All guns blazing

By Muhammad Nabeel
Fri, 08, 23

It is time to see where the Pakistan Cricket Team (PCT) stands and what are their chances in these upcoming tournaments, the Asia Cup and the ODI World Cup....


With two of the biggest events in world cricket right around the corner, it is time to see where the Pakistan Cricket Team (PCT) stands and what are their chances in these upcoming tournaments, the Asia Cup and the ODI World Cup.

The fan base is optimistic and they have every reason to be so, as Pakistan white ball team has evolved into a beast that cannot be easily tamed, a beast that breathes fire and has sting in its tail. There are gaps in the red ball squad that need to be addressed, but the white ball team is almost the finished article.

The team has quality players from top to bottom and the balance of the first XI is also just about perfect. There’s no shortage of talent, flair or experience in the team and with the two tournaments planned to be staged in the sub-continent, Pakistan is all set to mount a serious challenge for the two titles in the next couple of months.

Here I have listed what I believe is Pakistan’s strongest first XI in white ball cricket that can cause serious problems for any team especially in the sub-continent.

Our exciting openers

All guns blazing

Opening slot is crucial in any form of the game. The success of T20 cricket has redefined this position and openers are expected to take benefit of the field restrictions. Fakhar is ideal to play that role as he has done it over the years with considerable success. He is an explosive opener who can, on his day, change the entire game single-handedly. Imam more often plays the role of a sidekick to the all-action Fakhar Zaman, but, Imam himself is quite an accomplished player and his record in ODI cricket is top-notch. These two are more than capable to once again lead the batting order.

No. 3

All guns blazing

Affectionately called the “King” by his fans, Pakistan captain Babar Azam is a generational talent who sits at the very top of the ODI ranking for batsmen, and deservedly so. Babar’s individual record is phenomenal; he is among the top four to five batsmen in the world at the moment. ODIs being the most successful format for Babar Azam, the expectations of the whole nation will be higher than ever from him and he is aware of that. He made a wise decision to participate in the T20 league in Sri Lanka instead of choosing to go to Canada like many others. This should help him get accustomed to the climate and playing conditions in Sri Lanka and give him a head start for the Asia Cup.

Middle order

All guns blazing

The middle order gives stability to the batting lineup, as players batting in the middle order need to keep the scoreboard moving and accelerate at the end. Pakistan’s middle order is made up of players who emerged from the Pakistan Super League (PSL). Now, although I am not a big fan of the global T20 Leagues because there’s so much meaningless cricket on the screens nowadays that fans are losing interest, I’m not totally against the concept either. There has to be control over it and competitiveness should always be there. Competitive T20 leagues have over the years helped in producing some world class international players and more recently Pakistan has started to benefit from it. The emergence and subsequent success of PSL paved the way for many local cricketers to showcase their skills in front of the spectators and make their way into the national setup. Pakistan Super League is one of the primary reasons why PCT now has a pool of top-class white ball players available at its disposal.

For the middle and lower middle order, the five players that Pakistan should select are Muhammad Rizwan, Iftikhar Ahmed, Shadab Khan, Salman Ali Agha and Muhammad Nawaz. These players, depending on the match situation, can come in at any position from number 4 to number 8. All of them can bat in the middle overs and accelerate when needed. The inclusion of Salman Ali Agha gives the team strength in the middle order because he is a batting all-rounder who has the ability to hit the ball out of the park as well.

All guns blazing

If the top three go deep into the inning, Shadab, Nawaz and Iftikhar can be sent up the order to throw the kitchen sink. If the top order fails then Rizwan, Iftikhar and Salman can come in earlier to do the repair work. The other advantage of having Iftikhar and Salman, both off spinners, in the team is that they can support the bowlers on Indian pitches. Shadab and Nawaz are the specialist spinners, who in my opinion are un-droppable in such conditions.

Pace battery

There’s almost an embarrassment of riches when it comes to fast bowling. Shaheen is the leader of the pack and Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf are able deputies. Such is the strength in depth available to Pakistan in the bowling department that speed demons like Zaman Khan, Ihsanullah and Hasnain couldn’t even find a place in the recently announced squad for the Afghanistan Series and the Asia Cup.

All guns blazing

Shaheen is one of the most fearsome new ball bowlers in white ball cricket. Naseem Shah is young and is already one of the best fast bowlers in the game. Naseem can swing the ball both ways at great speed and this is what makes him a tough nut to crack. Haris, who is famous for his thunderbolts, has grown into a top death overs bowler. Haris mixes things up and the slower balls he bowls are very deceptive. Shaheen has shown that he can hit the ball out of the park on his day and who can forget Naseem Shah’s two sixes against Afghanistan in the UAE last year?

All guns blazing

So, the first eleven for me looks set. Fakhar, Imam, Babar, Rizwan, Iftikhar, Shadab, Salman, Nawaz, Shaheen, Naseem and Haris. This team bats deep; the first three batsmen are among the top ranked batters in ODI cricket. Middle order is strong and goes all the way down to Nawaz, there’s a specialist leggie and a left arm spinner in the team along with two support part time off spinners. The three fast bowlers are all world-class and all different from one another. This team is very strong and balanced especially considering the conditions that both tournaments will be played in. They have already shown in the last couple of years that they are a force in limited overs cricket. This year they have a chance once again to have a serious crack at the two trophies on offer and etch their name in history.