Sunday, March 16, 2014

Pakistan's Chances in World Cup T20 2014.

ICC World T20 2014

The fifth edition of ICC World T20 is here and the next 20 days or so will be all about fun and tension and excitement and hopefully joy and happiness for the Pakistani team and the people of Pakistan. Let us analyze Pakistani team and the chances of Pakistan in this tournament from different angles.

Pakistan in T20 format.

It is said that Pakistan Cricket team is the most unpredictable team in the world, that when we can win the matches in which we are underdogs and we can lose the matches in which we are the favorites, but that hasn't been the case with Pakistan in the T20 format.

They have played 78 matches T20 international matches and won 47 out of those and losing just 29.

They win 60.2% of their T20 matches which is the best by any team in this format. They are the most consistent team in this format, they are also the most experienced team in this format as they have played the most matches.

They have also the top three wicket takers in the T20 cricket. And more importantly, they know how to perform under pressure (more so because every match they play, they end up making it nerve wrecking).

Pakistan in T20 World Cups.

ICC World T20 is easily Pakistan's most favorite tournament. By far Pakistan has been the most consistent team in the ICC T20 World Cups. Reaching the semi final of all 4 editions and playing the final of the two T20 World Cups and winning one of those two is by no means a fluke.

Pakistan winning 2009 World Cup

They have played the most matches in this tournament 26 out of a possible 28 matches any team could have played.

They have won 16, which is the most number of matches in this tournament. They have the second best winning percentage of 63.4% behind Sri Lanka who only barely edge ahead.

The second, third and fourth highest wicket takers in the World Cup are Saeed Ajmal with 32, Shahid Afridi with 31 and Umar Gul with 29 (Malinga leads with 33 wickets.

Pakistan's Squad.

A look at the Pakistani squad tells that they have 5 fast bowling options and 5 spin bowling options in the squad, there are also 5 proper batsman in the team if you include both the wicket keepers, interestingly enough they have exactly 5 all rounders (If you want to call Sohail Tanvir an all rounder) in their squad of 15. No rocket science required to tell that Pakistan has a very very strong bowling squad, easily the most versatile bowling line up in the tournament. It is also obvious that batting is Pakistan's weak point in the tournament.

Umar Gul, Shahid Afridi, Saeed Ajmal
Pakistan has the best bowling line up for World T20
Fast Bowling Line up. 

Although Muhammad Irfan is missing in the fast bowling department which is a big disadvantage given the patchy bowling performance of Pakistani fast bowlers in the Asia Cup, but Pakistan still have Junaid Khan, Muhammad Talha, Umar Gul, Sohail Tanvir and Bilawal Bhatti, with the last three who can also bat a little.

Given that the tournament is being played in Bangladesh and that Pakistan will face more non Asian teams along the way, fast bowlers may not play an important role just like it was the case in Sri Lanka during the last tournament.

Pakistan will pin their fast bowling hopes on Umar Gul. No matter what form he is in, Gul will be Pakistan's most important fast bowler in the tournament. No one can forget his perfect yorkers in the 2007 and 2009 T20 World Cups and not to forget he is the second highest wicket taker in T20 International matches with 74 wickets. Pakistan will badly want him to fire this time around.

Ever dependable Junaid Khan is also present to support, Muhammad Talha will be the surprise factor for most teams if he plays with the pace he has got, while Sohail Tanvir and Bilawal Bhatti, both of whom are preferred by the captain Muhamamd Hafeez and sometimes give away a few easy runs while bowling but will provide good backup support keeping in mind they can bat as well.

Spin Bowling Line up.

On the Asian pitches, especially the low slow Bangladeshi pitches, and importantly at the end of a long cricket season in Bangladesh when most of the wickets are tired and over played, spin bowlers will have a major role to play.

Thankfully Pakistan is not short on resources here. Saeed Ajmal has been Pakistan's most dependable bowler over the past 4 years now and he has been especially effective in the T20 format and that is the reason that he is the highest wicket taker in the format with 81 wickets in just 59 matches.

Shahid Afridi has always been a dangerous bowler in this format and his bowling in the middle overs along with Ajmal's will be the key to Pakistan's success. Oh and just by the way he is the 3rd highest wicket taker in the T20 matches with 73 wickets.

Muhammad Hafeez bowling has been such a bonus for Pakistan over the last couple of years and the facts that he can bowl with the new ball and that he bowls well to the left handed batsman and that most teams have at least one left hander opening the batting gives Pakistan a huge advantage.

