Pakistan has always been known as the most unpredictable team - a tag also which also makes them most dangerous. The evidence of it was seen during the Champions Trophy held in England in 2017 when they surprised all top teams and bagged the title.
It is a known fact that if the Pakistan team players gel together, they will be unstoppable. A lot will depend on how their batsmen rise to the challenges. Though skillful, they have often failed to deliver. Pakistan has also a pace attack that can utilise the English conditions very well. The team is being led by Sarfraz Ahmad, who has grown in stature since winning the Champions Trophy. They have also prepared well by playing a One-day series against England in English conditions while they have lost it, it’s likely to benefit them enormously during the World Cup as players will be accustomed to the conditions there.
The team looks formidable on paper indeed, having all the ingredients of a formidable One Day International squad. Their top three batsmen Imam Ul Haq, Fakhar Zaman and Babar Azam can provide quick starts. All of them are young and raring to go and have shown their class already though all three are only in their early twenties. During the 2017 Champions Trophy, Zaman showed his liking for the English conditions with big scores. Azam is among the most consistent batsmen while Haq has the verve to thwart any attack.
Pakistan has some of the finest allrounders like Imad Wasim and Shadab Khan, who are strike bowlers and can score down the order. Their top batsmen like Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malek and Haris Sohail are useful bowlers too. With the inclusion of Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz and rising pacer Shaheen Afridi, the pace department looks formidable and full of depth.
A strong one day team needs hard-hitters. Pakistan team has good batsmen like Mohammad Hafeez, Sarfraz Ahmad, Shoaib Malek in the middle but they are not big hitters. England wickets for the World Cup seems to be flat - as evident from the big scores during the recent England-Pakistan one day series. So a good start is not backed by strong hitting from the middle order batsmen, then the totals may not be sufficient nor they can score fast enough to reach the target.
They have roped in a 19-year-old pacer Mohammad Hasnain in place of some of the more experienced pacers in the country. He bowled the fastest ball in the 2019 Pakistan Super League but that alone cannot guarantee his success. Allrounder Imam Wasim hasn’t lived up to his potential despite his enormous skills, while ignoring genuine allrounder Faheem Ashraf is a mistake.
A lot will depend on how the Pakistan pacers use the opportunity of bowling in conditions favourable to them. For Mohammad Amir, who was left out of the preliminary squad for the World Cup, this is an opportunity to prove that he is as deadly as he was during the Champions Trophy in 2017. His bowling partner Wahab Riaz, who enjoys generating tremendous pace on the green tops in England, will be a nice opportunity to run through batting line-ups.
For Babar Azam, who is in a race with Virat Kohli to be the top one-day batsman in terms of rankings, this is an opportunity to win more fans through some consistent performance.
The biggest threat for Pakistan team has been, historically, it’s lack of unity. It is a known fact that a united Pakistan team, with every player ready to give cent percent, is tough to beat. Mohammad Hafeez is coming back from an injury and Amir is returning from a bad phase. Whether they can overcome the threat of the pressure to perform need to be seen. The fitness of some of the players is a major concern despite most of the players being young. It can reflect in the fielding of the team, which is crucial during World Cup. Pakistan will have to win their earlier matches or it will be tough for the players to withstand the pressure that could be inflicted on them by their media through nitpicking comments from their former cricketers.
Current ICC ODI ranking: No. 6
Appearances: 1975, 1979, 1983, 1987, 1992, 1996, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015
Squad: Sarfraz Ahmad (capt,wk), Asif Ali, Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Hasnanin, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Shoaib Malik, Wahab Riaz.