World T20 2012 September 21, 2012

Will in-form or flat Pakistan show up at World T20?

Having reached two finals and a semi-final in the opening three editions of World T20, Pakistan will hope to continue their success in the shortest format's marquee tournament
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Overview

Unpredictability is the defining feature of the Pakistan team, but you still can't shun the thought that they are one of the compelling sides in the format. Their notoriety for inconsistent performances was on show during their warm-up games: they botched a mild chase of 111 against England right after succeeding in chasing down 186 - a rare sparkling chase against India.

Pakistan are always surrounded by off-the-field issues but presently things are relatively stable, which bodes well for the creation of a positive team atmosphere under a new captain, Mohamamd Hafeez, who has succeeded Misbah-ul-Haq. Although Hafeez's Twenty20 form doesn't warrant him an automatic place in the side, the PCB has taken a decision largely in the best interests of the team, deeming the allrounder a sensible leader in the longer-run. He has so far led Pakistan in five matches, losing two and winning three, including a Super Over victory against Australia in Dubai earlier this month.

Pakistan enter the event as the world's most experienced side in the format, having played most number of matches - 58 - winning 34 and losing 22 with two tied matches. They were the explosive starters in T20 cricket but have lost momentum since 2010, playing 22 matches and losing 11. In a bid to pick up momentum, the selectors have picked the country's potent and hugely experienced Twenty20 specialists for the job.

The squad is flexible enough to accommodate three explosive specialist openers in the top order, namely Imran Nazir, Nasir Jamshed and Kamran Akmal, followed by a mixture of skilful youngsters in Umar Akmal and Asad Shafiq and experienced men in Shoaib Malik, Abdul Razzaq and Shahid Afridi, to guard the middle-order. And they have an agile bowling line-up, strengthened by the return of Umar Gul - he is back at the World T20 after missing the previous event in the West Indies.

Pakistan enter the tournament with the entire squad having accumulated ample practice in Sri Lanka. Pakistan had a full series against the hosts earlier this year and, later, players from the T20 squad featured in the Sri Lanka Premier League.

Key Player

The Pakistan bowlers have been dominating the T20 format, occupying the first three spots in the list of leading wicket-takers, with Saeed Ajmal leading the chart with 60 wickets followed by Shahid Afridi, 59, and Umar Gul with 58. The linchpin will be Ajmal, who has an exceptional economy rate of 6.03 in the format. He will be out to further stamp his authority as the world's best bowler. His control over his spin and clever variations of his doosra certainly make him dangerous. Pakistan, expectedly, will look to capitalise on more spin options with Ajmal having a significant role to play in the coming days.

Surprise package

Pakistan have recently unleashed a 20-year-old rookie left-arm spinner: Raza Hasan, largely known as a death bowler, averaging 13.65 in 22 matches with 40 wickets. He is not a big turner of the ball but his fearless approach and decent variation contain the run rate and made him a prominent bowler on the Pakistan domestic circuit. He was first noticed in 2010 when Pakistan called him up for the tour of England, but he didn't get a game. His wares were finally on show earlier this month in the three-match T20 series against Australia in Dubai. He is perhaps unlikely to play in every game but he has a definite future with the team.

Weakness

If the script runs correctly, you will barely find any flaws within the Pakistan set-up, but if not, the fragile batting could be rattled. Ensuring a blistering start through the openers is a problem, as Mohamamd Hafeez takes his time to settle in, while Imran Nazir is cautions at the crease these days. The lost form of Afridi is another definite blow for Pakistan and there is obviously a concern over the allrounder.

World T20 history

Pakistan have an impressive record in the World Twenty20 and their pedigree has been remarkable in the three editions so far. They have been the best side in tournament's brief history. Had Misbah-ul-Haq not skied the paddle-scope to fine-leg in the 2007 final against India, Pakistan could have won the inaugural tournament. In 2009, Pakistan, led by Younis Khan thrashed Sri Lanka to lift the title. Pakistan were once again on course for another title in the Caribbean in 2010 but were undone by Australia's Michael Hussey's heroics in the semi-final in Saeed Ajmal's final over. Their win-loss tally in World Twenty20 is 12 victories to eight defeats, including the bowl-out loss against India.

