ICC World Cup 2019: Analyzing Pakistan's squad
The Pakistan Cricket Board have announced their 15-player provisional squad for the World Cup 2019 as follows:
Sarfraz Ahmed (capt & wk), Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Abid Ali, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Hafeez, Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim, Hasan Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Hasnain and Haris Sohail.
Mohammad Hafeez has been selected subject to fitness and Imad Wasim has been given time to clear a fitness test to ensure selection following a recurrence of his knee problems.
Sarfraz Ahmed and Haris Sohail are the only remaining players from Pakistan's 2015 Cricket World Cup team, with Junaid Khan and Mohammad Hafeez having withdrawn due to injury.
The team selected is a mix of youth and experience, with Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Hasan Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Junaid Khan and Mohammad Hasnain appearing in their first World Cup. The majority of them have been been playing consistently for the past two years, lending a continuity to team selection that is rarely seen in Pakistan cricket.
Pakistan will also be taking confidence from their last tournament in England, where they won the 2017 Champions Trophy with many of the same players who will be traveling again to the country in May.
Zaman, Imam, Babar, Sarfraz and Malik will form the batting core in the playing XI, with the team dependent on Zaman for an aggressive start. The lack of a power hitting option towards the end of an innings is a concern for them, with Asif Ali and Umar Akmal not considered for the provisional squad.
Sarfraz is the only wicket-keeper selected, with Mohammad Rizwan missing out despite impressing with two centuries and decent wicket-keeping in the recent one-day series against Australia. However, it is that performance, along with his excellent fitness standards, that will keep Rizwan in contention should injury arise.
Hasan Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Mohammad Hasnain and Junaid Khan have been selected as the main pace bowling options. Hasnain impressed more with his pace than his wickets during the Australia series, while Junaid and Shaheen offer a left arm angle and have performed well over the past one year.
Imad Wasim and Shadab Khan have been selected as the main spin-bowling and all-round options, but whether they both play together or only one does, would be down to the conditions. Shadab currently appears to be the primary all-rounder due to Imad's fitness concerns.
Mohammad Amir was not considered because of his lack of wickets since the 2017 Champions Trophy. Since his three-wicket haul of Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan in that match, Amir has picked just five wickets in two years at an average of 92.60.
With Junaid and Shaheen impressing during that time, Amir was always likely to be omitted despite an economy of 4.58. Amir's role in the team was never to stop the batsmen from scoring runs; it was to take wickets.
The biggest concerns appear to be a lack of power hitters as well as fitness and injury problems, along with an unhealthy reliance on their bowling attack.
Pakistan will have the benefit of acclimatizing earlier to English conditions than other teams, with an ODI series against England and warm-up matches against county sides before the start of their World Cup campaign. The England series is also an opportunity for Amir and Asif Ali to impress the selectors and remain in consideration, as the squad named is not set in stone until May 23.
Prediction: Pakistan would be competing for a semi-final spot with South Africa, West Indies, New Zealand and Bangladesh.