Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Real Contenders #5: Pakistan

Pakistan are always known to be unpredictable. A side that NEVER has any lack of talent but sometimes still fails to perform. Internal issues, problems with their board PCB, spot-fixing among other controversies have created loads of needless problems for this team.

Squad of 15:

1. Shahid Afridi: An extremely experienced player who has played for Pakistan since 1996. Afridi initially came on as a leg-spinner who could bat, then became a batsmen who could bowl. But in recent times, with his batting not being as consistent, he has gone back to being a bowling all-rounder. I have to admit, I have never been a fan of Afridi because of his unpredictability, but that is exactly makes his exciting to watch. You just never know what to expect of him as one day he may take on the best and make them look silly, the very next day he might seem an idiot in front of minnows. Afridi is definitely not the best captain around, but is capable of inspiring this Pakistan side to something special. Teams will have to look out for his lower order batting and his faster ones when he bowls.

2. Misbah-ul-Haq: A solid batsmen who can withstand pressure situations and gives this side much needed stability. Misbah hasn't been a regular in the ODI squad, but was once considered a serious contender for being captain for the tournament. Misbah seems like a selfless player who will try his best for the nation. He is a fighter as we have seen in the 2007 WC and could do the crucial job of a finisher particularly while chasing.

3. Younis Khan: In spite of being a regular and key figure in Pakistan's test squad, Younis has been in and out of the ODI squad. Senseless clashes with the PCB haven't help him either. But, he along with Misbah are the only two solid players in this side of freakish team. Not being a boundary hitter occasionally means he can get bogged down. Though he is able enough to do his job of being the anchor with 1's and 2's with the occasional boundary. Even though 2 of his best ODI hundreds come against India, his record in India isn't great. In the 8 matches he has played in WCs, he has performed rather terribly at an average of 17.

4. Ahmed Shehzad: One of the young guns of Pakistan, this attacking opener is very capable and impressive. In whatever little I have seen him, Shehzad seemed impressive and fearless. On his day, he is superb, pretty much like this team in itself. If he gets to start in the playing XI, he will look to provide good starts like he did in the warm-up game against Bangladesh where he scored a century.

5. Umar Akmal: I would say, he is probably the most talented youngster to have come into the international scene for sometime now. An exciting batsmen who can take the attack to any bowling line-up and is also a smart fielder. Post 2010, Umar has averaged just below 30 scoring 567 runs. But, he is capable of much more and Pakistan will hope he delivers. Having seen him take apart Nannes, Johnson and Tait in T20 World Cup, I am a fan of this lad.

6. Kamran Akmal: This controversial player can make a huge difference for Pakistan. There is no doubting that he is probably the best WK in the country, but we have seen him underperforming occasionally. Hopefully, he will do both his jobs properly and not cause any headaches to skipper and team management. His attacking batting at the top and constant mumbling habit behind the stumps will get noticed for sure.

7. Asad Shafiq: One of the lesser known faces of this Pakistani squad. Shafiq is believed to be one for the future by some Pakistani followers who have been impressed by his domestic showing as an opener. In the 12 ODIs that he has featured in as a middle-order batsmen, Shafiq is yet to do anything out of the ordinary. Most likely, he will be not get a game unless Pakistan decide to rest the usual XI in any game.

8. Abdul Razzaq: After Afridi, he is his nation's most experienced player. Also, the best all-rounder that Pakistan have. With decent talent with ball and superb hitting abilities with the bat, Razzaq could easily be Pakistan's Shane Watson, or in other words, their X-factor. He is just 49 ODI runs away from becoming onlt the 4th to score 5000 runs and pick up 250 wickets. Razzaq isn't express unlike other Pakistanis, but knows how to keep it tight and get the odd break through. With the bat, he is a dynamite on his day, as he showed in his knock of 109* against South Africa, where he took the game away singlehandedly. In games Pakistan haven't lost, both his batting and bowling averages improve substantially. He now bats in the late middle-order making him a important finisher unlike 1999 WC, where he batted at number 3.