Recent form

Pakistan landed in Sri Lanka after intense preparation in a three-match ODI and three-match T20I series in the Dubai against Australia in the exhausting heat of the desert. Pakistan lost the ODI series but went on to win the T20I series 2-1.

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • cricket_fan_1980 on September 23, 2012, 8:55 GMT

    I'm not sure unpredictable is the adjective to describe the pakistan cricket team anymore, atleast since misbah took over in 2011. pakistan has been about as methodical and disciplined as I've ever seen them. They still have the flair and flamboyance, but I don't think they're unpredictable as such. Not the way they have been for big chunks of their history. However, Hafeez is quite untested in this role as captain, opening batsmen and opening bowler (potentially) all in one. I hope he can manage and that Afridi supports him on the field. If Afridi sulks in this tournament and acts like he is god's gift to cricket and pakistan, we will struggle a lot. He has a lot of influence over which direction a match swings under high pressure situations, so much so that I think even the opposition often get major-backfooted just by his attitude and aggression. That makes for a very charismatic cricketer, I guess along the lines of viv richards (attitude, not content ppl, dont bash me) . so ...

  • on September 23, 2012, 6:59 GMT

    Aimal Khan have you seen his latest performances last chance for afridi if he doesn't return to his old six hitting self bye bye afridi

  • HawksEyeFocused on September 23, 2012, 5:31 GMT

    The 4 teams that will make to the semis are 1. South Africa 2. Pakistan 3. England 4. Australia......Mark my words!!! My money is on either Aus or Pak!!! Bother are giants and giant-killers at the same time!!!

  • mazke on September 23, 2012, 5:03 GMT

    Imran Nazeer, Jamshaid, Akmal Brothers, Afridi, Razzaq, one after other there is threat for other teams. any one clicks on any day. And on that Pakistan bowling department is also is the best specialist one. I would say that this is a real ideal team for T20 format and giant and it will be a real treat for every team playing against Pakistan. The heat is on....

  • david44 on September 23, 2012, 3:57 GMT

    my batting line-up would be hafeez with nasir jamshed then imran nazier 2down kami the afridi then shoib malik we need a guy like malik in the later stages of pak betting he is cool like a cucumber and very experienced and need couple of big hitters with him in the likes of umer akmal and razaq in case our top batting order fails along with sohail,gul and ajmal

  • Desihungama on September 23, 2012, 2:28 GMT

    Hafeez should convince Afridi to bat up possibly open to take advantage of field restrictions. Asad Shafiq can play the anchor role left by Misbah. One game for Nazir before he turns out the liability. Mix up the bowling, get Razzaq in. Good Luck Pakistan.

  • on September 23, 2012, 1:14 GMT

    I think, if PAK scores around 160+ then there is a good chance of winning most of the games with the bowling abilities they have. Every one seems concerned with Afridi's form but he's going to bat at 7 or 8 where couple of hits are needed. He should bowl like a champion n no doubt he is a champion. I am not worried about his form, I have feeling he's just one inning away from something special (insha Allah). Good luck Pakistan! Raza Hasan is another diamond star Pakistan cricket galaxy. High hopes and very bright future is awaiting him!

  • Sandstorm82 on September 23, 2012, 0:48 GMT

    @ OzWally good point... I was a bit surprised at the Aussies today, fielding and bowling at times was a little shoddy. Starc was sick, really like him over Pattinson as the future - perhaps its the left arm action. Windies blew it with the bowling after all the build up from the pundits about them being a formidable unit! And that's precisely why I am apprehensive about all this chat the pundits keep giving on the tracks, favourite teams, up and coming players and blah blah.

