Is this Pakistan's weakest ever pace attack?
Junaid Khan's injury and his subsequent ouster from the World Cup was quite depressing for Pakistani fans. Misbah-ul-Haq's side was going to Australia and New Zealand without their premier strike fast bowler with the team already hampered due to the bowling bans on Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Hafeez.
A bowling attack that could have read Irfan, Junaid, Afridi, Ajmal, Hafeez now looks extremely barren.
Though Ajmal has been cleared by the International Cricket Council since then, his continued omission from the squad despite injuries to a couple of members of the World Cup squad remains bewildering.
One of the most inexperienced attacks in World Cup history
The inclusion of Rahat Ali (in place of Junaid Khan), who has only played one ODI in his entire career, means that three of Pakistan's frontline bowlers in Rahat, Sohail Khan, and Ehsan Adil have a collective experience of 10 ODIs. This is not only Pakistan's most inexperienced bowling attack ever in a World Cup, but arguably the most inexperienced bowling attack ever fielded by any of the Test playing nations in a World Cup.
Pakistan's pace attack comprises of Mohammad Irfan, Wahab Riaz, Ehsan Adil, Sohail Khan, and Rahat Ali. Collectively, the five pacers have played 97 ODIs and picked up 126 wickets. This is the most inexperienced pace attack among the 10 Test playing nations in this World Cup. Even the lowly-ranked Bangladesh and Zimbabwe have a more experienced pace attack than Pakistan.
Not only that, but each one of the Test playing nations, except India and West Indies, have included at least one pace bowler who has played more ODIs and taken more ODI wickets than Pakistan's five pacers combined.
Pakistan's pacers have not only played the least number of ODIs and picked up the least number of wickets, but they rank low in terms of average, economy, and strike rate as well. Among the 10 Test playing nations competing in this World Cup, Pakistan's pacers' bowling average is better only than Zimbabwe's. In terms of economy rate, they are better than India's and Zimbabwe's, and their strike rate only pips Bangladesh's and Zimbabwe's.
I think we can safely say that barring Zimbabwe, Pakistan has the worst pace attack in this World Cup among the 10 Test playing nations.
Not only is Pakistan going into this World Cup with the worst pace attack, Pakistan is also going to be fielding their worst pace attack ever in their history of their World Cup appearances since 1992.
A comparison of Pakistan's pace attack in this World Cup with that in previous World Cups since 1992 yielded the following results.
(Figures for bowlers before the start of the World Cup; e.g. Wasim Akram's figures used for 1992 are those that he had achieved before the start of World Cup 1992)
Not only is this pace attack lacking in experience, but also in performance. Their economy rate is the worst of all previous World Cup attacks that Pakistan has had, and their average is better than only that of the attack in 2007. Only slightly.
It is indeed a sad state of affairs when Pakistan, which has traditionally been spoilt for choices, struggles to field a competitive pace attack. A country that has possessed some of the finest pace bowling talent in the world for over six decades is now the worst in the world. The mind keeps going back to the time when even totals as low as 200 were easily defended. Currently, the side failed to save the game even after scoring 313, that to against a New Zealand Board's Presidents XI.
Pakistan bowling attacks in previous World Cups
1992: Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Aaqib Javed, Wasim Haider
1996: Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Aaqib Javed, Ata-Ur-Rehman
1999: Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhtar, Abdul Razzaq, Azhar Mahmood
2003: Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhtar, Abdul Razzaq, Azhar Mahmood, Mohammad Sami
2007: Umar Gul, Mohammad Sami, Rana Naved Ul Hasan, Azhar Mahmood, Yasir Arafat, Iftikhar Anjum
2011: Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul, Sohail Tanvir, Wahab Riaz, Abdul Razzaq, Junaid Khan
2015: Mohammad Irfan, Wahab Riaz, Ehsan Adil, Sohail Khan, Rahat Ali.