ADELAIDE: Pakistan can win the World Cup because of the confidence and self-belief in the team that on Friday reminded spin bowling coach Mushtaq Ahmed of the victory under Imran Khan in 1992.
Leg-spinner Mushtaq, now 44, was part of Imran’s team that came back from the brink in the preliminary league to beat England in the final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground to win their only World Cup title so far 23 years ago.
Pakistan were close to elimination when a point gained in a rained-off match against England in Adelaide after being dismissed for 74 galvanised the team.
This time too, Pakistan have bounced back from morale-sapping defeats in the first two matches against old foes India and the West Indies to win the next three games in a row.
It included a brilliant victory in the previous game against mighty South Africa in Auckland when they bowled the Proteas out for 202 after being restricted to 222.
Pakistan will battle Ireland at the Adelaide Oval on Sunday for a place in the quarter-finals with both teams on three wins from five matches.
The last league match in the month-long group stage will steer the winner into the knock-out round and leave the loser facing a tricky run-rate countback against the West Indies who are facing the amateurs of the United Arab Emirates in Napier also on Sunday.
“The momentum is with us and the team has a lot of confidence and self-belief,” Mushtaq told reporters on Friday. “This reminds me so much of 1992.
“Imran instilled in us a sense of self-belief that nothing was impossible. And Waqar (coach Waqar Younis) has said the same thing to these boys also.
“He keeps telling them that if you don’t have self-belief, you can’t achieve anything.”
Mushtaq revealed that captain Misbah-ul-Haq had sent a text message to the entire team on Friday morning to encourage them for Sunday’s must-win match.
“We are fighting for the nation, we are going to win for the nation. We will give 100 percent. Leave the rest to God,” the captain wrote, according to Mushtaq.
Mushtaq, who last played for Pakistan in 2003, claimed 185 Test wickets in 52 matches and 161 wickets in 144 one-day internationals during a 14-year career.
He joined the Pakistan team management last year on the recommendation of Waqar after serving as England’s spin bowling coach from 2008 to 2014.
He expected a high scoring game on Sunday, saying 280 to 290 runs would be a par score on what is usually a flat and batting-friendly pitch.
In their tournament opener at Adelaide, Pakistan were dismissed for 224 after India had piled up 300 for seven on the back of a Virat Kohli century.
Mushtaq refused to speak on England’s early exit from the tournament, saying he was focused only on Pakistan’s performance. AFP