Renowned Indian commentator Harsha Bhogle believes that pacer Shaheen Afridi will be more important to Pakistan as compared to skipper Babar Azam ahead of the ICC World Cup 2023.
Bhogle stated that Shaheen sets the tone for Pakistan with his ability to pick up wickets with the new ball.
"Shaheen Afridi in some way is probably even more important than Babar Azam to their chances because when he's not taking wickets in the first ten overs, you saw in the Asia Cup what happens. If Pakistan doesn’t get wickets in the powerplay, they suddenly look a much flatter bowling side. With South Africa we talked about missing Anrich Nortje, I think Naseem Shah is a big, big miss," Bhogle said on Cricbuzz.
"They need their spinners to do well. I think story for Pakistan will be can they get their openers playing well and can they get their spinners to bowl well in the middle overs," he added.
Bhogle also backed Pakistan to open with Imam-ul-Haq and Abdullah Shafique considering the poor form of Fakhar Zaman.
"They have the issue with Fakhar Zaman but I actually believe they've stumbled onto their best opening combination. Imam has done really well off late but how could they not be playing a player who's so visibly gifted like Abdullah Shafique,” he said.
“So if Abdullah Shafiq and Imam ul Haq are consistently given them starts then suddenly Babar becomes a different player but there's no doubt at all, if Pakistan have to make an impact, Babar Azam has to have a big World Cup," he further stated.
However, Bhogle was concerned about Pakistan’s middle order and spin bowling options.
"Their middle order is a little iffy. I know Rizwan is around and Salman Agha and Iftikhar Ahmed, Saud Shakeel; they are good players. Can you rely on them to win a World Cup? We'll wait and see. If they do that's great for Pakistan. They do bat deep because each of the three spinners that's picked can bat I think Shadab is a really good batter down that order; Nawaz can bat. Usama Mir, if he's a leggie he can bat but that is where their problem starts,” he said.
“You normally look at Pakistan and say wow what a good bowling side, but the spinners are not delivering for them in the middle overs," he concluded.
It must be noted that the Pakistan team landed at the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad, India, on Wednesday from Dubai to participate in the mega event.
They have also played one warm-up match, which they lost against New Zealand by five wickets on Friday.
The Green Shirts will play Australia on October 3 in their second warm-up match before they begin their World Cup campaign against the Netherlands on October 6.