IN a rare instance, the national cricket selectors have got it nearly right by naming a competitive 15-member squad for the World Cup set to commence in England on May 30. The team’s ‘unpredictable’ tag makes it quite a challenge for anyone to choose the perfect outfit, but taking into account the chaos and confusion preceding the final selection, where form and fitness are concerned the selectors haven’t done a bad job. That said, some worries need to be addressed. Although it is a balanced team in terms of the number of openers, middle-order batsmen and bowlers, contradictions remain. While pacer Mohammad Amir has been dropped for lack of form, similar criteria have not been adopted while selecting senior pro Shoaib Malik and young Fakhar Zaman who have not performed well over the last one year. Perhaps Shoaib Malik could be replaced by Mohammad Rizwan as a specialist batsman. Meanwhile, Imad Wasim and Mohammad Hafeez have been given further time to prove their fitness.
While other teams have developed at least one or two rapid strike players or ‘pinch hitters’ especially at No.6 position, there are none in that category to lift Pakistan in death overs. A team total of 300 is now the new normal and strike rates of well over 100 are required, but skipper Sarfraz Ahmed and his men have found it hard to accomplish this with regular frequency. Besides, going into the World Cup Pakistan still don’t know who will bat at No 3 between Haris Sohail, Mohammad Hafeez and Babar Azam. Sarfraz has indicated that he might bat at No 4. But it is risky in such a high-profile tournament to experiment since he has not previously batted at No 4. Once again, we are relying on pure talent and luck going into a World Cup. It worked in 1992 but despite being one of the top-seeded teams in all previous World Cups we have reached the finals only twice. Let us hope that this time we can renew the spirit of 1992.
Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2019