The excitement is palpable as one of the most enthralling tournaments in world cricket is almost upon us. The ICC T20I World Cup gets underway this month, and we preview the 16 teams that will be competing to lift the famous trophy. Here we have the lowdown on Pakistan.

With an exciting youthful squad and a world-class batter in Babar Azam leading the charge, Pakistan could be one of the teams to beat at the T20I World Cup as they look to win the tournament for the second time in their history. They are currently ranked third in the ICC T20I rankings and have a strong record in the United Arab Emirates, which was their adopted home up until a few years ago.

Pakistan also have a fairly strong batting order, and a fearsome bowling unit led by one of the most talented young pacers in Shaheen Shah Afridi. There is a lot speaking in their favour going into the tournament. But could off-field politics, constant upheavals and a lack of stability affect their progress once again?

Recent Form

Pakistan have won nine of the 17 T20I matches they have played in 2021, losing just five (with three being no results). They have recorded series wins against South Africa both home and away, Zimbabwe and the West Indies, but did lose to England in July. Luckily for Pakistan, the World Cup will be held in the United Arab Emirates where they have played a lot of cricket over the years. In fact, they have won all 11 of the T20I games they have played in the UAE.

Biggest Strength

Pakistan have a well-rounded team with a lot of strengths. But their biggest strength is arguably their opening combination that features two of the world’s leading run-scorers in T20I cricket in 2021 (Mohammad Rizwan and Babar Azam). Both players have been breaking records left, right and centre this year. And they will be vital to Pakistan’s hopes of a deep run in the tournament. Other batters in the Pakistan team haven’t been able to find the same level of consistency. But the likes of Mohammad Hafeez and Fakhar Zaman are also more than capable of freeing their arms and putting on big scores. Their squad also features in-form youngster Haider Ali, as well as veteran batters Shoaib Malik and Sarfaraz Ahmed.

Biggest Weakness

Off-field controversies aside, Pakistan’s biggest weakness is their lack of consistency. They can look like world beaters on one day, and also-rans on the other. If they want to stand any chance of winning the T20I World Cup, Pakistan need to be more consistent. Otherwise their tournament may only last five games.

Pakistan has a 63% winning record in 35 T20I in
the United Arab Emirates

What the media are saying

There is a great passion for cricket in Pakistan and expectations are always high going into a global tournament. The build-up to Pakistan’s World Cup preparations has been dominated by the decision made by New Zealand and England to pull out of their tours to the country. That has galvanised the nation. And despite all the recent off-field politics and upheavals in the coaching staff, there is a sense that the Pakistan players could make a real impact at the World Cup. Their first aim will be to beat India, and their second goal will be to reach the semi-finals.

Mohammad Rizwan has scored the most T20I runnings in this calendar year

Star Player

It would be very easy to pick Babar Azam here. But Mohammad Rizwan gets the nod for us thanks to the record-breaking year he is enjoying. The wicket-keeper batter has scored a whopping 752 runs already this year, and his runs have come at a strike rate of 140.03 and an average of 94.00. He is a classy hitter of the ball and offers great stability and consistency at the top of the order for Pakistan. His performances over the course of the year have drawn comparisons with Adam Gilchrist, and rightly so. Rizwan’s biggest strength is his capability to adapt to different playing conditions and opponents. And he will have a vital role to play both with the bat and behind the stumps at the World Cup.

In March 2020, Haider Ali became the youngest player to hit a half century in the PSL

Keep an eye on…

There are a number of exceptional talents in the Pakistan squad. But we are backing Haider Ali to make a difference. The 21 year old batter wasn’t named in the initial squad, but earned a call-up on the back of his stunning performances in the National T20 Cup. He averages 24.98 in T20 cricket and has a strike rate of over 140. Ali has all the tools to follow in the footsteps of Babar Azam and become Pakistan’s next big star. And he could make a big impact at the T20I World Cup.

Projected XI

Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Babar Azam (c), Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Haider Ali, Shoaib Malik, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf

Prediction

Pakistan certainly have what it takes to reach the semi-finals, and they will be helped by the fact that they are in a relatively easier Super 12s group. Beating India and New Zealand won’t be easy, but Pakistan have the quality to outclass any team in the world on their day. If they play to their strengths, Pakistan could be real contenders to make it to the semi-finals and beyond.