World T20

Pakistan brimming with all-round spin strength

Umar Farooq

March 20, 2014

Comments: 117 | Text size: A | A

Zulfiqar Babar picked up three wickets on debut, West Indies v Pakistan, 1st T20I, St Vincent, July 27, 2013
Zulfiqar Babar could prove a useful addition to Pakistan's potent spin attack © WICB Media
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Players/Officials: Sharjeel Khan | Kamran Akmal | Zulfiqar Babar
Series/Tournaments: World T20
Teams: Pakistan

Overview

Pakistan have a reputation for unpredictability and for unleashing young talent onto the world stage, but their squad at this World T20 reflects a safety-first approach. This might have something to do with a makeshift selection committee at the helm amid all the administrative uncertainty and legal tussles that have swirled around Pakistan cricket over the last year or so.

Led by Mohammad Hafeez, the world's leading allrounder in the shorter formats, Pakistan's 15-man squad offers a lot of flexibility while being centered around senior campaigners including surprise inclusions such as Kamran Akmal and Shoaib Malik. Pakistan have four allrounders, three of whom are spinners - a factor that might prove instrumental given the slow pitches.

It remains to be seen where Kamran - if he takes the wicketkeeping gloves from his brother Umar - will bat, whether he will split the opening combination of Ahmed Shehzad and Sharjeel Khan or come in lower down. Hafeez is likely to bat at No. 3 while the middle order, containing Umar Akmal, Sohaib Maqsood, Shoaib Malik and Shahid Afridi, looks potent.

Bowling has usually been Pakistan's strength but their attack, particularly the seamers, has struggled for wickets in recent times. As recently as the Asia Cup, they took all ten wickets only once, against Afghanistan. Pakistan were dented by the absence of Mohammad Irfan, and they have gambled on Umar Gul to bear the strike bowler's burden.

Pakistan's T20 squads, over the years, have had no exposure to the IPL. Hafeez suggested it was a missed opportunity for the players, but it hasn't been a handicap in terms of their World T20 performances. This time around, they are part of the so-called group of death, alongside India, Australia and West Indies, with Bangladesh looking likely to join them.

Key players

Given the conditions in Bangladesh you can't think beyond Saeed Ajmal but T20 is all about big runs and hard-hitting batsmen. Sharjeel Khan is the key man in the top order. He is relatively new to international cricket and only has a handful of T20s under his belt but his strike rate of 141.66 suggests he could buy Pakistan a few muscular starts.

Kamran Akmal, who has played all the previous World T20s, is back in the team after a year in the wilderness. He last played for Pakistan in last year's Champions Trophy and last played a T20 international in South Africa in March 2013. His inclusion in the squad is a surprise but it provides him possibly one last chance to re-energise a fading international career.

Surprise package

Pakistan's bowling is full of variety, and 35-year-old Zulfiqar Babar's left-arm spin could spice up the attack. He made a big impact on T20 debut last year, taking 3 for 23 against West Indies in Kingstown. A hand injury halted his progress, but he has returned and could possibly add a left-arm element to a strong spin attack alongside Ajmal, Afridi and Hafeez.

Weakness

Pakistan had a good Asia Cup, but showed flashes of their tendency to self-destruct against Afghanistan and in the opening game against Sri Lanka. Inconsistency still dogs the side. Fielding too has been a concern, and it has the potential to undo their good work in other departments.

World T20 history

Pakistan have featured in two finals, winning the 2009 title in England and losing the 2007 final, to India, in South Africa. They entered the semi-finals in the West Indies in 2010 and posted a mammoth total of 191 but a famous final-over assault by Michael Hussey on Ajmal cost them a place in their third straight final. They also reached the semi-finals in 2012, but hosts Sri Lanka halted their progress.

Recent form

As Hafeez has said, Pakistan already have momentum from the Asia Cup, where they pulled off emotional wins over India, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The tournament also gave them good exposure to the conditions in Bangladesh and although they lost the final to Sri Lanka, they gained plenty of confidence, with all of their batsmen contributing at some stage.

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. He tweets here

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by   on (March 21, 2014, 12:45 GMT)

As pakistan is supposed be very unpredictible, we are waiting for the competetion, curiously........

