Four Pakistan players India need to beware of and how they should go about dealing with them
The left-hand Pakistan opener has not scored many runs in the World Cup thus far but he hasn't looked out of touch, and he has looked exceptionally good in patches. Fakhar could well be a threat to India, against whom he scored that memorable hundred in the Champions Trophy final two years ago.
He is among the few batsmen in top-level international cricket who doesn't have a trigger movement, moving only after the ball leaves the bowler's hand. He stays beside the line of the ball and so is strong square of the pitch. He likes width and throws his hands at anything that is short or full wide of the stumps. And he has a reasonably good pick-up shot when the ball finishes on his legs.
There are two areas of concern for him. First, when there isn't much room on offer in terms of line and length, the ball that drags him a little forward and forces him to push it down the ground or towards mid-off is a potential wicket-taking delivery. Second, he is a little susceptible against bouncers. While he has the tendency to go at them, he sometimes doesn't get himself in the right position to properly execute the hook shot; he goes neither back nor across and finds himself falling over. Even Rohit Sharma doesn't move back or across but he has the gift of timing that allows him to connect with the ball well before it reaches him. In Fakhar's case, the ball gets too close to him and the lack of extension of the leading arm lands him in trouble.
There's a lot of class in the way Babar plays. He is not only pleasing on the eye but has both the technique and the temperament to weather bowling storms. He is fairly organised at the crease and equally adept at playing pace and spin off either foot. Even though the square cut is his preferred stroke against pace, he was exceptional when driving against Australia. If he's in that kind of form on Sunday, the Indian bowlers will have to be extremely patient against him.
Bowling a little fuller and a little wider to him is a good ploy, for once in a while he tries to run it down to the third-man region, which sometimes lands him in trouble. Also, the bouncer, as we saw, worked for Australia, and it's worth trying again.
When you encounter someone who is at the top of his game, you should look to rule out one side of the pitch. Against Babar, after the initial attempt to bowl wicket-taking balls and dismiss him, the plan should be to bowl in the good-length area and outside off with a heavily populated off-side field. That way you can keep the fine-leg fielder more square, square leg straighter, and slip in an occasional bouncer.
Amir's lack of wickets leading up to the World Cup had a lot to do with his ability to bring the ball back in to the right-hand batsmen - or the lack of it, to be accurate. It's not that he is suddenly making the ball move bananas but there's enough of a hint of it tailing back in to create doubt. The conditions in England have rewarded bowlers who have been brave enough to pitch the ball fuller, and Amir has done that consistently. He is inducing false shots by asking batsmen to score off him off the front foot.
His stock delivery used to be the one that comes back in, but now that one seems to be the surprise ball. The majority of his deliveries hold the line and go away from the right-hand batsman, and that's what the Indian top order will have to be careful of. The likes of KL Rahul and Rohit should make sure they don't go across with the front foot, and that they play the ball late. They will also need to be mindful of deliveries where the seam is wobbly; those are the ones that will hold their line.
The conditions this summer in England are ideally suited to bowlers like Hasan. He's not one of those who swings the ball in the air; rather, he looks for lateral movement off the surface. While you can account for the swing to some extent, there's very little you can do when it moves off the deck.
To add to that, he is fairly skiddy off the pitch and batsmen feel a little rushed when facing him. But the problem he has currently is his lack of consistency in his line and length over an extended period. After he bowls a few attacking the off stump, there is invariably one that slips down the leg side, offering the batsman a breather. Still, it will be important for the Indian batsmen to respect the good balls he will bowl, and avoid playing the horizontal-bat shots unless the delivery is really short. Playing late and waiting for loose balls is the way to go against him.