  • OzWally on September 22, 2012, 23:25 GMT

    Craig - did you catch the Windies 1st game against Australia today? Or do you consider Australia and Bangladesh comparable?

  • on September 22, 2012, 20:53 GMT

    Each senior player needs to show presence of mind in order succeed.. thats all there is for the Pak team for tomorrows game.. on batting side - no more street style cricket shots a boundry should be followed watchful singles as that is when all our batting lineup is messsing it up.. on bowling side.. dont just live on the hope that Saeed Ajmal needst to bowl well , each of the bowlers need to bowl sensibley also Hafeez needs to use Razzaq and Shoaib Mailk properly else it will be another 180 run affair mind it ..

  • cricket_fan_1980 on September 23, 2012, 8:55 GMT

    I'm not sure unpredictable is the adjective to describe the pakistan cricket team anymore, atleast since misbah took over in 2011. pakistan has been about as methodical and disciplined as I've ever seen them. They still have the flair and flamboyance, but I don't think they're unpredictable as such. Not the way they have been for big chunks of their history. However, Hafeez is quite untested in this role as captain, opening batsmen and opening bowler (potentially) all in one. I hope he can manage and that Afridi supports him on the field. If Afridi sulks in this tournament and acts like he is god's gift to cricket and pakistan, we will struggle a lot. He has a lot of influence over which direction a match swings under high pressure situations, so much so that I think even the opposition often get major-backfooted just by his attitude and aggression. That makes for a very charismatic cricketer, I guess along the lines of viv richards (attitude, not content ppl, dont bash me) . so ...

  • on September 23, 2012, 6:59 GMT

    Aimal Khan have you seen his latest performances last chance for afridi if he doesn't return to his old six hitting self bye bye afridi

  • HawksEyeFocused on September 23, 2012, 5:31 GMT

    The 4 teams that will make to the semis are 1. South Africa 2. Pakistan 3. England 4. Australia......Mark my words!!! My money is on either Aus or Pak!!! Bother are giants and giant-killers at the same time!!!

  • mazke on September 23, 2012, 5:03 GMT

    Imran Nazeer, Jamshaid, Akmal Brothers, Afridi, Razzaq, one after other there is threat for other teams. any one clicks on any day. And on that Pakistan bowling department is also is the best specialist one. I would say that this is a real ideal team for T20 format and giant and it will be a real treat for every team playing against Pakistan. The heat is on....

  • david44 on September 23, 2012, 3:57 GMT

    my batting line-up would be hafeez with nasir jamshed then imran nazier 2down kami the afridi then shoib malik we need a guy like malik in the later stages of pak betting he is cool like a cucumber and very experienced and need couple of big hitters with him in the likes of umer akmal and razaq in case our top batting order fails along with sohail,gul and ajmal

  • Desihungama on September 23, 2012, 2:28 GMT

    Hafeez should convince Afridi to bat up possibly open to take advantage of field restrictions. Asad Shafiq can play the anchor role left by Misbah. One game for Nazir before he turns out the liability. Mix up the bowling, get Razzaq in. Good Luck Pakistan.

  • on September 23, 2012, 1:14 GMT

    I think, if PAK scores around 160+ then there is a good chance of winning most of the games with the bowling abilities they have. Every one seems concerned with Afridi's form but he's going to bat at 7 or 8 where couple of hits are needed. He should bowl like a champion n no doubt he is a champion. I am not worried about his form, I have feeling he's just one inning away from something special (insha Allah). Good luck Pakistan! Raza Hasan is another diamond star Pakistan cricket galaxy. High hopes and very bright future is awaiting him!

  • Sandstorm82 on September 23, 2012, 0:48 GMT

    @ OzWally good point... I was a bit surprised at the Aussies today, fielding and bowling at times was a little shoddy. Starc was sick, really like him over Pattinson as the future - perhaps its the left arm action. Windies blew it with the bowling after all the build up from the pundits about them being a formidable unit! And that's precisely why I am apprehensive about all this chat the pundits keep giving on the tracks, favourite teams, up and coming players and blah blah.

