Will Pakistan’s pace battery deliver?

January 18, 2015

Pakistan’s pace bowling attack chosen for the World Cup 2015 may be the weakest we have ever had

Will Pakistan’s pace battery deliver?

Pakistan’s pace bowling attack chosen for the World Cup 2015 may be the weakest we have ever had in the biggest event of international cricket.

The five pace bowlers that have been picked for the quadrennial event have a combined experience of just 140 One-day Internationals. None of them has played even 50 matches. Ehsan Adil has played only two, Sohail Khan just five, Junaid Khan 48, Muhammad Irfan 38 and Wahab Riaz 47.

These bowlers have taken a total of just 197 wickets: Wahab has 61, Junaid 75, Ehsan one, Sohail six and Irfan 54.

Even Junaid, Irfan and Wahab who seem to be experienced haven’t been permanent members of the team during the last four years owing to poor form or injuries.

Let’s compare this with the 1992 World Cup-winning fast bowling attack. It had a fatherly figure in Imran Khan who had played four World Cups before. Although Imran was at the twilight of his career and bowled much less than the others, yet his presence in the team was very reassuring.

Next in experience was Wasim Akram, who had been playing regularly for the previous seven years and had also played in the 1987 World Cup.

Then there was Aaqib Javed, who had been a regular member since 1988 and had consistently performed well.

The 1996 attack was also quite potent. It had Wasim, Aaqib and Waqar Younis, who had missed the 1992 edition owing to injury. All three were at the peak of their careers with loads of experience.

How strong the 1999 fast bowling unit was can be gauged from the fact that Waqar Younis got only one of the 10 matches Pakistan played. Once again led by Wasim, it had Azhar Mahmood, who had played regularly since his debut in 1996; Shoaib Akhtar, who frightened the opponents for the next 10 years or so; and young Abdur Razzaq, the best limited overs all-rounder Pakistan has ever had.

Our bowling machinery in the 2003 World Cup was almost the same. Muhammad Sami was the only newcomer and he played only one game. And still Pakistan failed to move up from the group stage.

Even in 2007 -- in which we had the worst result of our World Cup history -- our pace bowlers had more experience than this one picked for 2015. Sami had six years of experience, while Umar Gul and Iftikhar Anjum had been playing regularly since 2004.

Now we come to the 2011 edition. Our pace attack was headed by Shoaib Akhtar and included experienced Abdur Razzaq and Umar Gul besides youngster Wahab Riaz.

Now the question that arises after considering all this history is: can the pace bowlers picked up for this year’s World Cup take the team to the semi-finals (assuming that the team will be able to beat Zimbabwe, Ireland and the UAE to reach the quarter-finals from the group stage. We should remember that Pakistan were beaten by Bangladesh in 1999 and Ireland in 2007)?

Interestingly, none of the five pace bowlers has ever played in Australia. And only Wahab Riaz has previously played in New Zealand.

Considering these facts, one should not be called pessimistic if one says that Pakistan’s cricket buffs shouldn’t have very high expectations of their team as regards the World Cup.

Will Pakistan’s pace battery deliver?