Just about a week after crashing out of the Asia Cup following back-to-back defeats against India and Sri Lanka, Pakistan have announced their 15-man squad for the forthcoming ICC World Cup. Unfortunately, the touring party looks weaker than the one that suffered the ignominy of failing to qualify for the Asia Cup final. Pakistan’s lineup for the World Cup in India doesn’t have in-form young pacer Naseem Shah, one of the team’s top performers in the Asia Cup. He has been ruled out for the World Cup because of a shoulder injury. Naseem has been replaced by Hasan Ali, who has largely been an under-achiever in recent years and was last considered good enough to play a 50-over game for Pakistan in June 2022. The 29-year-old joins a pace attack that includes Shaheen Shah Afridi and Haris Rauf, both of whom have faced fitness problems in the recent past.
Pakistan’s pace department won’t be their only cause for concern. The national selectors have retained faith in misfiring spinners Shadab Khan and Mohammad Nawaz, adding inexperienced youngster Usama Mir to the squad. In its current form, the spin trio hardly inspires much trust. The batting doesn’t look any better either with the selectors opting to retain out-of-form opener Fakhar Zaman, who managed only 65 runs from four Asia Cup appearances. Fakhar’s opening partner Imam-ul-Haq was also unable to impress much in the six-nation contest. It’s hard to imagine that Pakistan were being seen as serious contenders for the World Cup, a title they have won only once in 1992, till just a few weeks back. In fact they are still ranked No 1 in the One-day International rankings. However, fitness problems and the selectors’ failure to come up with a combination that is capable enough to beat the best in the World Cup have raised a big question mark on Pakistan’s chances in the World Cup where teams like hosts India, who comfortably won the Asia Cup, and Australia and England will begin as hot contenders for the coveted crown.
Pakistan will need to overcome the Asia Cup disappointment and regroup in time to launch a serious campaign for the title in India. The onus will be on under-fire captain Babar Azam. As the team’s premier batter, he will need to lead from the front. It is understood that he has managed to get a squad of his choice and will now need to make sure that it doesn’t misfire in the World Cup the way it did in the Asia Cup. The fact that the World Cup will be held in India makes it even more imperative for Pakistan to put their best foot forward. Pakistan will take on India in the high-voltage World Cup game on October 14 in Ahmedabad where Babar and his men will need to punch above their weight to avenge the 228-run defeat they suffered in Colombo earlier this month. A win in that game will have the potential to not just boost Pakistan’s morale but put their World Cup campaign on the right track.