  • OzWally on September 22, 2012, 23:25 GMT

    Craig - did you catch the Windies 1st game against Australia today? Or do you consider Australia and Bangladesh comparable?

  • on September 22, 2012, 20:53 GMT

    Each senior player needs to show presence of mind in order succeed.. thats all there is for the Pak team for tomorrows game.. on batting side - no more street style cricket shots a boundry should be followed watchful singles as that is when all our batting lineup is messsing it up.. on bowling side.. dont just live on the hope that Saeed Ajmal needst to bowl well , each of the bowlers need to bowl sensibley also Hafeez needs to use Razzaq and Shoaib Mailk properly else it will be another 180 run affair mind it ..

  • MFNadeem on September 22, 2012, 20:33 GMT

    Umer, what is consistency in your point of view, if a team is coming into the tournament with one title, one runner up, and one semi final spot in the previous three versions? In T20 cricket, the criticism of being inconsistent on Pakistan team, sounds to me like a joke.

  • on September 22, 2012, 20:27 GMT

    Every other strong team in the tournament played their first match against the weaker opposition in their group. Why Pakistan is playing New Zealand first instead of Bangladesh? Bangladesh is clearly the weaker side based on their past record and on paper. Of course on the day of the match anything is possible but the schedule should be based on the past record.

  • on September 22, 2012, 20:01 GMT

    afridi dear p;ease come in form love all the eleven play will guys.afridi mara laag zzan takra ka mouz tollo sta banday nazar day .omer gulla ta hum zzaan fit satah oo ajmal janii do the best

  • on September 22, 2012, 19:22 GMT

    Would love to see Afridi and Nazir opening once again. 2 man out from the boundary will definitely save Afridi to get caught out as he has been failed to hit the ball out of the ground. He mostly lose his wicket getting catch out, why not taking benefit of 4 overs. Hafeez has failed to impress as aggressive T20 opener, other teams are loaded with aggression like Watson, Warner, Gayle, etc. Sending Afridi will not only hurt opponents game plan but also it would impress Nazir to play his natural game. We need to forget this single double strategy, hit maximum 4s and 6s as much as possible. Bat first put close to 200 and see the magic of Ajmal.

  • Hira1 on September 22, 2012, 19:05 GMT

    afridi form is the key, if he is playing then Razak / Malik should be dropped rather than raza hassan

  • Syed_imran_abbas on September 22, 2012, 18:03 GMT

    Pakistan is not unpredictably in test matches anymore. They have a proper serious test team under sensible misbah's captaincy. One day team has some selection issues. but which team is consistant in t20 anyway. this is an unpredictable format. So having a nature of format being unpredictable Pakistan is most consistent team. Too big event to indroduce raza hassan. Rahman could have been far better choice. Pakistan must not risk with playing imran nazir again rather play shafeeq in middle order.

  • on September 22, 2012, 17:53 GMT

    Pakistan has talent in every walk of life, but sadly missing is the guiding force to channel that talent into world beaters...

  • on September 22, 2012, 17:40 GMT

    Let Afridi open the innings and have maximum chance of clearing inner circle......even him getting out early doesn't bother us anymore....on his day he would be unstoppable...

  • El_Toro_Loco on September 22, 2012, 17:33 GMT

    My Vote = Flat batting performance + Pathetic fielding. Ciao

  • on September 22, 2012, 17:29 GMT

    Inshalah we won the cup we have exceptional team.

  • Classy.Nerd on September 22, 2012, 17:03 GMT

    What fun is it to watch a team who's always either on the Losing side or Winning. What makes us (Pakistanis) love this team is the see-saw nature of their nature. Lose it or win it, humein tum se pyar hai !