9. Mohammed Hafeez: Yet another batsmen who can bowl decent spin bowling. Hafeez in spite of being Pakistan's opening batsmen for a fair amount of time has never really been consistent. However, his useful spin bowling in the middle over adds to his value. This is probably helping him keep his place otherwise other openers like Imran Nazir might have taken his place. When I look at his average of 22 at a strike rate of 63, I feel surprised that Pakistan continue to show faith in him. Whether he bowls well or not, he must open the innings well, even more so against good teams.

10. Saeed Ajmal: Off-spinner to bowl in tandem with Shahid Afridi during the middle overs. Ajmal has variety as he often mixes the doosra to confuse the batsmen. In the recent past, he has become a regular in the team with steady performances, even though many have come in defeats. For a country whose pacers are usually famous, this spinner has done well to average just over 30 and scalped 44 victims in 35 ODIs.

11. Junaid Khan: Yet another young genuinely fast swing bowler that Pakistan have produced, he came in as a replacement to injured Sohail Tanvir. Many believe he is as talented as Mohammad Amir who was picked alongside him for Pakistan U-19. In a way, had Amir not been caught in the spot-fixing scandal, he wouldn't have go into the squad. When you look at his amazing first class record, you understand why Pakistani bloggers like Maaz rate him highly. Unlikely that he will get a game, unless Shoaib Akhtar or any other bowler is injured or rested.

12. Shoaib Akhtar: Rawalpindi Express is back, thanks to bans on some first choice players. He might be as fit as he was back in 1999 WC, but there is no doubting his match-winning ability. Since his return last year, he has not been as phenomenal as he can be, but has a fantastic WC record and could surprise teams with his express pace and determination. For bowlers with over 150 ODI wickets in wins, he has the third best average of just 18.

13. Umar Gul: According to me, he is world's best T20 bowler and the best death bowler for ODIs. His immaculate yorkers will need to be worked out cleverly by batsmen, otherwise powerplays and death overs may not go for too many. An average of 27 alongside a strike rate of 32 balls per wicket shows he is crucial for Pakistan. His death bowling can only be matched by Lasith Malinga of SL, and both are extremely tough too get away. In his only WC appearance in 2007, he bowled well even though team lost in the first stage itself. Occasionally, his batting might also deal blows towards the end of the innings.

14. Wahab Riaz: After coming into limelight due to superb test debut against England, Riaz has become a regular feature in their ODI squad as well. To be frank, when I had seen the videos related to Mazhar Majeed and spot fixing, I thought his career was over. But, he hasn't been even accused, so I am no one to judge. Riaz is an impressive youngster who can mix in slower balls with genuinely quick deliveries. He has a good bouncer at well and will be crucial support to Umar Gul. Another bowler who handle the bat a bit and might just contribute if needed.

15. Abdur Rehman: Pakistan's third genuine spinner is a left armer to give them good variety. Rehman is experienced and has been around since a while. Even though he made his debut in 2006, he never has been a definite selection. But, with ability to bowl economic overs, he sees himself in the WC squad. Whether he will play or not is a different matter altogether.

All in all, every player of Pakistan except maybe one or two, is talented and a match-winner on his day. The side has the habit of swerving in different games, but a determined Pakistan team can beat any team at all. Definitely, the most exciting team because of various talents and their unpredictable nature. It's really hard to say how well they will do, but they will no doubt make the QF stage. With the players that they have, they should be able to make it to the SF stage as well.

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  1. That was very nice preview thank you sir

  2. This is one team that I have not comment for. As you said, they are very unpredictable. There is no doubt that they will qualify for the QFs, but from thereon, it is a game of being good on that particular day.

    Like I said for England, I don't see Pakistan progressing into the Finals because even if they have a good day during the QFs, I simply cannot imagine them having another good day immediately after that for the SFs.

  3. On Hafeez, he was great in NZ and so why not persist with him. I think he is a good man. Shehzad is exciting.

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  5. hi Mayank nice article n briefing on team members...In mentioning afridi you could have added his records like fastest century in 37 balls, most number of sixes 288 ahead of sanath 270...Bablu bhai

  6. @EmClub - Your welcome and keep visiting the blog. :)

    @Wes - Thanks for updating me on Hafeez, still doesn't impress me much though. Hopefully will show what he is capable of this WC. :)

    @ Yash Bhai - Thanks for the comment. :)


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