Ramiz: Pakistan will be mentally fatigued
For the first time, Pakistan will enter the World T20 a weakened side. Over the years, they have lost their Midas touch in the format and the unpredictability that was once a defining feature, is now merely a liability.
Pakistan announced their World T20 squad in early February but then made changes to their squad due to injuries and form. The last of these changes was to bring Ahmed Shehzad back into the squad in place of Khurram Manzoor, who fared poorly in the Asia Cup. Their departure was delayed following concerns over the security situation in Dharamsala, where they were scheduled to play a match against India, and this cost them one practice match. The match against India was eventually moved to Kolkata and the team arrived on Saturday.
An unsettled top order and an inconsistent middle order leaves them as one of the weaker teams in the Super 10s stage. They are not being seen as favourites but the senior players – Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Shahid Afridi and Ahmed Shehzad – are all overdue for big performances.
Pakistan’s biggest strength is the four-man pace attack, with Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Irfan, Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Sami all capable of clocking speeds close to 150 kph. Waqar Younis, Pakistan’s coach, has, however, stressed that the batsmen will need to support the bowlers. The tracks in India, too, might work against Pakistan, as their specialist spin department is another weak link.
Road to the World T20
Pakistan are ranked No. 7, close to Sri Lanka at No. 8. Their performances in the last 12 months have been poor. They have nine out of 17 games, and five of those victories came against Zimbabwe and UAE. They lost series to England (3-0) and New Zealand (2-1) followed by a dismal Asia Cup where they lost crunch games against India and Bangladesh and failed to make the final.
At the helm
This is Shahid Afridi’s second and final World T20 as captain; he previously led the team to a semi-final finish in the tournament in 2010. He took charge of the side after Mohammad Hafeez stepped down following the side’s exit in the group stage of the 2014 World T20. Afridi’s form has waned recently – in the Asia Cup, he scored two runs and took two wickets. Over the last 12 months, he has scored 173 runs in 15 innings at an average of 12.35 and has taken 12 wickets at 35.41. There were calls for a change in leadership after the Asia Cup but PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan refrained from making an alteration so close to the tournament.
Number of batsmen Pakistan have tried in the top three since 2012, the most for any team. They haven’t, however, been able to find a stable top order yet and their experiments in the Asia Cup only left the team with more questions.
Umar Akmal’s T20 experience and form will be crucial to shore up a brittle Pakistan batting order © AFP
The 2016 World T20 will be Mohammad Amir’s first ICC event since his return from a five-year suspension for spot-fixing in September 2015. He made his presence felt in the Asia Cup with a charismatic bowling show, particularly against India, and will be an important player for Pakistan.
Shehzad was first dropped from the World T20 squad and then added at the last minute after Khurram Manzoor failed in the Asia Cup. He has scored the most runs by a Pakistan opener in T20Is – 912 – but can be an inconsistent performer. He made his way back to the squad because the selectors were forced to revisit their original pick and the onus is now on Shehzad to produce the performances expected of him.
Umar Akmal has been in and out of Pakistan’s Test and ODI sides but is an important player in the side in T20 format. With 1611 runs in 75 matches at an average of 27.30, he is Pakistan’s highest run-getter in T20 internationals and fourth overall in the format. Currently he is in assured form – in the Asia Cup, for instance, he played a crucial 50 off 46 balls to help Pakistan overcome a scare from UAE. With the top order looking brittle, he has a vital role to give his side momentum with his flamboyant batting. In three World T20 appearances, he has scored 408 runs in 14 innings at a strike rate of 134.65.
Can Shahid Afridi sign-off with a bang?
Afridi’s 20-year career has had exhilarating highs and excruciating lows, and he is now nearing the end of his international career. His career and extravagant persona have made a significant impact on Pakistan cricket. He brought the curtains down on his ODI career with a quiet 2015 World Cup and the World T20 is his chance to mark his remarkable career with a perfect farewell.
World T20 history
They finished runners-up in the inaugural edition in South Africa in 2007, losing to India in the final. In 2009, they won the title and finished semi-finalists in 2010 and 2012. In 2014, however, they failed to move beyond the group stage.
In their own words
“It’s a matter of the entire team clicking together and this is the only pattern of Pakistan winning a game. Gone are the days when one player stood up and finished off the game single-handedly. Now we need to perform as a unit, and every single player in the side has to play his role. We all know what to expect and who to expect, and the answer to every question is batting. And the day we manage to get consistent with the bat, we will become the best team in the world.”
Pakistan coach, Waqar Younis
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo’s Pakistan correspondent. @kalson
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Source: ESPN Crickinfo