With Pakistan, you never know what to expect. This has been the case with the country’s cricket for ages. In fact, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that Pakistan is as unpredictable as the T20 format, which makes the two a deadly duo. While Pakistan have had a mixed time recently, no one would be surprised if they pull off a victory in the tournament overcoming the other strong teams in the competition. Like India and Sri Lanka, Pakistan too have tasted success in the event over the years. In addition, just like their abovementioned Asian counterparts, Pakistan also have lifted the World T20 in the past.
Pakistan will be led by the dynamic yet unpredictable Shahid Afridi. He may be in his mid-30s now, (at least officially), but consistency is still not something that can be expected of him. At the same time, he remains as dangerous a player as ever. Afridi is a perfect T20 package, as he can play the lightning cameos, bowl fastish leg spin, which can unsettle the best of batsmen. That’s not all; Afridi is a brilliant fielder irrespective of where he is stationed on a cricket ground. When Pakistan won the World T20, Afridi played a pivotal role. That says it all.
Pakistan’s batting is slightly weak with some experienced hands having run out of favour. Thus, a lot will depend on veteran Mohammad Hafeez up the order. The 35-year-old will have to give the team quick starts. He will need help though, and Sarfraz Ahmed is definitely one player the Pakistani camp will be looking up to. The wicket-keeper can tonk the ball rather impressively, and has displayed consistency as well. Umar Akmal is another batsman who will need to stand up along with Khurram Manzoor. The latter would definitely be under pressure to prove that he deserves a spot in the team.
Afridi’s men are short of all-rounders. In that sense, Shoaib Malik will have a major role to play, more with the bat than the ball of course. Malik has been extremely impressive in his second coming in international cricket, and the 34-year-old would want to make a significant contribution to the team’s cause, especially because he will be aware that the team lacks in experience. Malik, along with Afridi and Hafeez can be termed as the three all-rounders in the team. They are also the most experienced, so that reiterates how important the trio will be to the team’s cause.
As always, Pakistan remain strong in the fast bowling department. The tall Mohammad Irfan will be seen as a real threat even in the T20 format. Also, it will be interesting to observe how Mohammad Amir performs. He has had a mixed time since his comeback to international cricket, but has done enough to deserve a chance at the big level. Wahab Riaz completes the impressive fast bowling trio for Pakistan. They may not have the services of Yasir Shah, but left-arm spinner Imad Wasim has chipped in nicely in his absence. His ability to open the bowling is a plus. The question that remains is whether Afridi can bring out the best in his talented, but inconsistent men.
--By A Cricket Analyst