With the middle-order failing regularly and the bowlers being very uneconomical, prospects of the national team regaining the coveted title look slim
After losing the T20I series against England at home, the Green-shirts are participating in a tri-series involving Bangladesh and the host New Zealand. It is the last opportunity for them to finalise their combination for the T20 World Cup in Australia which begins later this month.
The tri-series will give Pakistan the chance to explore options as Pakistan’s track record on Australian pitches hasn’t been great.
Pakistan still have a few days to make changes to their squad without going through the Event Technical Committee and they could bring in alternatives from the traveling reserves.
The Moeen Ali-led England won the seven-match T20I series 4-3; it was their first tour of Pakistan after 17 years.
England bowled fantastically well throughout the series and exposed Pakistan’s middle-order.
There is a big question mark over Pakistan batting, especially the middle order that has been failing time and again, even on home ground.
Pakistan’s success in the World Cup depends on the openers scoring runs. The selectors have given too many chances to Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, Asif Ali and Haider Ali. Not one of them has justified his selection.
Pakistan skipper Babar Azam also accepted that his team needs to improve in the shortest format. Players need to improve dot-ball percentage, especially in the first power play.
Pakistan batsmen need to look at the top batsmen in the world and learn how they approach their game.
In the recently concluded India-South Africa high-scoring T20I series, the Proteas’ batsmen despite losing dominated the series. Their strike rates were outstanding: Quinton de Kock (145), David Miller (235), Roscoe Rossouw (196).
Openers Babar Azam and Muhammad Rizwan are providing solid starts in most of the matches, but Babar needs to improve his dot ball percentage in the first six overs.
The idea that offense is the best defense is an approach not practised by Pakistani openers.
In the seventh T20I against England, both Babar and Rizwan were dismissed in the first eight balls of the innings and after that except Shan Masood’s 53 off 43 balls all middle order batsmen scored at around a-run-a-ball.
“I and Rizwan got out early today which put a lot of pressure on the middle order. It is always difficult to chase down a target in excess of 200 when you don’t get a good start at the top,” Babar said.
Obviously, it doesn’t mean that they have to hit a six on every ball. They should pick their bowler and the spot. They have to have situation awareness. A coach won’t tell them about the situation. They need to learn this themselves.
In the Pakistan-England series, except Mohammad Rizwan (316 runs) and Babar Azam (285), no batsman was consistent despite having many chances. Only Shan Masood with 156 runs, including two fifties, shared some burden.
Iftikhar Ahmed scored just 99 runs, averaging 19.80; Khushdil Shah 63 runs, averaging 21; Haider Ali 36 runs, averaging 21; and Asif Ali scored only 34 runs, averaging 11.33.
These four middle order batsmen combined scored 232 runs, less than Babar Azam’s 285 runs in the series. It was not their first series failure; they had failed in the Asia Cup too.
With this performance of the middle order, how can fans expect the Green-shirts to win the T20 World Cup?
On the bowling side, in the Asia Cup and England series, Pakistan missed Shaheen Afridi. Without him, Pakistan bowling was helpless against the aggressive English batsmen. Except for one game where they defended 146, all bowlers failed to stop the flow of runs.
Our bowlers’ economy rate was very high: Mohammad Hasnain (9.93), Shahnawaz Dahani (12.75), Mohammad Wasim (10.98), Usman Qadir (10.41). They were all dominated by England’s batsmen. Only Haris Rauf (8 wickets with economy rate 7.87) and Shadab Khan (8.90) proved their skills.
Critics suggest following changes to the team: Babar should drop himself down to number 3 or 4, Fakhar Zaman should open with Rizwan, Shan Masood can come at 3 or 4, Shoaib Malik at No. 5, Asif Ali at 6, Shadab at 7, Nawaz on 8, Rauf 9, Shaheen Afridi at 10 and Naseem Shah at number 11.
With the return of Shaheen and Naseem and with Haris bowling well, Pakistan fast bowling will be one of the best in the mega event.