Pakistan have the strongest team on paper considering the balance they have. If they can execute their plans properly on the field, nobody can stop them from winning their third Asia Cup title…..
The last time Pakistan won the Asia Cup was in 2012 when they sneaked past the hosts Bangladesh by a fine margin of 2 runs. That title victory too had come after a long wait of a decade when they won their maiden Asia Cup title in the year 2000 in the same country. Not only that, their maiden title had come after a long wait of 16 years since the inception of the tournament. By that time, India had won the title as many as four times and Sri Lanka—a team that was fairly new at the international level as compared to India and Pakistan—had won it twice.
So, Pakistan has turned out to be quite the underachiever despite their status of being one of the Asian giants alongside India. However, the current crop of players in Pakistan’s squad have their eyes on changing that concept as they are going into the Asia Cup to be held in the UAE as the utmost favourites to win the title.
They have the strongest team on paper considering the balance they have. If they can execute their plans properly on the field, nobody can stop them from winning their third title. There are various reasons which make them the favourites this time around despite the fact that the other teams have put together a strong squad as well.
Experience of Playing in UAE gives a major boost to their chances
The UAE has hosted all of Pakistan’s home games since the terror attack on Sri Lankan players during their tour of Pakistan in 2009. Pakistan have played each of their home games in their newly adopted home grounds since then and are well aware of the conditions in the country.
Not only that, they have won 61.6 percent of the ODI matches they have played in the Middle East thus far which tells how they have dominated these conditions. With UAE all set to host the Asia Cup again, Pakistan will look forward to using their experience and knowledge of playing in these conditions to good effect. That certainly gives a major boost to their chances this year as compared to other teams who have seldom played in these conditions.
Balance is the key to success to everything
Inzamam-ul-Haq and co. have done a fabulous job by picking such a well-balanced and dangerous squad. While it mostly relies on their young guns, the experienced and mature heads of Shoaib Malik and skipper Sarfraz Ahmed will bring much-needed steadiness and balance to the team.
The squad is well-rounded with 6 specialist batsmen, two good all-rounders, two batsmen who can bowl part-time, a spinner who can bat and five terrific fast bowlers; four of whom are left-arm seamers. Such a balance definitely gives the edge to any team in any tournament.
A Batting Line-up to watch out for
Their top order consisting of the likes of Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq and Babar Azam might look like a trio of young and inexperienced players but they have already shown what they can do. Nobody can forget what Zaman did in the Champions Trophy in England last year or the ODI double century he cracked in Zimbabwe recently. Imam went on to show a mature head on his young shoulders during Pakistan’s tour of Zimbabwe making century after century and hence has forced people to sit up and take notice of his talent. While Azam has been inconsistent in recent times, everybody knows what he is capable of. The talented right-hander will be key to Pakistan’s success in their Asia Cup campaign while batting at number three.
Their middle order will be the pivot of their batting line-up as it comprises of the experienced duo of Shoaib Malik and Sarfraz Ahmed. Both have a tremendous amount of experience under their belt and they would be the men that the team would look up to in times of crisis. It is needless to say that the duo will have most situations sorted.
Moreover, No.6 will be occupied by the latest sensation Asif Ali who is known for his hard-hitting skills. In his little time with the Pakistan team, he has shown what he brings to the plate. He will be in charge of finishing duties. No.7 which is mostly a reserved all-rounder’s spot in any side will be occupied by either of Mohammad Nawaz or Faheem Ashraf. While the former is a spin bowling all-rounder and the latter a seam-bowling one, we might see either of them featuring in the XI or even both at the same time depending on how the team management opts to go for.
A Lethal and explosive bowling line-up
Mohammad Amir, Junaid Khan, Hasan Ali, Usman Khan and the young sensation Shaheen Afridi. You just can’t get enough of this pace bowling unit that the selectors have formed for this tournament. Add to that Shadab Khan’s skilful and subtle art of leg-spin, Faheem Ashraf’s more than effective seam bowling and Mohammad Nawaz’s tight and accurate left-arm orthodox spin. This bowling unit hardly looks like lacking anything. And there is the part-time off-spin option of Shoaib Malik and Haris Sohail(if selected in the XI) if required as well.
The pace attack is enough to leave the batting teams sweating and shivering at the same time. While Mohammad Amir and Hasan Ali will be the first choice pace bowling options for Pakistan, only one amongst Junaid, Usman or Afridi will qualify as the third one. And if Pakistan opt to go with two all-rounders in Nawaz and Ashraf in their XI, their pace attack of Amir and Ali is still enough to blow the batting team away.
The Fox that Sarfraz Ahmed is
Skipper Sarfraz Ahmed has a tremendous tactical acumen. He makes the right changes at the right time, he is always aware of the situation and seldom lets the game run away from his hands. His chirpy presence behind the wickets always keeps his bowlers and the entire team motivated. Various reasons ranging from Zaman’s terrific run of form, Ali’s exploits with the ball, Shadab’s spin that bamboozled the batsmen can be attributed to Pakistan’s success in the Champions Trophy last year.
However, it was Sarfraz’s skilful brain that prepared the perfect recipe by combining all the ingredients to his expense. He knew exactly whom he needed to use, when to use and how to bring his skills into play in a particular situation in a match. Moreover, his batting is also something on which the entire batting line-up will depend. So, Pakistan have the biggest asset in their skipper and he would go on to make quite the difference in the tournament for his country.
With such reasons and resources at their expense, one can hardly argue with anyone claiming Pakistan to be the favourites this time. It’s simply Pakistan’s tournament to lose.