Pakistan cricket team to win their first trophy under Babar Azam?
The Pakistan cricket team will be entering the 2023 edition of the ODI World Cup with high hopes following a good run in the T20 World Cup last year. The Green Army reached the final but failed to lift the trophy as they ended up losing to the England cricket team by five wickets.
Following the loss, Pakistan consistently delivered good performances throughout the year. However, Babar Azam’s men failed to continue the momentum in the recently-concluded Asia Cup 2023 as they were ruled out before reaching the final. Pakistan finished at the bottom of the Super Four points table with only one victory to their name from three league matches.
The Shaheens will now be looking forward to forgetting the horrors of the ODI event and putting their full focus on the upcoming World Cup. The ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 will begin from October 5 and Pakistan will be kick-starting their campaign on October 06 with an encounter against the Netherlands at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad.
Notably, this would be a special event for the team as they will be playing in India after a long gap of seven years. The last time the team played on the Indian pitches was in 2016 during the 2016 T20 World Cup.
Having said that, the team will also be eager to end their trophy drought since 2017. The Men in Green’s last victory in the ICC events came during the 2017 Champions Trophy as they defeated India in the final.
Babar Azam ©, Shadab Khan, Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Abdullah Shafique, Mohammad Rizwan, Saud Shakeel, Iftikhar Ahmed, Agha Salman, Mohammad Nawaz, Usama Mir, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Wasim Jr.
Two of the best fast bowlers leading the pace battery: Heading into the ICC ODI World Cup 2023, one of the biggest advantages for the Pakistan cricket team is their decorated pace line-up. The team boasts of having two world-class seamers in their team in the form of Shaheen Shah Afridi and Haris Rauf. Both the players are absolutely fit and are likely to feature in all games for the Pakistan cricket team right from the get-go.
Shaheen was the star performer for Pakistan in the Asia Cup 2023 as he ended up as the top wicket-taker for his team and occupied fourth place in the overall list with ten wickets from five matches. Haris Rauf also did well with nine wickets from four games at an average of 13.33. The seamer witnessed slight discomfort in the game Super 4 against India and had to sit out. However, he is now fit to take the field again.
Consistent top-order batters: Along with the pace unit, Pakistan’s top-order batters are also sorted and are aware of their job. Babar Azam registered his name as the top run-scorer for the team with 207 runs in four matches at an average of over 51 in Asia Cup 2023. He is likely to continue the good performance.
Fakhar Zaman, on the other hand, failed to unleash his full potential in the tournament and ended up delivering an underwhelming performance. However, his experience and performance in international cricket in the recent past make him one of the top contenders to be on the run-scoring list in the ODI World Cup.
Lack of a lead spinner: While Pakistan boasts of a stunning pace attack, the same cannot be said for their spinners. The team lacks a good spin bowler who can lead the team. This can prove to be a threat for the Men in Green as the Indian pitches are famous for favoring the spinners more.
Shadab Khan has been out of sorts for a while and struggled in spin-friendly conditions during the recently-concluded Asia Cup as well. Mohammad Nawaz and Usama Mir are not frontline bowlers as of now and this deficiency could poke a hole in the Pakistan wagon.
Naseem Shah’s injury pokes a hole in the pace battery: While Haris Rauf is fit to be in India, the same cannot be said for the other seamer Naseem Shah. Though Pakistan has named Hasan Ali as a replacement, it would be difficult to fill in the shoes of Naseem as he alongside Shaheen emerged as the biggest threat for the opposition batters.
Unreliable middle-order: The middle order is something that Pakistan has struggled with for a long time. Though players like Mohammed Rizwan and Imam-ul-Haq are there to back up the top order, they have not been in the best form lately.
The Green Army lacks a player who can take ownership if there is a collapse of the top order and ensure that the team reaches a good score. This can be one of the biggest problems for Pakistan as the team cannot rely on only two players to take them home in every game.
Babar Azam could stamp himself as the best white-ball batter for Pakistan: The coming ODI World Cup in India will provide Babar Azam with one of the biggest opportunities to establish himself as one the best batters to play the gentlemen’s game for Pakistan.
Azam has done a phenomenal job with the bat so far, especially in the white-ball cricket. He has a whopping 5409 runs to his name in 108 One-Day Internationals at an average of 58.16 and a strike rate of over 89.
Not only that, it would be an opportunity to win his first trophy as the skipper and end the trophy drought of six years for the Pakistan cricket team.
Lack of familiarity with the Indian pitches: The Pakistan cricket team is touring India for the first time since 2016 when they arrived to take part in the 2016 ICC T20 World Cup. Therefore, it would not be wrong to say that most of the players in the ODI squad have never played on the Indian pitches.
This can be a big disadvantage for the team as all the other nations have toured India time and again and thus have a good knowledge of the playing conditions. Pakistani players might take some time to get accustomed to the pitches and this can result in them losing their grip over the tournament.
Predicted Playing XI
Abdullah Shafique, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam ©, Mohammad Rizwan, Saud Shakeel, Iftikhar Ahmed, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi