Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent
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Pakistan chief selector Mohammad Wasim gave his vote of confidence to the under-fire opening pair of Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan, saying he "wasn't even thinking about a back-up opener" for the T20 World Cup next month. When asked if there was an intent to break up the opening pair in favour of a batter with a higher strike rate, Wasim said no such plans were in the offing.
"Both of them have brought us enough success," he said. "You are talking about breaking up the best opening pair in world cricket. They are our strongest point and the numbers show they have scored runs with great consistency. I understand reservations about their strike rate but you will see improvements in it."
Much of the criticism around Babar and Rizwan is about their conservative approach with bat. Both are anchors, and prolific as well as consistent, meaning either one or both often tend to bat deep into the innings. But their low strike rates, particularly in the first ten overs, put the middle order under pressure, and raise concerns that Pakistan fail to maximise their run-scoring potential.
Since the start of 2020, Babar and Rizwan have powerplay strike rates of 115.68 and 115.98 respectively in T20Is, and Pakistan's top three consumed about three-fourths of all balls faced by the team since the 2021 World Cup, the highest among all T20I sides. They also have the largest negative variance between runs scored and balls faced among Full Members, prompting criticism that Pakistan leave too many runs out there.
But Wasim defended the side despite a similar approach at the Asia Cup, where they finished runners-up. "We won nine out of last 13 T20Is, beating bigger teams along the way. Discarding anyone on the basis of a few bad games will be unfair. I have no doubt about these boys, almost everyone has won us games from top to bottom.
"You name anyone and they have performed lately. Since the last World Cup, we have had envisaged the conditions [in Australia] and planned accordingly. This whole squad is our strength and I am hopeful that this team will get us good results."