Pakistan, once one of the most formidable T20I teams in the world, have faced a slump of late in the format, and they have a number of issues to resolve ahead of the T20 World Cup later this year.
The Pakistan side has been inconsistent in the format this year, which began with a series loss against New Zealand. They went down to Zimbabwe in a game in April, and have a number of unanswered questions ahead of the mega event.
We take a look at some of the issues facing the Pakistan team ahead of the T20 World Cup later this year.
Who opens with Babar Azam?
Babar Azam’s strike rate might have been a bone of contention in the recent past, but there is no denying that he is one of the best batters in the world currently. But question marks remain over his partner, which is a choice between Fakhar Zaman and Mohammad Rizwan. Zaman has not opened the innings this year, but forms a dynamic opening combination with Azam, with the two having the skills to capitalise the first six overs.
Rizwan, on the other hand, has emerged as a consistent performer but has a strike rate of just 127.34 in the format. Azam strikes at under 130 in the format too, which could mean slow starts upfront for the side. Zaman’s strike rate of 135.04 indicates he should be considered as the first-choice opener, with his presence also allowing the right-left combination at the top. Rizwan can bat lower down the order, but he might have to replace an all-rounder, which might be something that the side might not be too keen to implement.
Do Pakistan include big-hitters in the XI?
The presence of big-hitters Asif Ali, Sohaib Maqsood and Azam Khan allows the unit to score crucial runs lower down the order, but it would mean compromising on an all-rounder or a bowler. Pakistan have traditionally been a bowling-heavy side with their main objective being to concede fewer boundaries. In the past two years, Pakistan have just conceded 131 sixes in 27 games in the last two years — to put things into perspective, New Zealand have conceded 188 sixes. On the other hand, Pakistan have scored 110 sixes, which is the ninth-best in the world in this interim.
Thus, playing an aggressive batsman lower down the order, or even pushing Rizwan down, will mean that the side will have to let go of a bowling option, but with the grounds in the T20 World Cup expected to see big scores, this is a dilemma that they need to look at.
Imad Wasim’s place in the XI
Once a certainty in the XI with a batting strike rate of nearing 146 and a bowling average of 22.76 in the format, Wasim’s fortunes have dwindled of late. After scoring just 115 runs in 14 games with eight wickets from July 2019 till the end of December 2020, Wasim was dropped from the side and is yet to feature in a match in the format this year. With his pace variations and drift, Wasim makes for a much-feared bowler, but poor form along with a below-par PSL could mean he fails to make the cut for the event. In this year’s PSL, Wasim scored at a strike rate of just 104.62 and managed seven wickets in 11 matches, which does not justify his immense talent.
Shadab Khan or Usman Qadir?
Usman Qadir has quietly risen up the ranks in world cricket of late, with 18 wickets in 11 T20Is at an average of just 15.22 and a bowling strike rate of 12.60. Since his debut, no bowler has a better average, with his economy rate of 7.21 the third-best in the world among bowlers with at least 10 wickets in this period. Considering no other Pakistani spinner other than Mohammed Nawaz has taken more than three wickets since Qadir’s debut last November, the leg-spinner should be a certainty.
However, Shadab offers more to the side — as a fielder and a batsman. His ability to score quick runs lower down the order makes him hard to look past, and who Pakistan pick depends on what they value more.
Should Haider Ali be persisted with?
Haider Ali, who recently lost his Pakistan contract, had a stellar start to his international career, with two fifties in the first three games. However, he has been unable to go past 27 since then, and has scored more than 15 just once in his last 10 innings. The 20-year old did not have the best outing in the second half of the PSL, and was dropped from the XI, which only makes it tough for the player to make a return to the Pakistani side.
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