Where do Pakistan stand with World Cup around the corner?

The Green Shirts need to look at all available options

September 18, 2023
With Naseem Shah likely to miss the World Cup and Shadab Khan in poor form, the Green Shirts have much to think about. — AFP

The Asia Cup 2023 was the first substantial test of the Pakistan cricket team in One Day Internationals (ODIs) under the leadership of Babar Azam but they failed to impress. 

Obvious flaws were seen from the very first game of the tournament, especially in batting and fielding but no improvements were made.

Pakistan's top-order of Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq and Azam could not perform in accordance with expectations in the Asian event, which has raised serious concerns among the cricketing circles.

Here are the stats of them in the Asia Cup

PlayerRunsInnings /Average
Fakhar Zaman
654 / @ 16.25
Imam ul Haq923 / @ 30.66
Babar Azam2074 / @51.75

It has to be mentioned that out of the 207 runs Azam scored, 151 came against Nepal while against the rest of the three teams (Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India) he only managed to score a total of 56 runs.

Meanwhile, Abdullah Shafique only got a chance to bat in one match, which was a must-win encounter against Sri Lanka but the 24-year-old delivered, playing a classy knock which included his maiden ODI half-century and making his case for the World Cup 2023 much stronger.

Another positive from Pakistan's batting was the consistent display from Mohammad Rizwan and Iftikhar Ahmed.

The wicketkeeper batter scored 195 runs in four innings at an impressive average of 97.50 which included a match-winning half-century against Bangladesh in the first Super Four encounter and another crucial knock of 86 runs against Sri Lanka in a must-win match.

Iftikhar also impressed with the bat, scoring 179 runs in three innings. His 47 off 40 against the Islanders were crucial as he helped the Green Shirts survive after an early collapse.

All in all, Pakistan would need to assess their options to fix their batting lineup. With Abdullah delivering and Saud Shakeel — who plays spin well — still yet to be tested, the Green Shirts, to an extent, can bring stability to their struggling batting.

Another big concern for the Pakistani team is the subpar performance of all-rounders, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz and Faheem Ashraf.

Shadab is the vice-captain of the team and the 24-year-old failed to step up big time when Pakistan required him the most.

In the Asian event, Shadab batted in three innings and he scored a total of 13 runs at an average of 4.33. Meanwhile, with the ball, he bowled 250 balls and conceded 245 runs while taking six wickets.

Out of his six wickets, four came against Nepal, who were the Asia Cup debutants.

Other than Shadab, Faheem batted in one inning scoring four runs. While he bowled in two innings, bowling a total of 102 balls and conceding 101 runs with only two wickets to his name.

Nawaz is another name that underperformed in spinning conditions. He batted in one inning and scored 12 runs. Meanwhile, with the ball, the left-armer bowled 102 balls and conceded 94 runs but failed to give Pakistan a breakthrough as he only bagged one wicket.

The stats are quite worrying, and with players like Usama Mir sitting on the bench and the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 less than 20 days ahead, the Green Shirts need to analyse their options and fix their starting XI.

However, amid the chaos, Pakistan managed to justify the "Land of Pacers" tag as the pace trio of Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf and Naseem Shah picked 26 wickets in the Asia Cup.

Shaheen, who is considered arguably the most dangerous bowler with the new ball, picked ten wickets in five innings. Haris bagged nine while Naseem got seven to his name.

Although, another big blow that must have left the already-shattered Pakistani team devastated was ESPNcricinfo's news stating that pacer Naseem Shah is likely to miss the entire World Cup following a shoulder injury.

Pakistan have many pacers who can possibly cover for the 20-year-old with Zaman Khan and Shahnawaz Dahani leading the charts.

Pakistan are likely to announce their squad for the mega event soon and it would be interesting to see who makes the cut. 

Wasay Qayyum is a sports journalist at Geo Super.