How will Pakistan do at this year’s Cricket World Cup in England?
Well, Charles Darwin wrote A Tale of Two Cities. So let this piece be known as A Tale of Two Teams. They are either absolutely woeful. Or a team of world beaters. And most Pakistan fans that we have spoken to about this agree with us.
Since their famous victory in the Final of the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy, they have only won 9 matches out of 32 of the teams that have qualified for the World Cup.
They have been whitewashed 5-0 by New Zealand and Australia, and most recently 4-0 against England. They also lost in their most recent warm-up against Afghanistan. They have lost 10 of their last 11, and the one that they did not lose was rained off.
Even though their coach Mickey Arthur has said that he has attempted to make major improvements to his players’ fielding and fitness, their fielding looked very poor against England.
Nevertheless, amidst all of this seeming doom and gloom, there are rays of sunlight. The last time that Pakistan were in England for a major trophy, the ICC Champions Trophy in 2017, they were crowned winners.
This proves that they have the big players to rise to the occasion. It may also show that they like playing in England.
Whilst many players in the team have been struggling for form recently, the top three of the batting order have been their most consistent performers.
Imam-ul-Haq, who looks like he’s a Medicine Student at the University of Birmingham with his glasses, averages 60 with a strike rate of 82. Out of 28 innings, he has five 50s and six centuries.
Fakhar Zaman was one of the heroes of that famous day at the Oval two years with his 114 and has been another solid performer. Babar Azam also has been one of their best batsmen over the last few years.
Further down the order they have a good match finisher in Asif Ali, Imad Wasim who is one of the few in the team with a Strike Rate above 100, and a good all-rounder in Shadab Khan, who is definitely the best fielder in their team. Sarfaraz Ahmed is a solid wicket keeper batsman, and as captain is a calming influence on the team, and provides experience to this young side.
Critics of Pakistan’s batting should note that even though they lost to England 4-0, they did get 300 runs very consistently, which is a good sign heading into this World Cup.
Now the bowling has been dire of late, and compared to the batting, has been the weaker part of the side. Hasan Ali and Mohammed Amir, stars of the 2017 Champions Trophy victory, and youngster Shaheen Afridi are all fantastic bowlers but have been in poor form.
Pakistan have welcomed back some veterans after the drubbing of England. One of these gentlemen was Wahab Riaz. The first thing that comes to mind when you mention his name was that mindblowing spell of bowling against Shane Watson at the Adelaide Oval in the Quarter Final of the 2015 Cricket World Cup, which was appreciated by Australian pundits and fans alike.
Furthermore despite the fact they lost to Afghanistan in a fairly dismal display, they nearly stole that game at the end thanks to Wahab’s mercurial bowling and reverse swing.
In English conditions, which will be more conducive to fast bowling than the subcontinent or the Southern hemisphere, Pakistan’s bowlers are going to be tough for any batting line up to face.
Also in England, you have a large British Pakistani community who are knowledgeable and passionate cricket fans, who will follow their team everywhere they go and support them fervently.
This twelfth man factor will be very important to see Pakistan through close matches, as the team feed off the energy of the crowd, as they very much did in the 2017 Champions Trophy.
World cricket needs Pakistan to do well. South Asian cricket needs Pakistan to do well. For the India-Pakistan rivalry to be fierce, it needs Pakistan to do well.
Sometimes, at a big stage like the World Cup, form does not matter. It is all about the who is the better team on that day. This is even more the case in an India-Pakistan match. Pakistan have a greater chance than most people give them to repeat their feat of 2017, and beat India at Old Trafford.
So as is often the case with Pakistan, it depends upon which team turns up on the day. It might defy logic, but we at The Cricket World Cup Experience predict that Pakistan will finish fourth in the Round Robin and thus qualify for the semi-final.
The 213 million fans in Pakistanis and the millions in the diaspora will certainly hope so.
Follow us on Twitter @cwcexperience for live commentary of Pakistan’s games.
Images courtesy of PCB’s Twitter account.