By Amindha de Alwis
Pakistan is ranked third in the ICC’s T20I Rankings; a position which on paper suggests a team that can be genuine title contenders. However, the lead up to the tournament has not seen many name Babar Azam’s side among the favourites. The somewhat tempered expectations could work in favour of a team that has plenty of individual match-winners.
In 14 completed games this year, Pakistan has a record of nine wins and five losses, comprising highs such as a series victory in South Africa but concerning lows which include failing to haul down 119 runs versus Zimbabwe in April.
Pakistan’s batting will depend heavily on their top-order which boasts the top two run-scorers in T20Is this year in Mohammad Rizwan (752) and skipper Azam (523). The two have done much of the heavy lifting for the side this year, evidenced by the fact the no other batsman has an aggregate of over 200 runs over the 14 competed matches.
The performance of the Pakistani middle-order would be in the spotlight with a number of players trialed in positions 5 to 7 lately without much success. Veteran batsman Shoaib Malik, who makes the 15 following a back injury to Sohaib Maqsood may be the one Pakistan would have to look at to rally the second half of the batting-order despite he himself coming off a dismal run of form in the recently concluded Caribbean Premier League.
As always, Pakistan’s bowing attack comprises several exciting quick bowlers who will be led by left-armer Shaheen Shah Afridi whose performance over the past few years has belied his age of just 21.
Vice-captain Shahdab Khan will be partnered by Imad Wasim and Mohammad Nawaz in the spin department and Khan in particular will have a point to prove with his returns having fallen off after a very promising start to his career.
Pakistan is in Group 2 alongside India, New Zealand, Afghanistan and two more qualifying teams from Round One. Whether the make it to the semi-finals would depend largely on if they can topple at least one of India or New Zealand in their clashes.
Main photo: Despite being the third best team in the format, Babar Azam's Pakistan have not been talked up as favouties.