The 2021 edition of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup is inching closer – Rohit Sankar takes a look at what Pakistan’s World Cup squad could look like based on the recent combinations they have played.
Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan, Sharjeel Khan (reserve)
Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan have been a terrific opening duo for Pakistan in this format, and it is very unlikely that they will want another pure opening batter in the main squad. While Rizwan has 752 runs in T20Is in 2021 alone, the most by any player, Babar has 523, the second-most by any player. Sharjeel, who recently smashed an incredible 63-ball 141, has played six T20Is this year without much success but could be among the reserves. Pakistan do have Fakhar Zaman and Mohammad Hafeez, currently in middle-order roles, to step in if there’s any emergency.
Sohaib Maqsood, Fakhar Zaman
With several all-rounders doubling up as middle-order batsmen, Pakistan will look at just Sohaib Maqsood, the PSL 2021 final hero who has been among the runs in the league, and Fakhar Zaman as pure middle-order batting options. That Fakhar doubles up as an opener backs his case with his recent move to a middle-order role yet to pay dividends. Maqsood could be in contention for a place in the XI, although that would also depend on what Pakistan seek from their senior all-rounders, also vying for places in the middle-order.
Mohammad Rizwan, Azam Khan (reserve)
Rizwan is unarguably the main wicketkeeper in the squad. That said, Azam Khan is likely to travel as a reserve given his recent elevation to the T20I setup. Although Azam hasn’t had much game time in Pakistan colours, his overall T20 numbers – 825 runs at a strike-rate of more than 152 – is likely to aid his case for a place in the squad.
Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Hafeez, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Nawaz
Recent reports suggest that Babar Azam is keen to have senior all-rounder Shoaib Malik in the squad for the T20 World Cup, although the chief selector rejected his request. Malik finished as the fourth-highest run-getter in PSL 2021 with 354 runs at an average in the mid-30s and a strike-rate close to 150. Malik last played for Pakistan in September 2020, but Babar’s interest in him, and Pakistan’s middle-order shortcomings, could see him being picked for the ICC event.
Hafeez, who had an incredible 2020, has an average of 11 after in 14 matches in T20Is in 2021. He had a reasonably good PSL, but could still remain on the bench in the T20 World Cup. The chief selector hinted that Imad Wasim, who was recently brought back to the T20I side, could be on the flight to UAE given his record in the country. Mohammad Nawaz, who will fight it out with Wasim for a place in the side, and Shadab Khan, who is expected to start, are the other all-rounders likely to be in the squad. Hasan Ali, whose batting credentials have started to get attention, could keep Faheem Ashraf out of the squad.
Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf, Mohammad Hasnain, Arshad Iqbal (reserve), Mohammad Wasim Jnr (reserve)
Pakistan have several fast bowling options in the T20I setup with quite a few more emerging from the PSL. Shaheen Shah Afridi, Mohammad Hasnain and Hasan Ali are likely to be the three frontline seamers with Haris Rauf, whose T20 numbers have been on a decline, likely to retain his place. Mohammad Wasim Jnr, who has been impressive in the PSL, and recently made it to the T20I squad, could be a travelling reserve alongside Arshad Iqbal, the Karachi Kings seamer, also likely to travel.
Although Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim and Mohammad Nawaz, alongside a few part-time options, make for a decent spin attack, Usman Qadir, who is the joint-second-highest wicket-taker in T20Is for Pakistan this year, is likely to make the cut.
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