World T20 2016 Pakistan preview March 15, 2016

Pakistan in search of cohesion after chaos

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For the first time, Pakistan will enter the World T20 a weakened side. Over the years, they have lost their Midas touch in the format and the unpredictability that was once a defining feature, is now merely a liability.

Pakistan announced their World T20 squad in early February but then made changes to their squad due to injuries and form. The last of these changes was to bring Ahmed Shehzad back into the squad in place of Khurram Manzoor, who fared poorly in the Asia Cup. Their departure was delayed following concerns over the security situation in Dharamsala, where they were scheduled to play a match against India, and this cost them one practice match. The match against India was eventually moved to Kolkata and the team arrived on Saturday.

An unsettled top order and an inconsistent middle order leaves them as one of the weaker teams in the Super 10s stage. They are not being seen as favourites but the senior players - Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Shahid Afridi and Ahmed Shehzad - are all overdue for big performances.

Pakistan's biggest strength is the four-man pace attack, with Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Irfan, Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Sami all capable of clocking speeds close to 150 kph. Waqar Younis, Pakistan's coach, has, however, stressed that the batsmen will need to support the bowlers. The tracks in India, too, might work against Pakistan, as their specialist spin department is another weak link.

Road to the World T20

Pakistan are ranked No. 7, close to Sri Lanka at No. 8. Their performances in the last 12 months have been poor. They have nine out of 17 games, and five of those victories came against Zimbabwe and UAE. They lost series to England (3-0) and New Zealand (2-1) followed by a dismal Asia Cup where they lost crunch games against India and Bangladesh and failed to make the final.

At the helm

This is Shahid Afridi's second and final World T20 as captain; he previously led the team to a semi-final finish in the tournament in 2010. He took charge of the side after Mohammad Hafeez stepped down following the side's exit in the group stage of the 2014 World T20. Afridi's form has waned recently - in the Asia Cup, he scored two runs and took two wickets. Over the last 12 months, he has scored 173 runs in 15 innings at an average of 12.35 and has taken 12 wickets at 35.41. There were calls for a change in leadership after the Asia Cup but PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan refrained from making an alteration so close to the tournament.

Key stats

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Number of batsmen Pakistan have tried in the top three since 2012, the most for any team. They haven't, however, been able to find a stable top order yet and their experiments in the Asia Cup only left the team with more questions.

Umar Akmal's T20 experience and form will be crucial to shore up a brittle Pakistan batting order © AFP

Leading men

Mohammad Amir
The 2016 World T20 will be Mohammad Amir's first ICC event since his return from a five-year suspension for spot-fixing in September 2015. He made his presence felt in the Asia Cup with a charismatic bowling show, particularly against India, and will be an important player for Pakistan.

Ahmed Shehzad

Shehzad was first dropped from the World T20 squad and then added at the last minute after Khurram Manzoor failed in the Asia Cup. He has scored the most runs by a Pakistan opener in T20Is - 912 - but can be an inconsistent performer. He made his way back to the squad because the selectors were forced to revisit their original pick and the onus is now on Shehzad to produce the performances expected of him.

Umar Akmal

Umar Akmal has been in and out of Pakistan's Test and ODI sides but is an important player in the side in T20 format. With 1611 runs in 75 matches at an average of 27.30, he is Pakistan's highest run-getter in T20 internationals and fourth overall in the format. Currently he is in assured form - in the Asia Cup, for instance, he played a crucial 50 off 46 balls to help Pakistan overcome a scare from UAE. With the top order looking brittle, he has a vital role to give his side momentum with his flamboyant batting. In three World T20 appearances, he has scored 408 runs in 14 innings at a strike rate of 134.65.

Burning question

Can Shahid Afridi sign-off with a bang?

Afridi's 20-year career has had exhilarating highs and excruciating lows, and he is now nearing the end of his international career. His career and extravagant persona have made a significant impact on Pakistan cricket. He brought the curtains down on his ODI career with a quiet 2015 World Cup and the World T20 is his chance to mark his remarkable career with a perfect farewell.

World T20 history

They finished runners-up in the inaugural edition in South Africa in 2007, losing to India in the final. In 2009, they won the title and finished semi-finalists in 2010 and 2012. In 2014, however, they failed to move beyond the group stage.

In their own words

"It's a matter of the entire team clicking together and this is the only pattern of Pakistan winning a game. Gone are the days when one player stood up and finished off the game single-handedly. Now we need to perform as a unit, and every single player in the side has to play his role. We all know what to expect and who to expect, and the answer to every question is batting. And the day we manage to get consistent with the bat, we will become the best team in the world."
Pakistan coach, Waqar Younis

Aakash Chopra on Pakistan's strengths and weaknesses

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @kalson

Comments have now been closed for this article

  •   Waqas Ahmed on March 16, 2016, 8:33 GMT

    @FARHAN020328 - disagreed on two points - you can find the right combination of batsman. the effort is just required to be made in the right direction. Secondly, the team doesn't have seven and a half batsman. We have 3.25 batsman actually. none of them is capable of being termed as a complete batsman.

