If South Africa are ‘chokers’, Pakistan have always been the ‘unpredictables’ in big multi-team tournaments. Point in note is their only World Cup win till date that saw them needing rain against England to grant them the point necessary for qualification. This, after beginning the tournament disastrously and being forced to pull themselves back from the brink and embark upon that run that ended with Imran Khan holding aloft the trophy. Even today, they might have lost the ODI series against England despite some promising performances, but they still remain an unpredictable force in the upcoming ICC Cricket World Cup 2019.
The big question though is can Pakistan repeat their 2017 Champions Trophy heroics? Two years ago, few experts gave them a chance in the Champions Trophy in England up against the likes of the formidable hosts and a powerful Indian side captained by Virat Kohli. But after qualifying for the semi-finals with a tense win over Sri Lanka, Pakistan thumped both England (by eight wickets) and then India (by 180 runs) to shock the world and win the title. This 2019 Pakistan team is coming with a horrible recent record – they’ve lost their last 10 completed one-dayers – but have 10 players from the 2017 Champions League squad and thus the firepower and experience to spring another surprise.
Pakistan skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed seems to think so. He feels the team can defeat any opponent in the coming World Cup due to the fast bowlers’ friendly pitches in England. Speaking in a joint press conference along with other captains in the tournament, the captain said that the World Cup is not an easy tournament but his team’s record is very strong in the country.
“We won the 1992 World Cup, Champions Trophy here. We have come here to prove ourselves in another challenge,” he said. “We have learnt a lot in the recent England series.”
Sarfaraz said that the team is passionate to win the tournament and has the potential to deliver in all batting, bowling and fielding department. “We have addressed our shortcomings,” he said.
Before the action begins, Pakistan play two official warm-up games that give them the opportunity to fine-tune their playing XI. These matches are different in the sense that the teams are free to play all 15 of their squad to experiment with their lineups and test players for fitness issues. Both games are at 03.00pm and will be telecast on Star Sports and streamed live on Hotstar.
Sarfraz Ahmed (c), Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Hafeez, Asif Ali, Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim, Haris Sohail, Hassan Ali, Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Hasnain
If anything defines Pakistan cricket, it’s unpredictability. The 1992 champions are capable of beating any team on their day, as the 2017 Champions Trophy triumph against India proves.
Strength: A solid middle order that bats around the exciting talent Fakhar Zaman. A good bowling attack with quality pacers
Weakness: Lack of power-hitters and batsmen who can play through an innings. History of self-destruction
Since their Champions Trophy triumph however, things have not gone to plan for Pakistan. They may have whitewashed Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka, but in the last two years have played four bilateral series against higher ranking sides and lost all four, by an aggregate score of 17-2. They arrive at this tournament on a run of ten successive ODI defeats.
The batting looks in good nick. If there is a silver lining to be taken from the 4-0 thumping at the hands of England, it’s that Pakistan scored 340 or more in three of their four completed innings, the same number as they’d managed in the previous 84 ODIs. The top order, comprising of Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq and Babar Azam, is among the best in the tournament, and all three scored hundreds in that series.
While the experienced trio of Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz and Asif Ali were named replacements for Junaid Khan, Faheem Ashraf and Abid Ali after they endured a disappointing run in the ODIs against England, Pakistan have some promising young talent in their squad. Teenager Shaheen Afridi finished the recently-concluded ODI series with six wickets, which included a spell of 4/82 in the final match. Another young talent is that of the 20-year-old Shadab Khan – someone who has not enjoyed good spells but is known for making a mark in the ICC Champions Trophy 2017, where he took four wickets in as many games.
Don’t be surprised if Fakhar Zaman is near the top of the run-scorer’s list by the tournament end. The left-handed opener is ranked No.11 in the official ICC ODI batting rankings and owns an ODI double-century – 210* against Zimbabwe last year. He posted a century in the Champions Trophy final in 2017 and scored 138 against England at Southampton earlier this month. A quality player against seam, swing and spin, Zaman could be the surprise package this tournament.