  • getsetgopk on September 22, 2012, 16:59 GMT

    Predictable or not, Pakistan is a Giant in any cricket on any continent and against any opposition. Our magnificent record across formats in T20's is second best to none. Beating Pakistan is a benchmark in T20's. Teams measure their worth and how good they are when they play Pakistan. Well played PAKISTAN!

  • rajesh_singhSTM on September 22, 2012, 16:56 GMT

    Unpredictability = Inconsistency. Depends on how one looks at it

  • on September 22, 2012, 16:31 GMT

    pakistan will rock tomorrow specially explosive imran nazir and magician saeed ajmal

  • khurramsch on September 22, 2012, 15:28 GMT

    best of luck. past doen not matter & this is very much open event this time. imran nzair need to show something to make people feel that he is not only a domestic or leagure player now. i think if he fails more they should replace him with asad & open with jamshed.fomr of afridi with bat & ball is a problem. razaks batting is also not in sight recently. so that makes job of top order a bit more difficult. in bowling some one else need to support ajmal,

  • on September 22, 2012, 14:59 GMT

    If Umar Akmal does not play Pakistan can win any match and any tournament. I know this comment would have to be taken with a pinch of salt, the chap is over rated and playing him has costed the team so many matches in the past. Any captain should avoid playing him.

  • gemind on September 22, 2012, 14:43 GMT

    well if we would measure it upto the talent and caliber they have, Pakistan has launched a real heavy site this time, now the only thing needed is that player play upto their potential and upto the expectations of the people. even a couple of players clicking (every match), it would be very difficult for any opponent to stand against the greens ...

  • on September 22, 2012, 13:15 GMT

    Unpredictability is what makes us(fans) love Pakistan.

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  • on September 22, 2012, 13:15 GMT

    Unpredictability is what makes us(fans) love Pakistan.

  • gemind on September 22, 2012, 14:43 GMT

    well if we would measure it upto the talent and caliber they have, Pakistan has launched a real heavy site this time, now the only thing needed is that player play upto their potential and upto the expectations of the people. even a couple of players clicking (every match), it would be very difficult for any opponent to stand against the greens ...

  • on September 22, 2012, 14:59 GMT

    If Umar Akmal does not play Pakistan can win any match and any tournament. I know this comment would have to be taken with a pinch of salt, the chap is over rated and playing him has costed the team so many matches in the past. Any captain should avoid playing him.

  • khurramsch on September 22, 2012, 15:28 GMT

    best of luck. past doen not matter & this is very much open event this time. imran nzair need to show something to make people feel that he is not only a domestic or leagure player now. i think if he fails more they should replace him with asad & open with jamshed.fomr of afridi with bat & ball is a problem. razaks batting is also not in sight recently. so that makes job of top order a bit more difficult. in bowling some one else need to support ajmal,

  • on September 22, 2012, 16:31 GMT

    pakistan will rock tomorrow specially explosive imran nazir and magician saeed ajmal

  • rajesh_singhSTM on September 22, 2012, 16:56 GMT

    Unpredictability = Inconsistency. Depends on how one looks at it

  • getsetgopk on September 22, 2012, 16:59 GMT

    Predictable or not, Pakistan is a Giant in any cricket on any continent and against any opposition. Our magnificent record across formats in T20's is second best to none. Beating Pakistan is a benchmark in T20's. Teams measure their worth and how good they are when they play Pakistan. Well played PAKISTAN!

  • Classy.Nerd on September 22, 2012, 17:03 GMT

    What fun is it to watch a team who's always either on the Losing side or Winning. What makes us (Pakistanis) love this team is the see-saw nature of their nature. Lose it or win it, humein tum se pyar hai !

  • on September 22, 2012, 17:29 GMT

    Inshalah we won the cup we have exceptional team.

  • El_Toro_Loco on September 22, 2012, 17:33 GMT

    My Vote = Flat batting performance + Pathetic fielding. Ciao