The last edition of ICC Champions Trophy gets underway in England. Pakistan are placed in Group A along with South Africa, India and West Indies. All the teams are different in their own way. South Africa have a strong bowling squad, India has a strong batting line up, West Indies are as unpredictable as Pakistan. So here is a look at how our team's preparation, their chances, strengths and weaknesses.
Pakistan has had the best possible preparation for the tournament. They've already spent two weeks in the United Kingdom playing an ODI against Scotland, a couple more against Ireland in tough conditions. They also won their warm up match against South Africa.
Let's start with the batting. Pakistan perhaps have selected a one dimensional batting squad for this tournament which clearly lacks fire power. With Shahid Afridi and Umar Akmal missing they will have to rely heavily on the likes of Misbah ul Haq and Asad Shafiq to anchor their innings but both of them take time and consume overs to settle in.
Pakistan will heavily depend on their opening pair to give them a good start and this time around they'll most likely be opening with two left handed batsmen. Nasir Jamshed and Imran Farhat.
Farhat has been playing decent cricket ever since his inclusion during the South Africa series. Nasir Jamshed on the other hand has lost his form after an outstanding series against India.
Pakistan doesn't have a capable number three batsman. After dropping Younis Khan the responsibility now rests on Muhammad Hafeez's shoulders. Usually an opener, Hafeez has responeded well to the one down position, playing some good innings against Ireland and in the warm up match.
Shoaib Malik and Umar Amin will fight for the number 6 spot but you can't expect too much from them as one is struggling to keep his place in the side and the other is a new addition.
Kamran Akmal is the only fire power that Pakistan has lower down the order and he will have to click most of the times if Pakistan are to post a big total on the board. That aside, Pakistan chances will rely heavily on how Kamran Akmal keeps wickets. One drop catch can cost a lot and who will know that better than Kamran Akmal.
Pakistan's strength in this tournament is their bowling and they aren't even short on resources with a battery of pacers in the team. Muhammad Irfan and Junaid Khan will lead the bowling and they have Asad Ali, Ehsan Adil, Wahab Riaz to choose from, for the slot of third seamer. Tour selection committe may find it difficult to choose as all the 5 bowlers have performed well so far.
They also have their spin bowling department covered. Saeed Ajmal and Abdul Rehman are two world class spinners. They also have the support of Muhammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik with them. That said, spinners will have to work hard on these pace friendly pitches in England.
Pakistan also has a couple of other advantages. They usually perform well in the ICC tournaments. After the 2007 world cup Pakistan has reached the semi finals of 6 consecutive ICC tournaments. Also, England has been lucky for them, they reached the Final of 1999 World Cup here as well as won the 2009 World T20 tournament. Not to forget the huge support Pakistan gets in this country.
All this combined with the chance of performing well at the world stage, proving a point to everyone, for a team who hasn't played in thier home conditions for almost 4 years now you can expect Pakistan to be motivated and do well once again in the major ICC event.
But then we are talking about Pakistan Cricket Team. Squad , form, conditons don't really matter when they are in the mood to explode or implode. On their day they can beat any team in the world. Let us hope and pray we have more of those days in the coming ICC Champions Trophy and an explosive Pakistani team turns out on the match day all the way upto the final.