CWC 2019: Can Pakistan repeat its Champions Trophy heroics?
Pakistan is a problematic cricket team to analyze.
Despite winning the last major ICC global tournament, the side arrives on English shores with a mostly listless reputation. The men in green have had a rough time of it over the past two years since their famous victory against archrivals India, losing more matches than winning, while several key members of the side have fallen by the wayside.
Mohammad Amir, the chief bowling architect of that famous win, seems to be a shell of his former self. He has taken a handful of wickets at a very high average over the last few years, and his pace also seems down. To put insult to injury, he wasn't even initially considered in the lineup for the team, but a last-minute recall ensures that he will be in England for the World Cup campaign.
Pakistan's skipper Sarfraz Ahmed also seems to be in a strange predicament. Although he is one of the most successful captains in the nation's history, his place as a batsman seems circumspect. He refuses to come up the order and lacks the technique to deal with genuine pace or spin.
Many experts have said that he would have been removed by now if it had not been for the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 win. Back to back series whitewashes and Test match losses ensure that there will be a stern review of his leadership skills after the World Cup, in case Pakistan does not make it into the final four.
The lynchpin of the Pakistani lineup, Shoaib Malik is suffering from some personal issues. Malik was a part of Pakistan's last two ICC triumphs and provided a calming effect in the team. His form is dodgy, but he reserves his best for the big occasion. Mentally he is the toughest cookie in the group and is vital to Pakistan's cup prospects.
Then we have the other bowlers. Hasan Ali's fortunes have been in synch with that of the team. He seems to have lost his venom and swing, transforming from a champion striker to a military medium type bowler. Wahab Riaz has done nothing to write home about since troubling Shane Watson in a briefly exhilarating passage of play, while Shaheen Afridi certainly has the pace but lacks the rhythm needed to trouble the best batsman of the world consistently.
Mohammad Hasnain is a new find from the PSL. He has the speed to trouble batsmen but is one-dimensional mainly in terms of his bowling, a criticism that also plagued Usman Shinwari before he was dropped from the team.
In a first for Pakistan, it is perhaps their bowling that is their weaker link than their batting. In Fakhar Zaman they have found a technically faulty, yet reliable opener. In Asif Ali and Faheem Ashraf, they have good allrounders that can hit the ball a long way. Finally, in the spin department, they have Shadab Khan and Imad Wasim, both capable of stopping the run flow in the middle overs and smashing the ball when it comes to batting.
Overall, Pakistan would find itself lucky to reach the semis on current form. If they do reach that stage, the other teams should watch out. Regardless of their bilateral form, they always turn it on when the pressure is on them on the biggest stage. Expect Pakistan to deliver some fireworks, but they might not lift the cup when it's all said and done.
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