From soaring highs to unforeseen lows, Pakistan Cricket adds the enticement of unpredictability to International Cricket. The excitement for not only the Pakistanis but the whole World when the Pakistani team is on the high is at its peak. And the disbelief of the World and the unforgiving fury of the nation is seen when they surprise you with their other side. Much of the same is expected by the fans when their team marches on the field for the Asia Cup 2023. Though the stability and reliability of the team are seen to evidently grow in the last two years, the Pakistan Way is still as charming. Let’s look at how they may fare at the Asia Cup 2023.
Pakistan plays very few ODIs here and there and is not consistent enough in this format. This year they have played 8 ODIs all against New Zealand at home. Three of them were part of the ODI Super League and five were part of the compensation that they had to make for their abandoned tour in 2022. This series was scheduled in a bid to prepare for the 2 major events, first the Asia Cup 2023 and later the World Cup. The team hasn’t changed since they play a handful of games in the format. Usually, they like to go with the 6-5 combination where they have five full-time bowlers and a batsman who can roll his arm over when needed. This formation has really been beneficial for the way
they play, they have the luxury of Shadab and Nawaz which gives them a breather in the batting department as both are very decent batters.
In the ODIs in 2022-23, they have won 13 and lost 4 games with Babar Azam and Fakhar Zaman winning 3 Player of the Match Awards each. Pakistan batted first on 7 occasions where their scores were(latest first): 334, 287, 280, 206, 314, 269, 275. These are very competitive totals considering their bowling capabilities. They lost just one game batting first where they failed to defend 280 against New Zealand. They have batted second 10 times, chasing the target 7 times and failing to do it on 3 occasions. The highest score they chased was 349 against Australia where Babar Azam and Imam-ul-haq both hit centuries. The highest run getter in this span has been the captain, Babar Azam with 1104 runs, having
4 centuries and 9 fifties to his name.
The bowling department in this span was led by Haris Rauf with Shaheen Shah Afridi’s workload being managed as we saw some rotation in terms of the fast bowling attack. Haris is the highest wicket taker in the last two years. He took 25 wickets with an average of 29.35 with Mohammad Nawaz leading the spin charge taking 17 wickets with his notable economy rate of 4.67.
Overall, the batsmen especially the top three have had a greater impact on wins but the bowlers have also put their hands up when needed and supported the efforts of their batters. The fielding has notably been brilliant from Pakistan off late and that has proved pivotal in their consistency in wins in the format.
Their full strength playing XI in Asia Cup 2023 could look like this:
Fakhar, Imam, Babar, Rizwan, Iftikhar, Agha, Shadab, Nawaz, Naseem, Shaheen, Rauf
Gone are the days when you would see a new face in the opening position after every series. Pakistan’s opener headache seems to have finally been solved with Fakhar and Imam making this position their own. They have 7 century partnerships and 10 fifty partnerships between them and have laid a solid foundation in the stability of the batting order.
At no 3, the ever reliable batting maestro, World No 1 batsman, Babar Azam is there. He has proved his mettle everywhere in the World and against any quality of bowling. And is now on the way to becoming a batting legend with just 2 centuries less than Saeed Anwar on the top of the chart.
The middle order saga:
Of late there has been a lot of talk on Pakistan’s middle order, especially in the t20 format but frankly, they haven’t been exposed that much in the ODI format. With Rizwan making significant contributions time and again and Iftikhar in the form of his life and the emergence of Agha Salman as a reliable batter who can bat well with the tail, we can bank on the middle order to make meaningful contributions and see the end of the game.
Pakistan might have the perfect all-rounders among all the other teams in Shadab and Nawaz. They are wholly capable of winning games single handedly with their bowling and have the ability to finish off games with their batting. Both will be very beneficial considering the conditions in Sri Lanka are spin friendly and both bat well against the spinners.
The Pace Battery:
The pace trio of Shaheen, Naseem, and Rauf is the evident legacy of Pakistan being the land of fast bowlers. They have created a buzz around the world with their fierce approach and amazing skills that have all the batsmen of the world on their toes.
All in all, this team looks like a solid contender for that spot in the Asia Cup Final. We will
surely be seeing the same brand of cricket they are known to play which would keep us from
missing even a single ball. Be ready for the Pakistan Way.