  • Farhan020328 on March 16, 2016, 5:41 GMT

    My 25 year's experience of following Pak cricket says, if you try to bring order in Pak cricket, there will be disaster as you are seeing now. It was never in their DNA and never will be. They will be the Pakistan we used to know. So, doing things differently won't work for them as they are not Aus/SA. There will be freaky individual brilliance and those will win you matches. You'll have to leave them as they are and hope for the best. Like it or not, that is the way!!!

    Anyway, the squad should be in this order: Sharjeel, Shehzad, Hafeez, Malik, Sarfaraz, Akmal, Imad, Afridi, Wahab, Aamir, Irfan. This team will have seven and half batsmen (can't consider Afridi a full batsman, he was never one) and 3 pacers with 3 spinners. Trust me, if this team can't win, nobody else will win it for you. So, please stick with this Eleven. God help

  • abdul.wahid on March 16, 2016, 3:18 GMT

    We are struggling to get a good start in the last 6 overs (with regular scores of 35-40). Afridi seems to be struggling down the order, and pretty much just has to swing at every ball when he comes in the 17th-18th over. I reckon Afridi should open up - all we need from him is 20-30 runs in the first 6 overs - anything else is a bonus. Since he is a slogger, he should open, and lead the team to an score of 55-60 in the first 6 overs. Even if he gets out after that he has done his job. Imad Wasim can take Afridi's place down the order if needed. If Pakistan roll with this plan, things could work out.

  • ChaukayChakkay on March 16, 2016, 3:06 GMT

    They have the bowlers, always had. Sharjeel is the guy to look out for, he will win you games single handedly if he gets in rhythm. Waqar and others can keep dreaming of team cohesion and what not, but Pakistan's dna suggests they need those individual match winners that make them unpredictable. Right now there is Amir only, need two more in any area and they should be deadly again. Unfortunately they just haven't come out of the ranks recently.

  • Khanbaba94 on March 16, 2016, 1:27 GMT

    @Maheshkumar.de Mohammad Amir did touch 150km/h recently in Asia cup. I don't exactly remember which match though, but he did.

  • Muhammad Umar Pirzada on March 16, 2016, 1:02 GMT

    Don't lose wickets at the top, crunch it at the end of the innings, that's the simple batting plan that we can play with. Fill up the squad with bowlers who can bat so I would play Imad, Wahab, Amir, consistently. On a bouncy wicket (hardly any), I play Irfan instead of Anwar. Nawaz may get a lot more games than normal. Malik has to bowl more overs in India. Agree on Akmal moving up to

  • Lordqasim on March 15, 2016, 23:21 GMT

    @MAHESHKUMAR.DE:They did.Maybe not Irfan.But i saw Irfan hitting 148 in Asia Cup.While Amir,Wahab,Sami definitely remember them hitting 150 kph in the Asia Cup

  • t20cric on March 15, 2016, 22:22 GMT

    Pakistan need to understand that the way they're batting recently, its a crime to keep Sarfraz Ahmed & Umar Akmal out of the top 3. Now one of these guys will have to stay out of top 3 as both Sharjeel & Shehzad are in the squad & if they both play then they must open. I think Pakistan should drop Hafeez. He seems to be in form even in the Asia cup as he was looking good in every innings not really struggling, instead timing & placing the ball well, but then throwing away a good start by playing a bad shot. Most would not agree with me but I'd say Hafeez is in from but hasn't used it, as a senoir he's expected to do much better than this so he should be dropped. A lot will depend on Shehzad for us to click with the bat as he was batting positively under Viv in PSL so he should carry that here too. For spin we've got 2 unproven talents in Wasim & Nawaz & both have skill, while we also have the underused Malik & the unpredictable Afridi which should be a decent spin combo.

  • t20cric on March 15, 2016, 22:11 GMT

    Pakistan just need to sort out their batting and they'll be winning again. Although their spin department is weak but their fast bowling is good enough that they could still give any team a hard time on flat or spinning pitches. The problem with Pakistan top order is that from those 20 players they've tried at the top, most have only got a few game each. Just off the top of my head I can name a few: Sharjeel Khan, Mohammad Hafeez, Ahmed Shehzad, Khurram Manzoor, Mukhtar Ahmed, Nauman Anwar and maybe Sarfraz Ahmed. Of all those guys Hafeez has definitely got the most opportunities while the rest are talented youngsters who've only got maybe 2-3 games or 6-7 if they're lucky. You can't build a good team if you keep chopping and changing. If we look at why Pakistan's test team is successful it's because most of the batting line up (3-7) has been the same for a few years even though some of them have gone through bad patches. (continued.....)

  •   Khan Afaq on March 15, 2016, 21:17 GMT

    @ MAHESHKUMAR.DE It is not important to bowl at or over 150km/h. Important is the line and length and how much you are swinging the ball and creating trouble for the batsmen. If Amir and Irfan are bowling at around 145km/h but at good line and length thats ok. But just for your information check the bowling speeds of Muhammad Amir against Bangladesh in Asia cup match, specially in his 2nd spell. He was consistently bowling around 150km/h. For your satisfaction :-D

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