ICC World Cup 2019: Pakistan SWOT analysis - Onus on Azam, Imam to make up for misfiring bowlers
Pakistan, like always don’t go into World Cup as favourites, their bowlers have been horribly out of form but one shouldn’t make the mistake of counting them out
For a team who routinely oscillate between sublime cricket and farce and are cursed with a legendary ability to self-destruct, Pakistan will enter another World Cup as the proverbial dark horses with good memories of England.
“Unpredictable – that’s a word that us as coaching staff hate,” coach Micky Arthur recently said in a video on the cricket board’s website.
“You read all the previews now, they say Pakistan are going to be in the top four because of their unpredictability. I say, ‘No, Pakistan are going to be in the top four because of the work we’ve put in.’”
Top order duo Babar Azam and Fakhar Zaman will lead their batting charges but the lack of enough power-hitters in the middle could stymie their bid for a second ODI World Cup.
The team, however, can draw inspiration from their 2017 Champions Trophy triumph in England, which also marked a shift in their fitness levels.
Not the most agile bunch by any stretch of the imagination, Pakistan sent Umar Akmal home after the batsman failed fitness tests ahead of the elite tournament.
Since then the yo-yo endurance test, which involves running between cones at a quickening pace, has become the selection standard, resulting in a fitter Pakistan team.
Pakistan have bolstered their pace attack with the late inclusion of Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz and received a boost when leg-spinner Shadab Khan, who suffered a bout of hepatitis, was declared fit earlier this month.
Top 3: Just like most of the other teams, Pakistan is dependent on their top 3 to perform and they have been doing it consistently post the CWC 2015. Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq and Babar Azam all 3 of them are averaging more than 50 post the CWC 2015.
Left arm seamers: Pakistan is the only team in this World Cup to have 3 frontline left-arm seamers in their squad. Amir, Riaz and Shaheen Shah Afridi. Though Amir and Riaz were late inclusion but their experience might come in handy in a tournament like World Cup.
Poor form: Pakistan have played 15 matches this year and have managed to win only 2 of them. They have not won a single match in their last 11 ODIs, (Lost 10, NR 1). Having lost 12 matches in total this year, which is the most by any team, they certainly are going into the world cup low on confidence.
Bowling department: On paper Pakistan have good bowlers but that is not the case in practical. Pakistan teams’ bowling average in 2019 is 60.40 which is the 2nd worst only after Scotland. Pakistan bowlers have an unwanted record of having the least wickets per match ratio (4.26) among the current 10 World Cup teams.
Playing in England: Pakistan were the winners in the Champions trophy 2017 which was held in England. In the last two ICC events in England (CT 2013,2017) Pakistan won 4 each, which is the 2nd most by visiting teams after India.
Wahab Riaz: Riaz just about made it to the final 15. His bowling performance in World Cups is far different from his overall ODI numbers. In 12 World Cup matches he has picked up 24 wickets at an average of 21.91 Thus, in World Cups Riaz is altogether a different commodity.
Last minute changes: Pakistan had declared a provisional squad earlier in the month of May, but on the 20th they replaced 3 players from the provisional squad with Amir, Wahab Riaz and Asif Ali coming into the squad. However, all these 3 are not in good touch and it will be tough for them to get going in the World Cup.
Sarfaraz Ahmed’s captaincy: With the recent ODI results not going his way, Sarfaraz Ahmed is a man under a lot of pressure. Since 2018, in his 26 matches as captain, he has managed to win only 9 (out of which 5 are against Zimbabwe and 1 each against Hong Kong and Afghanistan).
Pakistan World Cup squad: Sarfraz Ahmed (captain), Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hasnain, Hasan Ali, Wahab Riaz, Shaheen Shah Afridi.