1. Pakistan vs India
In devising the fixtures for the World Cup 2015, the ICC knew that if there was one match that could rattle television viewership records, it would be an India/Pakistan encounter. That too, in their inaugural games. That too, on a Sunday!
Our nation holds this sport dear for as long as time itself, and an India-Pakistan World Cup clash means life and death to us. Players from both sides find themselves under nerve-boiling pressure, whereas fans cannot help but restlessly count days to the most sought-after cricketing clash in the world.
Tales of how our fathers and grandfathers used to zealously watch the greats of their time outperform India are still heard in every common household. Team colours, flags – symbols of patriotism and national pride can be spotted in the streets, outside stores, on vehicles and in homes.
2. Misbah ul Haq’s ODI century
Twelve years. 155 One Day Internationals. 4772 runs. 38 fifties. An average of just below 50 and not a single ODI century to his name...
His recent performances and the calm, collected on-field attitude implies he is all set to turn some heads during the tournament. With 5 fours, 6 sixes and a decent strike-rate by his standards, Misbah ul Haq’s 91 off 99 against England in the warm-up game on Wednesday has not only thrown the biggies of the tournament on pins and needles, but also given rise to the prospect that he might as well be saving his ever-awaited maiden ODI ton for his climactic World Cup.
3. Afridi’s farewell milestones
At the very instant that Shahid Afridi publicised his ODI-retirement plans, hearts were crushed. The veteran currently has to his name 7948 ODI runs and 393 ODI wickets, and eyes this World Cup as the ideal time to round off the figures.
This would be the part where I comment upon his recent ODI conduct and shine light on his forecasted performance, but then, this is Shahid Afridi we are talking about. One can never rightly predict his next move.
As of now, he is 52 runs and 7 wickets away from his personal milestones, and a World Cup trophy away from Pakistan’s.
Will Afridi choose to rein in his wild instincts this time? Will he hit that lethal form as a bowler that he's famous for finding in big games? What will his last ODI sixer be like?
4. Fresh faces on Australian tracks
Out of the latest additions to Pakistan’s surprisingly fluctuating bowling unit, Yasir Shah has undoubtedly caught the majority’s (and Shane Warne's) attention. The specialist leggie from Swabi has 312 first-class wickets to his name and is attracting numerous eyes as he prepares for what might just be his dream comeback.
Right-arm fast bowler Sohail Khan is another fresh face to watch out for this tournament. Becoming the highest wicket-taker in the recent Quaid-e-Azam Gold League gained him instant recognition and a deserved national call-up. He has a total of 330 first-class wickets to his name, his best bowling figures in a match being 16/189.
Youngsters Rahat Ali and Ehsan Adil too have yet to get things rolling and put on display some match-winning spells, if they are to keep wearing the national colours. Team Pakistan, who once was on top of the world with its lethal, one-of-its-kind bowling attack, is now taking on the World Cup with a rather unfledged bowling side.
5. Sohaib Maqsood and Haris Sohail
These up-and-coming batsman have shown incredible promise time and again, and are rightly eyed as potential match-winners. Sohaib Maqsood – the 27-year old from Multan – can clinch those boundaries when need be and is also capable of sticking around and constructing an innings.
The lefty Haris Sohail can also keep the scoreboard ticking and can comfortably fill in for a decent no.4 batsman. With seasoned batsmen like Misbah ul Haq, Younis Khan and to an extent Shahid Afridi, the lads have a chance to polish themselves out against the giants of world cricket.
Needless to say, this might be an exemplary opportunity for them to put on display their aptitude in order to cement their spot in the national side. Get ready to get surprised.
6. Final at the MCG:
The last time the Melbourne Cricket Ground hosted a World Cup final, an ambitious Imran Khan led his spirited side to victory and lifted the 1992 Benson & Hedges World Cup. Commencing as underdogs, Pakistan turned odds to their favour, left the world in awe, and defeated England in a stunning final showdown. Around 100,000 spectators were on their feet when the fireworks went out and the green army roared in celebration of their maiden World Cup win.
Our minds may disagree but our hearts repeatedly fancy similar scenes this time at the MCG. Could we witness a historic action replay or am I dreaming too much?