It’s time for the biggest cricket event of the year – the T20 World Cup 2022. Sixteen teams from all across the globe will clash with each other to claim the title.
One team you can never write off is Pakistan. The third-ranked T20I team has some superstar white ball cricketers in it and can blow away any side on their day.
In the last year’s World T20, cricket pundits didn’t give them many chances. But they stunned the cricket fraternity with five consecutive wins in the group stages. They lost in the semi-final to Australia, but their campaign was indeed a remarkable one.
How far are they going to get in this year’s tournament? How does their squad break down, and what are their key strengths and weaknesses?
Read this blog till the end to find answers to all these queries.
Pakistan Squad Analysis
Pakistan has announced its best available squad for the ICC T20 World Cup 2022. The squad contains 15 regular members along with 3 traveling reserves. Here’s the complete squad:
Babar Azam (c), Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Shan Masood, Shadab Khan (vc), Asif Ali, Haider Ali, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Hasnain, Haris Rauf, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Wasim, Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Fakhar Zaman
Reserves: Mohammad Haris (wk), Shahnawaz Dahani, Usman Qadir
The fifteen members squad has five pacers, three spinners (including two all-rounders), and seven batsmen (including a wicket-keeper batsman).
The squad is solid but looks more like a mixture of some brilliant players and a few ordinary players. By saying ordinary players, we don’t mean that those guys don’t have the potential. It points to their inability to perform at the international level so far.
Potential Starting XI
Considering the squad, Pakistan are highly likely to go with the following playing XI in the upcoming mega event:
- Babar Azam (c)
- Mohammad Rizwan (wk)
- Shan Masood
- Shadab Khan
- Mohammad Nawaz
- Haider Ali
- Iftikhar Ahmed
- Asif Ali
- Shaheen Shah Afridi
- Haris Rauf
- Naseem Shah
Shadab and Nawaz have helped Pakistan win a few important games this year with the bat in hand. So, they will continue to be shuffled around in the middle order.
Shan Masood’s form has been quite concerning for Pakistan, so Fakhar Zaman can be in contention to replace him. But Babar is likely to back Shan Masood as he has earned his T20I call with consistent performances in the last three years.
Another possible consideration could be to go with four pacers. M. Waseem was quite exceptional in the tri-series in New Zealand. His ability to bowl accurate yorkers and clever change-ups can get him into the side.
In this case, Asif Ali will be dropped, and Waseem will come in for him. But again, Babar is usually a conservative skipper, and we shouldn’t expect this bold decision from him.
Strengths of Pakistan’s Squad
Without a doubt, the squad has all it takes to win an ICC event. However, underlying are their two biggest strengths:
A Formidable Bowling Attack
With their spearhead pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi returning to full fitness, Pakistan now have an exceptional bowling lineup for the World Cup. Their three first-choice fast bowlers – Shaheen Shah, Naseem Shah, and Haris Rauf – can swing the ball while bowling in excess of 145 kph.
Not just that, they can also nail their yorkers at the death and use their variations cleverly. Mohammad Hasnain – who might not get into their first-choice XI – can clock 150 clicks regularly. Moreover, Mohammad Wasim bowls brilliant yorkers in the slog overs and has great control over reverse swing.
So, it’s fair to say that their options in their pace battery are as good as any side can wish. What about spinners, though?
Shadab is the second-highest wicket-taker for Pakistan in T20Is, with an impressive bowling average of 21.85. Nawaz is criminally underrated, but his economy rate in T20 Internationals is just 7.26, and he has the ability to bowl at any stage of the innings.
All in all, Pakistan’s bowling is their #1 strength – as it has always been. If they can score 160+ in any game, their bowling will make it extremely tough for the opponents to chase it down.
The Most Prolific Batting Pair at the Top
Babar and Rizwan arguably form the greatest T20 batting pair of all time. The duo averages more than 56 and has five partnerships of more than 150 while batting together in this format.
Rizwan has scored more than 2000 T20I runs since the start of 2021, with a massive average of 67. He has touched the 50-run mark 21 times in these two years. The top-ranked T20I better is enjoying a purple patch in his career and is tough to stop at the moment.
