Pakistan Cricket Board ( PCB ) announced the squad for the ICC T20 WC 2021 and the same squad will be playing two T20I series against New Zealand and England. Babar Azam will be the captain and the team will be aiming to try out different combinations in the two series and be confident as a squad going into the World Cup. In this piece, we look at the record of the Pakistan team, the stats behind the opening partnership of B.Azam and M.Rizwan, and their performance in previous editions.
Squad : Babar Azam (c), Shadab Khan, Asif Ali, Azam Khan, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim , Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Wasim, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Sohaib Maqsood.
Reserves : Fakhar Zaman, Usman Qadir, Shahnawaz Dhani
The Pakistan team was in exceptional form after the 2016 T20 WC, winning 30 of the 37 matches in that period. They were well led by Sarfaraz Ahmed and also won the ICC Champions Trophy in 2017. The team form in the last 2 years has dipped a bit, as they have won only 16/34 matches most of them which were under the leadership of the current captain Babar. It can be said that Ahmed was a far better captain, but the lack of performances and fitness issues on his side can be one of the reasons for the change in the leadership positions. Pakistan has good experience of playing in UAE, as it was their home ground from 2009-2018. They won 21/36 matches played in UAE and would want to add to the winning tally during the tournament.
Opening Partnership of Babar and Rizwan
The opening duo of Babar and Rizwan has been the best for Pakistan in their T20 history. They average 52 in 10 innings with the highest partnership of 197. The next on the list with at least 9 innings is 40.77. They both have two 100 + stands and one 50+ stand. They are also the leading run-scorers in T20I in 2021. Babar is at No.2 in the ICC T20 rankings for batsman and Rizwan is at No.7 Pakistan will hope that this duo continues with their performance as openers in rich form increases the chance of a team posting a par score.
Using M.Hafeez Effectively
Hafeez is also known as Professor in Pakistan cricket. He surely can be a good example of controlled and run-saving bowling in the 1-15 over period. Hafeez has played the T-20 format all over the globe, in 339 matches he has over 7000 runs and a very good economy of only 6.39. Such a player should be well utilized and his experience should guide the team through challenging situations. Shaheen Afridi and Hasan Ali will be the other go-to bowlers in the pace department and the responsibility of the spin department will be on Shadab Khan and Imad Wasim.
Asif Ali and Khusdil Shah were surprise picks in the squad for the WC. Both the players were not part of the team in the recent England and West Indies tour. They will have the responsibility of the middle order for the team. In 29 T20I, Ali has an average of just 16 and a strike rate of 123.7. Whereas Shah in 9 T20I has an average of 21.6 and a very low strike rate of 109. Pakistan has taken a huge chance with the two batsmen. They could have gone in their ex-captain S. Ahmed who has a decent average of 28 and a strike rate of 126. He could have also been useful tactically, given his captaincy record in this format for the team.
Misbah ul-Haq and Waqar Younis have stepped down from their coaching roles just before an all-important tournament. Such management issues might hinder the confidence and the team environment. PCB has appointed M.Hayden and V.Philander to take over the coaching roles for Pakistan in the T20 WC. Both the individuals were stars for their team and have great experience in the International circuit. But they have not been tested at this particular role and this can be yet another risky call on the part of PCB.
Pakistan is in Group 2 and will play India on October 24th, New Zealand on 26th, and Afghanistan on 29th. The other two group matches will be against the qualifying teams on November 2nd and 7th. The team will look to get their first win against India in a World Cup match and there could not be a better start than that. Pakistan would want to repeat what they did in 2009, and win the trophy as they have a good side and a captain who is in form of his life.