ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 showpiece is couple of moonset away from its inception- which will see 10 teams battling it out against the remaining 9 contenders to earn one of the only 2 reserved tickets for “Mecca of cricket” – Lords Cricket ground on 14th July where the winner of the 12th edition will be crowned.
Sarfaraz Ahmed led- Pakistan, though may have lost their last away ODI series prior to the tournament against England, the promising performance by its players makes the Champion Trophy winners an unpredictable force in the 48 matches spreader tournament. The loss may have forced “The Gang Green” to shuffle their pack in order to repair the dent in the motivation and also crack the English conditions to the best-of-their-advantage. Soon after the ODI series against the hosts, experienced pacers Mohammed Amir and Wahab Riaz were introduced into their 15-man World Cup squad.
The chief selector and batsmen of his era; Inzamam-ul-Haq seemed confident of his boys going into the tournament suffering 10 successive ODI defeats. To add to their woes, the team lost against Afghanistan, ranked comparatively below them in the warm-up match of the World Cup. With a good track-record supporting the nation in the English conditions- 1992 WC victory & the 2018 Champions Trophy triumph; the unpredictable PAK side eye on some promising performances in the tournament and thereby pose challenges and hurdles for their opponents who consider the recent achievement mere luck or fluke for them.
Pakistan squad for the tournament:-
Sarfaraz Ahmed (c,wk), Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman, Abid Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Haris Sohail, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim, Imam-ul-Haq, Junaid Khan, Mohammed Hafeez, Mohammed Hasnain, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Shoaib Malik.
Bagging onto its rich records in the ultimate tournament in World cricket- ICC Cricket World Cup; PAK side has emerged as the champions (1992), made it to the semi-finals stage on four occasions (1979, 1983, 1987 and 2011), Quarter-finalists (1996 & 2015) and runner-up once (1999). Post the 2017 Champions Trophy, where it managed to break the jinx of defeating their arch-rivals, India in an ICC tournament to clinch the title; the roadmap has been of ups & downs for the Sarfaraz Khan boys.
Pakistan failed to spread the magic of the CT against nations ranked above them suffering a 5-0 whitewash by hands of defending WC champions, Australia followed by recent limited series defeat against England (0-1 in T20I) & (0-4 in 5 match ODI); one match being called off owing to the muggy outfield.
With no negative signs being observed in its batting, a major concern over their bowlers leaking more than 300 runs in all 4 games was the biggest concern for the Pakistan selection panel to announce the squad for the prestigious tournament. However, the current format and a rain-marred contest in the English conditions will remind the current lot of the squad about the 1992 experience where similar Baggy Greens led by Imran Khan, emerged victorious and proved about their mettle & importance to the World cricket.
With an aim to step into the shoes of the players representing Pakistan cricket in its glorious era defined in ranks of Javed Miandad, Imran Khan, Saeed Anwar, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar to name a few; a present lot of Pakistanis led by Sarfaraz Ahmed eye for the ultimate glory in the UK.
Top order batsmen (Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam):- An impressive outing against England in the recent English tour where one among the trio played a major contributing link helped the team to cross the 300- run mark 3 out of 4 occasions. With the combined average surpassing 50- post the CWC 2015, the numbers itself speak about the Pakistanis.
Middle order line-up:- The talented left-hander, Haris Sohail accompanied along with three of the most experienced players of the squad- Mohammed Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, and Sarfaraz Ahmed stand the ability to freeze the worse situation and start building the castle again as the game progresses. Shuffling among them to obtain the best result for the team as per the conditions is one of the biggest strength, the team has attained in its book.
Spin attack (Shadab Khan and Imad Wasim):- “With the return of Shadab it will make a big difference as our combination will change so it’s a great thing for Pakistan cricket that Shadab has returned,” said Imad. The above statement implies the ability of web spun by the duo to prevent the leakage of runs and scalping of crucial wickets for the team.
Pace (Hasan Ali, Mohammed Amir, Shaheen Afridi, Wahab Riaz):- The pace bowlers of PAK made it to the limelight of the chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq post their performance in ODI series against England which best suited to the nature of wickets. Featuring among the top 3 leading wicket takers in the Pakistan Super League, Riaz earned a call to national squad after a span of 2 years while the middle and death over specialist, Hasan Ali is expected to reflect his performance in the Champions Trophy, where he scalped 13 wickets and finished as the highest wicket taker of the tournament and also played a huge role in his squad’s triumph.
Probable Playing XI
Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Mohammed Hafeez, Shohaib Malik, Sarfaraz Khan (c,wk), Mohammed Amir, Shaheen Afridi, Hasan Ali, Shadab Khan,Wahab Riaz.
Key player to watch out: Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik.