Top 8 Teams for the ICC World Cup 2015 – Pakistan
Pakistan 15-man squad for ICC World Cup 2015: Misbah-ul-Haq (captain), Ahmed Shehzad, Nasir Jamshed, Sarfraz Ahmed (wicket keeper), Younis Khan, Haris Sohail, Umar Akmal, Sohaib Maqsood, Shahid Afridi, Yasir Shah, Mohammad Irfan, Rahat Ali, Ehsan Adil, Sohail Khan, Wahab Riaz.
Pakistan are the only team that are going into this World Cup with a great memory of their previous World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. It’s not only the history; its the similarity between the historical 1992 World Cup circumstances and the ones that are faced by the Pakistan team right now. Pakistan are facing similar problems as they did in the past with player injuries, setbacks and going into this tournament as one of the least favourite teams. Pakistan, ranked 7th and one of the weakest sides, wish that it’s history repeating itself after 23 years.
Pakistan’s selected squad consisted of quite a few surprises. They selected newcomers Ehsan Adil and Sohail Khan over Umar Gul and Sohail Tanvir who were experienced and had featured in the side quite regularly. Both of them were chosen because of their recent performances in the Pakistan domestic Quaid-e-Azam Trophy where they were one of the top wicket takers. Sohail also took six-for at the start of Pentangular One-day cup just a few days prior to the squad announcement which might have had quite an impact on the selectors. Sohail Khan’s ability to handle the bat might also have influenced this decision.
Another surprise inclusion was Yasir Shah, another young prodigy, who was chosen over the experienced Abdur Rehman and Zulfiqar Babar. Raza Hasan was also one of his competitors for the final 15. Yasir Shah’s selection was surprising as he had been the part of Pakistan ODI series in UAE where he was not selected for the playing XI even once.
The remainder of the bowlers were the regular Muhammad Irfan, Junaid Khan and Wahab Riaz. Junaid Khan got injured and was replaced by Rahat Ali prior to the World Cup who is yet to play an ODI but has been regular part of the Test side.
Pakistan chose a familiar squad as far as the batsmen are concerned. Misbah ul Haq, Umar Akmal, Muhammad Hafeez, Sohaib Maqsood, Younis Khan and Ahmed Shehzad were selected where Sohaib Maqsood returned to the squad after recovering from a wrist injury. Haris Sohail was selected alongside Shahid Afridi as an all-rounder. Muhammad Hafeez got injured in the series against New Zealand and was replaced by Nasir Jamshed.
Shahid Afridi may be ordinary during the usual days but he has proven to be a player for the big matches in the previous World Cup and World T20s. With Saeed Ajmal and Hafeez gone, the responsibility lies with Afridi to lead the attack as he is the most experienced bowler in the side. His ability to bat at the end provides balance to the side and with Hafeez gone, he has to play more sensibly and fill in for Hafeez as well. Afridi’s ability to take the match away from the opposition with the ball and bat is his greatest strength. He is just as aggressive in bowling as he is in batting. An in form Afridi will be the destructive power of Pakistan. Usually, he proves to be a dual edged sword and can often go into self-destruction mode but keeping his recent form in mind alongside his retirement announcement, the fans expect great performances from him.
Misbah ul Haq has been a consistent scorer for the team. If Pakistan are to succeed, the captain needs to perform and be strong in his approach. Misbah has to handle the batting according to the situation and not the typical style of letting the water level reach over-head before attempting to take the attack to the opposition. A bit of aggressive batting from Misbah could send a message to the team and opposition that Pakistan mean business and the skipper could take the team forward with his ability to attack and hold his wicket. Fans hope Misbah can be the captain they always hoped, and lead the team out of the crisis and finish his ODI career on a high.
Muhammad Irfan is the X-factor for Pakistan. Teams all around the world are unaware of how to play such a long left arm fast bowler. One can imagine that for a bowler who can extract bounce even on dead pitches, there’s plenty he can get on the bouncy Australian pitches. That must be something every batsman must contend with in this World Cup. Irfan has been a regular in the Pakistan side and his bowling has proved him to be the most dangerous especially against openers as half of his wickets comprise openers. He can provide Pakistan bowling the start needed to put the opposition under pressure from the get-go. Surely, he is Pakistan’s trump card in the mega event.
Pakistan’s strength usually lies in their bowling but with Junaid, Ajmal and Hafeez missing, the bowling is weaker than usual but still better than what their batting can offer. If Pakistan play with 4 specialist bowlers, they can play with bowling as their strength again. With Afridi’s experience and Irfan’s extra-ordinary talent, all Pakistan need is support from the other bowlers. Pakistan have Wahab Riaz who is a wicket taker alongside Yasir Shah who can prove very useful in Aussie conditions. Yasir Shah’s perforrmances in the warm-up games have shown that he has great potential and has improved from the last time he was seen in the international circuit. Wahab Riaz, Yasir Shah and Sohail Khan also provide depth to Pakistan batting which has been lacking for quite some time now.
Pakistan’s greatest strength might possibly be their ability do something out of the blue and astonish everyone. The players’ untapped talent could show in this World Cup and turn the tables in their favour.
Pakistan’s weakness has always been their batting and with Hafeez out, there’s even less experience in the batting. Pakistan batting has not been finalised even as the World Cup is about to start. The batting line up has been decided; though, the order is yet to be decided. Pakistan have inserted Nasir Jamshed into the side but still cannot decide on who to play alongside Ahmed Shehzad. They have tried Sarfraz in the opening slot to no avail, then tried Nasir but there’s word that Pakistan might end up playing Younis Khan as opener in some of the matches to make room for Umar Akmal and Sohaib Maqsood in the middle order. We will see what Pakistan captain and management decide to change as the World Cup continues.
Pakistan’s other problem is the issues in chasing targets. They often find themselves in trouble even when chasing the easiest of targets. The batsmen will have to absorb the pressure of chasing and that of the World Cup and play sensibly to stand any chance in going to the final stages of this tournament.
Pakistan have some experienced players but some are still very young to the international arena which might add extra pressure on those players as they play this tournament.
In short, its a tournament of nerves for Pakistan. There’s a lot of IF’s but then again nothing can be said with certainty when it comes to Pakistan. They may not be the favourites but they have the firepower to win against any team if they can keep their nerves and play calm cricket. With both bowling and batting under scrutiny, Pakistan will have to work extra hard to pull off a miracle as they did in the 1992 World Cup and repeat history.