It's been 38 days since the World Cup started, and still there is no news of things going wrong in the Pakistani ranks. No positive dope tests, no infighting, and no allegations of fixing. For a team with a recent history replete with controversies, there couldn't have been anything better.
The players appeared to be enjoying each other's company when they turned up for practice at the PCA Stadium in Mohali on Saturday. Playing pranks and looking very much the integral parts of a cohesive unit, they seemed to have buried the demons of the past.
"We've been together for six-seven months and it has helped us understand each other. The key has been to be able to play as a unit and the feeling of togetherness has helped in that aspect till now. We've enjoyed supporting each other," said opener Mohammad Hafeez.
A look at their performance in this World Cup is enough to understand that Pakistan have played as a team so far. All the sides to have reached the semi-finals have done that to a certain degree, but it is more striking in Pakistan's case.
They have two of the tournament's most successful bowlers in Shahid Afridi and Umar Gul, but there is no Pakistani on the list of the top 20 batsmen. On one hand, this means their batsmen have not done well consistently. On the other, it proves they got someone to deliver when the team needed runs. Be it Misbah-ul Haq, Younis Khan, Hafeez or Umar Akmal, someone from the batting unit have done the job on different days. Six wins in seven matches, including those over Sri Lanka and Australia, wouldn't have come had it not been the case.
Just to highlight the point of different people chipping in while batting, it should be pointed out that Pakistan were the only team to reach the quarterfinals without any of their batsmen scoring a century. In many other ways, life is different for Pakistani cricketers. They have no home matches, there is no IPL for them and they are the only Asian team without a foreign coach. So for them, the World Cup is a big stage to prove a few points. "We want to send out a message to the world that we are a strong nation," said Hafeez. "It's disappointing for us and people back home that we can't play international cricket in Pakistan. We want to do something for our people by doing well in this World Cup."
India-Pakistan matches often go beyond cricket. And as far as the upcoming one is concerned, there is already every reason to believe it will be the same.