropped on the day of the game after the team found the pitch to be better suited to seam.

“Just a day before the match, I was told by the management that I was playing against Ireland as they do not tackle spin well. But when we went out in the morning for warm-up session, Inzamam went to check the pitch and then had to make a late adjustment by naming Azhar Mahmood instead as it was fast-bowlers paradise,” Kaneria recalled.

“We went on to lose the match and were out of the tournament. The team couldn’t give a perfect sendoff to Inzamam who was retiring after the tournament while a father figure left us when Woolmer died. He had a special bond with all the players and his death really broke us into pieces.”

Kaneria further revealed that the whole team was traumatized with the death and the investigation which followed as players were also questioned. In his view, it was something that had never happened before to an international cricket side who were being questioned on the death of their own coach.

“Woolmer’s association cannot be described in words and only those who have worked with him can tell you what a gem of a person he was. He is no more with us but I pray that Pakistan win the match and dedicate it to the great man who wanted to put Pakistan at the top of the international rankings,” he added.

“Woolmer did all the hard work to prepare us for a fantastic World Cup but the nature had some other ideas.”

Asked how he would compare the 2007 and 2015 Ireland teams, Kaneria replied that bowling has always been their weak link and that it was just a bit more organized previously.

He also warned the current side not to take things for granted against Ireland – a mistake which Inzamam’s team made before the match had begun.

“We were maybe over-confident that we would just thrash Ireland and took it lightly. I hope that Misbah-ul-Haq’s men will not repeat the same error and will remain focused on the task ahead. Ireland still have good batsmen in Niall [O’Brien], Kevin [O’Brien], [Paul] Stirling, Ed Joyce, [Gary] Wilson and [William] Porterfield.” 

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