Posted by Zaib-from-WACA on (March 21, 2014, 12:04 GMT)

Fully agree with Lancenayak. Aggression is good in sport but I think Virat takes it to a very high level. Dhoni's return a big plus for India as Virat could not handle the pressure as seen in Asia Cup recently. My favorite batsman of all time is Rahul Dravid and what a gentleman he is. Being a Pakistani fan living in Australia I want Pakistan to win but I think India is still a much more stable and better team specially on Asia's low bouncing tracks.

Posted by   on (March 21, 2014, 12:02 GMT)

@lancenayak

Very nice analysis! Totally agree.

Posted by   on (March 21, 2014, 12:00 GMT)

@2477 Good selection. You are right, there is no need of Shoaib Malik and Soahil Tanvir.... although i would include Zulfiqar Babar in most of the matches in place of Talha or Bilawal as these pitches are good for spinners.

Posted by   on (March 21, 2014, 11:50 GMT)

I am really not happy with the Pakistan squad.

Sohail Tanvir and Shoaib Malik should be excluded from all formats of the game, at this age its very unlikely they could repeat their best performances (which they gave ages ago) and besides they play enough cricket in domestic arena or are always involved elsewhere. Haris sohail, Umar Amin or someone Aizaz Cheema should have been considered. Even Abdul razzaq would be a better choice then these guys.

Sharjeel Khan is a good prospect but should not have been included in such a big tournament this early!! Nasir jamshed is a better option especially since he is good in sub cont and BPL.

Zulfiqar Babar is a great bowler however he is quite old. Raza hassan is a quality T20 spinner who should have been included in place of Zulfiqar or Sohail Tanvir.

Posted by lancenayak on (March 21, 2014, 10:11 GMT)

Nice to see logical comments here, otherwise fans always bragging about their team. As Imran Khan said your best batsman should play most of the deliveries... Kholi@3 for Ind Umar@4 for Pak

Posted by lancenayak on (March 21, 2014, 10:06 GMT)

I am an Indian and I would say its again 50 50 game for both the sides.. Shorter the version of this game gives edge to Pak team. Concern for Pak.. 1) Batting is unpredictable, Sharjeel, Maqsood & even Fawad didnt impress me at all. All three of them technically weak, Pak should go Kamran with Sahzad. 2) Biggest worry is their fielding & running b/w the wickets. 3) Plus point is their A+ bowling attack Concern for Ind.. 1) Dhoni's obsession with his Jijaji Rohit who is gud for nothing and does put pressure on Dhawan as well... 2) Bowling is like 3rd grade bowler of any cricketing nation. Its understandable that u dont ve speed in your bowling but u can bowl with line & length. 3) Plus point Virat Kohli along with Raina.. Hope for a good match and best of luck for both the teams..... Its my humble request to all the Indian players (specially Virat) please learn how to respect the game & Players of the opposition team from SIR RAHUL DRAVID..

Posted by niazbhi on (March 21, 2014, 9:09 GMT)

Pakistan have the best spinners.. Ashwin and Jadega are not too behind either. Indian batting is really good, I am not sure whether Pakistan batting is decent or really weak (as it appeared against SA). Surprisingly pakistan's pace bowling is much weaker than their usual pace attack and india has got a decent attack in Shami and Bhuvi. So Pakistan's barely have any edge in bowling(Pakistan have allrounders so the batting depth is high). Overall edge to india. I do not mind if Pakistan wins. Good luck to both teams!

Posted by 2477 on (March 21, 2014, 8:43 GMT)

Pakistan 11 should be 1.Ahmed Shezad. 2.Kamran Akmal. 3.Hafeez. 4.Umar Akmal. 5.Sohaib Maqsood 6.Shahid Afridi. 7.Bilawal bhatti 8.Umar gul 9.Junaid Khan 10.Saeed Ajmal 11.Mohammed Talha In this team you 4 fast bowlers and 3 spinners so there is no need of Shoaib Malik and Sohail Tanvir

Posted by Pindia on (March 21, 2014, 8:06 GMT)

Pak will win Inshallah. But good luck to India too. As always squad selection could have been better. Fawad Alam deserves a spot as the anchor rather than Malik. Anwar Ali should probably have got a look in. But otherwise looking good. Barbar plus the other three spinners is good for these conditions. Sharjeel and Sohaib need to step up. This could be Afridi's swan song and Ajmal should show he is the great spinner of this generation. But overall Pak should have the all-round talent to succeed. I would have thought this is obvious by now but in short formats Pak should always chase to eliminate the possibility of the first innings collapse as was demonstrated again this week. Gul needs to go back to the swiging yorker as per 2009 in England...

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