“Players like Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Imad Wasim, Shaheen Afridi, etc. will learn a lot from this campaign while going forward into their careers which will ultimately bode well for Pakistani cricket”
The Pakistani campaign, almost till the end, was dotted with parallels being drawn with that miraculous victory of 1992 under the leadership of Imran Khan. They started in the worst possible way, a shambolic batting performance of 105 all out against West Indies, huffed and puffed in the middle and by the time they gained momentum, the train with the semi-final berth had already left the station courtesy their poor net run-rate in the tournament.
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There were fallacies which haunted them badly while there was also a promise shown for the brighter future ahead. Here, are some talking points from their promising-yet-incomplete campaign-
What didn’t work out?
Their batting remained their weak suite as none of their batsmen, barring Babar Azam (67.71) and Imad Wasim (54), could manage to breach the 40-run mark in the average column. Their opening pair was a flop show with Fakhar Zaman managing just 186 runs in 8 innings with only one fifty-plus score. His partner Imam-ul-Haq, though managing to breach the 300-run-mark, suffered from bouts of inconsistency with only one century and a lone half-century. Their middle order was worse too as almost none of the batsmen in the middle-order, barring Haris Sohail’s twin fifties, stood out.
In the bowling department, their initial persistence with Hasan Ali cost them dearly as he was way too extravagant without making an impact in the wickets column in the brief outings he got in the initial phase of the campaign. Shaheen Afridi’s introduction came late but brought ample rewards for the trust reposed by the team management in the youngster’s abilities as he finished the tournament with 16 wickets from just 5 games including a 6-for in the last game against Bangladesh.
What worked for them?
Babar Azam reaffirmed the belief that he deserves to be the poster-boy of the Pakistani batting talent. A century along with three fifties came out of his willow to accomplish a tally of 474 runs coming at 67.71 runs per inning in 8 innings. Despite the impressive numbers, Azam should work on his conversion ratio which was the sour point for his team, especially in the crunch games. He should be the anchor around which the whole team plays; an art that hopefully gets ingrained in him with time. Imam-ul-Haq shone in patches and there is a room for improvement for him too.
The highlighting factor, however, was the form of Mohammad Amir who just took the first half of the tournament by storm with his pin-point accurate bowling. He finished the campaign with 17 wickets from 8 games coming at just 21.06 runs apiece – really commendable effort from a bowler who was averaging over 100 in 2018.
Key takeaways and way forward
Fakhar Zaman should look towards gaining some consistency as he was woeful with the bat and that translated into Pakistan not getting good starts which are so very crucial in setting the game up. With Shoaib Malik already retired and Mohammad Hafeez going soon too, Pakistan should look to build their batting unit around the core axis of Imam-Babar-Sohail. Imad Wasim and Shadab Khan should be trusted further while the pace bowling looks settled as of now due to the presence of the trio of Afridi-Amir-Riaz. Pakistan needs to find and groom talents like Mohammad Hasnain who can take place of their senior stalwarts seamlessly as and when required.
There might be a furore going on about the efficacy of the net run-rate rule in deciding the better teams on the points table but Pakistan have only themselves to blame for the hole they found themselves in even after registering four wins on the bounce. They were shambolic against West Indies and were dragged down to the wire by Afghanistan. Yet, they should be praised for what they achieved despite playing hosts to a variety of fallacies which impeded their charge in the tournament time and again.
Players like Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Imad Wasim, Shaheen Afridi, etc. will learn a lot from this campaign while going forward into their careers which will ultimately bode well for Pakistani cricket. As a short term action, Pakistan should look forward to shred-off the unpredictability from their performance.