On the other hand, Babar averages 45+ in all four SENA countries and has a strike rate of almost 150 there. The conditions in Australia are tailor-made for his batting style, and he will certainly be crucial to Pakistan’s chances in the World Cup.
Weaknesses of Pakistan’s Squad
Pakistan only have one apparent weakness in their squad, and that is as follows:
The Ever-Struggling Middle Order
The one question Pakistan haven’t been able to find an answer to is; What if Babar and Rizwan are dismissed early? Whenever it happened, the middle order looked clueless and cost Pakistan countless games.
Haider Ali, Khushdil Shah, and Iftikhar Ahmed average less than 26 and strike at less than 125 in T20 International cricket. These numbers – by any standards – are well below the mark. Shan Masood is also searching for runs and fluency before the World T20 in Australia.
Recently, they have tried Shadab Khan at #4. His PSL record and ability to take the attack to the spinners make him a go-to option in the middle order. However, he still has to prove his ability to cope with the pressure in the middle overs.
Predicted Performers for Pakistan
Pakistan’s team is loaded with T20 superstars like Shaheen, Rauf, Babar, Rizwan, and Shadab. But, the two guys who we think will dictate the terms are:
The Pakistan skipper occupied the #1 position in the ICC T20 Rankings for 1025 days – which is the longest for any batsman. In Australia, he has played just three T20Is but scored two half-centuries in them. His 115 runs came at a strike rate of 138.55 in those three matches.
There were some concerns regarding his batting form, but they turned to dust after he arrived in New Zealand. Therefore, all the odds suggest that the best white ball batsman in the world will once again rise to the occasion.
The 150 kph Pakistan bowler has been bowling thunderbolts in the last few months. His 62 scalps in T20Is have come in just 46 matches. More crucially, he has picked up 30 wickets in 18 BBL games, including a hat-trick and a five-fer.
His recent form and past performance in Australia indicate that he will be one of the star bowlers in the upcoming tournament.
Predicted Flops for Pakistan
The two blokes who seem to be going nowhere in Pakistan’s T20 team can make things tough for them in the World Cup. Those two players are:
The 32-years old batsman has scored 108 runs in Australia at a strike rate of 150 and was dismissed only once in three innings. However, it happened more than three years ago, and the last two years have been a nightmare for him.
Since the start of 2021, he has been averaging 19.24 and striking at just 115.55. His troubles are likely to get prolonged in this event.
The guy is surely a better talent than his T20I numbers – an average of 15.91 and a strike rate of 134.91. In 2022, he is averaging 10.9 and hasn’t gone past 30 even once. That’s why there aren’t too many expectations for him heading into the World Cup.
Pakistan’s Recent Form
Following are the results of Pakistan’s last five T20I games:
- Oct 14 – Won by 5 wickets against New Zealand
- Oct 13 – Won by 7 wickets against Bangladesh
- Oct 11 – Lost by 9 wickets against New Zealand
- Oct 8 – Won by 6 wickets against New Zealand
- Oct 7 – Won by 21 runs against Bangladesh
With 4 wins in the last 5 games, Pakistan are peaking at the right time.
Prediction for Pakistan’s Group Matches
Following is the schedule and our prediction for Pakistan’s fixtures in the upcoming marque event:
- Oct 23 – India (India to win)
- Oct 27 – Winner of Group B (Pakistan to win)
- Oct 30 – Runner-up of Group A (Pakistan to win)
- Nov 03 – South Africa (Pakistan to win)
- Nov 06 – Bangladesh (Pakistan to win)
In summary, Pakistan will go through to the semis by winning 4 out of their 5 matches in the group stage.
Despite having a fragile middle order, Pakistan are a strong T20 side. Their openers, spinners, and pacers are all world-class players and proven match-winners. However, you can’t win tournaments with only two guys scoring regularly. They can only claim the trophy if their middle order steps up in the mega event.
Considering their current form and squad breakdown, they will face either Australia or New Zealand in the World Cup semi-final. With both these teams having a better team balance and more friendly conditions, the Pakistan team is unlikely to advance to the final.
Final Verdict: Pakistan will be defeated in the semi-final of the ICC T20 World Cup 2022.