Squad: Sarfraz Ahmed (c), Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Abid Ali, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Hafeez (subject to fitness), Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim, Haris Sohail, Hasan Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Shaheen Afridi, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Hasnain
Pakistani Cricket and surprises go hand-in-hand and there were a few expected when their selectors, led by legendary Inzamam-ul-Haq, sat down yesterday to figure out the preliminary 15-member squad for the World Cup. The selectors didn’t disappoint either as they came up with the omissions of Usman Khan Shinwari and Mohammad Rizwan while picking up the raw pace of Mohammad Hasnain.
While Usman was the best performing pace bowler in the last 12 months, Rizwan’s twin hundreds in the series against Australia and an average of 49 make his omission quite surprising. Hasnain, who is just 18-years of age has been picked to provide the X-factor to the Pakistani bowling line-up. Here, we take a look at how the Pakistani World Cup squad shapes up after the announcement.
Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Abid Ali, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Hafeez, and Sarfaraz Ahmed
Pakistan have gone with a batting heavy side considering the fact that Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez haven’t bowled much in the past 12 months. Hafeez’s inclusion is provisional as he is recovering from a finger injury sustained during Pakistan’s franchise T20 tournament. Imam and Fakhar are the two highest run-scoring batsmen in the last 12 months with tallies of 1004 and 827 runs respectively. The duo will be seen as opening the innings for Pakistan.
Haris Sohail has been rewarded for his brilliant performance in the ODI series against Australia where he finished second highest run-getter with 291 runs. He will add to the strength of the middle-order which already boasts of Shoaib Malik, Hafeez and Skipper Sarfaraz Khan along with an ever-consistent Babar Azam. A slight surprise was the inclusion of Abid Ali, who scored a ton on debut against Australia, as a backup opener with him being just 2 ODIs old.
Shadab Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Imad Wasim
This was already a settled space with the trio of Shadab, Faheem and Imad almost firmly settled in their respective roles. Shadab leads the wicket-taking charts for the past one year with 23 scalps while Faheem boasts of good returns too with a bowling average of 27.08 and an economy of 4. 16 RPO.
Imad’s bowling form was a bit of concern as he averages more than 91 while bowling since April last year but selectors have kept their faith in him coming good when needed. All three provide very good lower-order batting options with the ability to switch gears when needed.
Mohammad Hasnain, Hasan Ali, Junaid Khan, Shaheen Afridi
Mohammad Amir’s omission, in a way, can be justified as he, touted as the leader of the bowling attack, regularly failed to provide breakthroughs for his team and was averaging dangerously beyond 100 since last April. Shaheen Afridi hasn’t looked back since his debut in Asia Cup last year and boasts of the best bowling average of 19.44 among the Pakistani bowlers. Junaid Khan and Hasan Ali have been named to share Afridi’s fast-bowling burden along with a young Mohammad Hasnain.
The 18-year old pacegun is a by-product of Pakistan’s franchise-based T20 tournament where he was seen breaching the 150 Kmph mark on the speedometer with remarkable consistency. It will be exciting to see how Sarfaraz Khan fits-in the young pacer in the playing XI.
Though he failed to make the cut in the preliminary squad, all is not lost for Mohammad Amir yet; as he, along with Asif Ali has been named as a reserve player for the ODI and T20I series against England which is scheduled just before the World Cup. A strong show in an event of slightest of the opportunities can get the two fringe players back in the World Cup reckoning.
Probable Starting XI: Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Shoaib Malik, Sarfaraz Khan (wk), Faheem Ashraf, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Hasan Ali and Mohammad Hasnain/ Junaid Khan.