3 keys to Pakistan beating New Zealand in the ODI series
The debate about Pakistan's form in ODIs continues to rage. The glory and elation of the Champions Trophy win in 2017 has faded. The focus now is on the ICC World Cup in 2019. Pakistan's performance in the recently concluded Asia Cup left many of its supporters worried about the team's prospects of having a chance to win the World Cup.
Post the Asia Cup, the ever vibrant cricket savvy media in Pakistan started zeroing in on captain Sarfraz's poor run with the bat. They attributed the mistakes he made on the field, as captain, to his poor form with the bat. Grumblings about his future as captain and maybe even as a player in the ODI side began to build steam. Coach Arthur and his over-controlling methods faced renewed criticism as well.
Pressure on the selectors to tinker with team selection methodology began to formulate on social media. And then all of a sudden the Aussies came to town. With them, came their high reputation as winners. The fear of another Asia Cup like debacle was real and imminent.
In an unguarded moment of frustration, Sarfraz had let the world know during the Asia Cup that the pressure from losing was keeping him awake at night. So, in the wake of the Australia series, questions about his state of mind and his ability to withstand pressure began to arise.
Fortunately for Pakistan and Sarfraz, when all seemed lost, things turned around dramatically, albeit in Test and T20 formats- not in ODIs. Sarfraz found form with the bat and along with it returned his confidence to lead his team to moments of glory again. The Australian tour was a resounding success for Pakistan and the team was anxious to face New Zealand next.
New Zealand is no slouch and has a reputation as a hard working team that always challenges its opponents even in unfamiliar overseas conditions. In the T20 series to start off the tour, Pakistan once again, like they did against Australia, played with maturity, confidence, and consistency to dismiss the Kiwis fairly comfortably.
Now, the ODI series is a couple of days away. However, the road to victory in the ODI series may not be that smooth. Pakistan's resolve in ODIs will once again be tested. For them to overcome the Kiwi challenge, three key players will have to step up.
#3 Shoaib Malik
Shoaib Malik has become Pakistan's most dependable player over the last few years. With maturity, he has embraced responsibility. He has, in many ways, been the lone warrior who has put up any semblance of resistance when his team has struggled. He has played a major role in guiding Pakistan to key victories as well.
Without his continued contribution, Pakistan will struggle and the Kiwis know that if they can get Malik's scalp early in his innings, half of their job will have been done. So, Malik's performance will be one of the keys to Pakistan's success.