PAKISTAN AT THE WORLD CUP
Pakistan won the World Cup in 1992 under the captaincy of Imran Khan and have also been runners up at the 1999 World Cup where they lost to Australia in the Final. They have been Semi Finalists 4 times (1979, 1983, 1987 & 2011) and have also reached the Quarter Finals twice (1996 & 2015). Pakistan’s historical win-loss record at the cricket world cup is 40-29, with 2 no results.
Played – 71 | Won – 40 | Lost – 29| Tied/No Result – 2 | Win percentage – 57.97%
1975 – out in group stage 1979 – semi-final 1983 – semi-final 1987 – semi-final 1992 – Champions 1996 – quarter-final 1999 – runners up 2003 – out in group stage 2007 – out in group stage 2011 – semi-final 2015 – quarter-final
• Pakistan’s leading run-scorer at World Cups is Javed Miandad. In 30 innings, Miandad scored 1083 runs at an average of 43.32, with one century and eight fifties. Next on the list is Saeed Anwar with 915 runs from 21 innings at an average of 53.82, followed by Inzamam-ul-Haq at third with 717 at 23.90
• Miandad’s eight fifties are a record for Pakistan at the tournament. Majid Khan scored five half-centuries
• Anwar and Rameez Raja hold the record for most centuries by a Pakistan batsman at World Cups – three
• Anwar’s average of 82.25 in 1996 is the highest for a Pakistan batsman at a single World Cup
• Not surprisingly, Shahid Afridi has hit the most sixes for Pakistan at the World Cup – 12. After him, Wasim Akram‘s 11 are the next best
• The Pakistan record for most runs in a single World Cup belongs to Miandad who in 1992 scored 437 runs at 62.60 from nine innings
• Imran Nazir holds the record for Pakistan’s highest score in a World Cup – 160 versus Zimbabwe in 2007
• Miandad played the most World Cups for Pakistan – six. He was part of the squads from 1975 to 1996, when he retired
• In the bowling charts, Wasim has taken the most wickets for Pakistan at World Cups. In 38 matches, he took 55 wickets at an average of 23.83, strike-rate of 35.4 and economy of 4.04
• Wasim is followed by Imran Khan (34) and Afridi and Shoaib Akhtar with 30 wickets in a single tournament
• Afridi is the holder of the best innings bowling by a Pakistan player at any World Cup. In 2011, he claimed 5/16
• The most deliveries bowled by a Pakistan bowler in a single World Cup is 544 by Wasim in 1999. In 1992, Wasim bowled 538
• Pakistan’s most successful World Cup wicketkeeper is Moin Khan, who in 20 matches held 30 dismissals (23 catches, 7 stumpings)
• For non-wicketkeepers, Inzamam’s 16 catches in 35 games is the most by a Pakistan fielder
• The highest partnership by a Pakistan pair at the World Cup is 184 between Anwar and Wajahatullah Wasti against New Zealand in the 1999 semi-final at Old Trafford
• Pakistan’s overall World Cup record is 40 wins, 29 losses, and two no-results from a total of 70 games
• As a side, Pakistan’s biggest World Cup win came over Kenya in 2011 when they beat them by 205 runs
The Men in Green have played a lot of cricket in England in recent times and it will help them during the World Cup. It goes without saying that if you’re scoring as many runs as they have scored so far and not winning any matches, something’s up. Pakistan’s bowlers did not exactly sparkle against England – which is why they have gambled on Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz, neither of whom bowled a ball in that series, as part of three changes to their provisional 15-man squad. The bowling mediocrity, however, was nothing compared to the abomination in the field, where there were a plethora of embarrassing misfields that turned singles into boundaries and simple dropped catches galore.
Pakistan will kick off their campaign against Windies on May 31st and take on England on June 3rd. Sarfaraz Ahmed’s men will take on arch-rivals India on June 16th.
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Leagues up in the Lobby soon, Go get ’em champs!