Pakistan cricket team thrives on its volatile nature. Cricket fans have seen them go from best to worst and vice versa so many times that the word ‘unpredictability’ has been permanently associated with the Men in Green.
While unpredictability in any sport is a negative point for a team, it can often prove to be Pakistan’s strongest suit.
This reminds me of Nasser Hussain’s commentary in Champions Trophy Final.
Pakistan cricket at his best. One minute down, next minute up.
Pakistan team is coming into the tournament on the back of humiliating series losses against South Africa, Australia and now England. To make things worse, Pakistan lost their warm-up fixture against Afghanistan while their second practice game has also been washed out.
Pakistan team might have lost the series against England, there were moments of brilliance especially from the batsmen as Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, and Babar Azam all scored centuries while Sarfaraz Ahmed also chipped in with the bat. The bowling, on the other hand, has been poor, which is the main reason why the series resulted in a 4-0 defeat.
The tournament starts on 30th May with Pakistan slated to play their first match against the West Indies on 31st. Let’s have a look at Pakistan’s main batsmen and bowlers ahead of the mega event and what the gameplan would be.
Pakistan batting relies heavily on the young shoulders of Babar Azam, who according to Michael Clarke, the 2015 World Cup-winning captain, is right up there with the likes of Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson, and Joe Root.
Brisk starts from Fakhar Zaman would be the key along with contributions from his opening partner, Imam-ul-Haq if Pakistan wants to do well in cricket’s biggest spectacle. The most challenging task for the team management and captain is the team combination.
With the inclusion of Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez, there would be tough competition for places especially with the likes of Haris Sohail and Asif Ali in the team. Even Sarfaraz’s own batting position has been under criticism as he quite often stays behind despite impressive numbers at number 4.
If team management opts for both Hafeez and Malik, Haris Sohail will most likely miss out. However, leaving out Asif Ali might not be a good option as he has proven his ability to accelerate in the recently concluded England series.
Let’s have a look at the batting statistics for Pakistani batsmen:
|Player||Matches||Runs||Highest score||Average||Strike rate||50s||100s|
Imam-ul-Haq has a career average of over 60 but his strike rate is below par and this is something he needs to address at the mega event on batting friendly pitches. If he keeps pace with Fakhar Zaman and even Babar Azam, Pakistan will likely post big totals throughout the event.
Pakistani bowlers have turned in some lackluster performances ever since the Champions Trophy 2017 winning campaign. Below are the overall figures for Pakistani bowlers.
|Players||Matches||Runs Conceded||Wickets||Average||Economy||Strike Rate|
The stats identify Hasan Ali as the key part of Pakistan’s bowling attack. His strike rate of 28.6 and average of 25.61 is best among the Pakistani bowlers whereas Hafeez leads the way in terms of the economy.
The return of Wahab Riaz means that the team now has a useful exponent of reverse swing and it was on display in the last overs of the game against Afghanistan.
Mohammad Hasnain is impressive however, his match temperament will be tested in the mega event. If he can turn in some match-winning performances, it will be a huge plus for Pakistan.
Spinners such as Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim and Mohammad Hafeez will have a huge role to play in this World Cup. The cricket experts have already weighed in, saying that the teams with good bowling attacks are favorites to lift the trophy.
Pakistan has always been good at defending totals, however, we have seen the trend change in recent times. With Pakistan not being able to defend even 300+ totals in the England series, Sarfaraz has a huge decision to make i.e. whether they would prefer to chase or defend.
Pakistan will play two matches at Nottingham, two at London, and one each at Bristol, Taunton, Manchester, Leeds, and Birmingham.
On dry pitches, it would be best to post a big total and then defend it with all the arsenal Pakistan has. Spin will be the key and Shadab, Imad and Hafeez, all will have to step up their game and pick up wickets in the crucial middle overs period. Not just them, the pacers will also have to get the batsmen out in that period in addition to getting early breakthroughs.
Wahab’s reverse swing will be a potent weapon for Sarfaraz, however, he has a tendency of leaking way too many runs in his first few overs. If he manages to curb the flow of runs from the start, he will prove to be a deadly weapon much like the 2015 World Cup where he walked away with 16 scalps.
Each team is slated to play 9 games in the league stage on a round-robin format. The top 4 teams will qualify for the semi-finals and Pakistan would be hoping to end up in the top 4 and then step up their game further to win the title for the second time. However, it is an uphill task for a team that has fared poorly in the last year or so.
In the batting department, Pakistan will have to look to their Champions Trophy hero, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam and Mohammad Hafeez.
When it comes to bowling, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Amir, and Shadab Khan will be the key. Pakistan is a team which relies heavily on momentum and a couple of good games at the start of the tournament may well put Pakistan on course for the remainder of the event.
As they say, cricket is a funny game and who knows, Pakistan could walk out as a victor much like the previous major ICC event in England – Champions Trophy. For those who don’t know, Pakistan has also won the T20 World Cup 2009 in England as well. Pakistan stormed into the finals of 1999 World Cup in England, only to lose from Australia at Lord’s.