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Forget the Powerplay, Pakistan has Bigger Issues!

With Riz-Bar reunited at the top of the order for Pakistan, the discussion around Pakistan’s run rate has resurfaced. However, I’d like to debunk this notion using some stats. While capitalizing on the powerplay overs is undoubtedly crucial in modern T20 cricket, considering the current playing conditions and circumstances of this World Cup, I believe Pakistan has bigger concerns to address.

Since 2023, Pakistan’s powerplay run rate has been the fifth-best in the world, trailing behind powerhouses like the West Indies, South Africa, Australia, and England. These teams boast unparalleled destructive capabilities, consistently posting run rates exceeding 8.8 in the powerplay. The teams below them, including Pakistan, hover around the 7.2-7.8 range. Surprisingly, India also falls into this category, despite having explosive openers like Jaiswal, Gill and Ishan Kishan. 

Strike Rates of All Teams Divided by Phases

Team Run Rates in different phases since 2023

However, the real issue arises in the middle overs, where Pakistan has the third-worst run rate, narrowly surpassing Afghanistan and Bangladesh for the last position. This middle phase, often considered the backbone of an innings, has seen Pakistan struggle to maintain momentum.

In contrast, teams like India and Sri Lanka, despite having lower powerplay run rates similar to Pakistan, have shown resilience in this crucial stage by increasing their scoring rate. Pakistani openers often struggle to accelerate in this phase and instead slow down or end up losing their wickets, putting immense pressure on an already struggling middle order.

The lack of boundaries and quick singles in this phase puts Pakistan behind the eight-ball, making it difficult to post competitive totals.

Pakistan’s middle-over struggles stem from recent difficulties against spin and express pace. The middle order often lacks the intent to rotate the strike and find gaps consistently. While players like Iftikhar Ahmed excel at hitting sixes against pace, they struggle to capitalize on spaces for doubles and rotate the strike effectively.

Babar Azam’s challenges against spin are well-known, further complicating Pakistan’s middle-over strategy. The team is banking on Usman Khan to address this spin issue, given his impressive strike rate of 167 against spin in the recent PSL.

Usman Khan’s impactful 38 off 21 balls in the last T20 against England highlighted his six-hitting ability against spin. His ability to strike over long on and long off demonstrated his versatility, offering Pakistan a valuable option for handling spinners in the middle overs.

Strike Rate and Average of All Teams vs Spin

Slow starts will likely even out on the low-scoring pitches of the US and Caribbean anyway. The real problem for Pakistan lies in the middle overs, where their inability to handle spin is glaringly obvious.

Since 2022, their average against spin is only better than Zimbabwe and England, and their RPO against spin are only better than the likes of Bangladesh, Ireland, Zimbabwe, and Afghanistan. The top teams are leagues ahead of Pakistan in both these metrics, which directly impacts their middle-overs run rate. This issue is magnified by the fact that this World Cup is being played on spin-friendly tracks, with every team loading up on spinners (India even brought four!). So, Pakistan’s weakness against spin could be their Achilles’ heel in this tournament.

Long story short, the powerplay struggles are real, and Pakistan is nowhere near the big teams in that department. But on these pitches, that might not be the biggest worry. The real test lies in navigating the middle overs against spin, where Pakistan’s weaknesses are exposed.

If they want to make a deep run in this tournament, Babar and Rizwan will have to anchor the innings, allowing players like Usman Khan and Azam Khan to unleash their power against spinners and let the bowlers take care of the rest.

Trying to combine my love for Sports and Numbers.

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