Zulfiqar Babar will be the real surprise package for other teams in this tournament, although he is 35 but he is regarded by many as the best left arm spinner in Pakistan and with his unorthodox action and control can be lethal against the teams who are facing him for the first time. Count the ever noticeable Shoaib Malik as the 5th spinner.

Safe to say if Pakistan are going to win this tournament it will be their spinners who will be the key to that.

Muhammad Hafeez and Ahmed Shehzad
Pakistan's batting will revolve around both of them.
Batting Line Up.

The weakest link in an otherwise strong looking overall team. Batting has always been the factor that has cost Pakistan some big matches.

Pakistan really have four proper batsman in the squad. Ahmed Shehzad, Sohaib Maqsood, Sharjeel Khan and Umar Akmal are the names that will feature in almost all the matches, interestingly enough Pakistan have included Umar Akmal as a wicket keeper for the tournament with Kamran Akmal, even more interestingly Pakistan have brought back Kamran Akaml for the tournament without any notable performance but he this may turn out to be a good decision.

Ahmed Shehzad looks ever more threatening in the T20 format and if he can somehow stop throwing good starts away Pakistan will have a batsman who can go on to play all the 20 overs and score quick runs. Muhammad Hafeez has been a revelation as a batsman ever since he has taken over the captaincy averaging around 40 in this format. He is also the highest run getter for Pakistan in this format. Umar Akmal will lead the Pakistani batting line up in this tournament with the form he has shown in the Asia Cup, hopefully he won't have his sudden moments of madness.

Sharjeel Khan and Sohaib Maqsood are the young guns who lack the big stage experience but along with Kamran Akmal, have potential to fire. Will they fire and when they will fire has always a question mark. Pakistan has included Shoaib Malik to strengthen the batting line up hopefully he will finally be able to translate his first class cricket form on the international stage because his presence at number 5 or 6 can stabilize Pakistani batting.

After such a long time Pakistan will have high expectations from Shahid Afridi in the batting department, his scintillating form in the Asia Cup showed that Shahid Afridi is still dangerous and that he can change the complexion of the gave within one over.

Pakistan's Group and comparisons with other Teams.

Pakistan has been placed in the 'group of death' along with the T20 World Champions West Indies, The ODI World Champions India, the Australian team who are high on confidence and one of the qualifying team which is most likely to be Ireland or Zimbabwe certainly makes this an interesting and tough group.

Pakistan will play their first match against India and that perhaps will decide how Pakistan will progress in the tournament. They have the advantage over India after beating them in the Asia Cup and with a superior bowling line up and good recent form they will enter the match as favorites, perhaps after a long time but then there is no favorite in India Pakistan matches. The only thing not in their favor is that Pakistan haven't beaten India in the World Cups ever, but things can change, it is Pakistan after all.

Pakistan's next match will be against Australia and it is hard to believe but Pakistan has had the better of Australia in this format. Out of 11 matches they we won 6 and lost 4. In the World Cups they have won 2 and lost 1. They won the last T20 series against Australia, they won the last T20 match in the World Cup against Australia, and with a superior spin bowling attack Pakistan have more chances of beating Australia if they can handle the Australian pace attack which should not be a problem on the Bangladeshi wickets.

The third match will be against the qualifying team which Pakistan will be favorites to win.

Last match will be against West Indies who although are the current World Champions West Indies and this will be the first ever meeting of both the teams in the T20 World Cups. Pakistan recently clean sweeped the T20 series in the Caribbean.

Bonus Factors for Pakistan.

Knowing the conditions: Pakistan, along with the other Asian teams has the advantage of being accustomed to the Bangladeshi conditions, with the recently concluded Asia Cup where Pakistan were able to reach the final they will be one of the favorites to win the tournament.

Bangladeshi Crowd feels like Home crowd for Pakistan
The crowd support. The way Bangladeshi crowd supported Pakistan during the match against India it sure felt like Pakistan were playing somewhere in Lahore or Karachi. When the crowd is behind you, it does motivate you to bring out the best in you.

The X factor.

Shahid Afridi the bowler is always there but Shahid Afridi the batsman is back! And so does the X factor for Pakistan. 

Shahid Afridi: Pakistan's X Factor.
Shahid Afridi: Pakistan's X Factor
With the recent form he is in, with the motivation to do well at the biggest stage, with the experience of helping Pakistan win the T20 world cup and with the knowledge that this may be his last T20 World Cup Shahid Afridi will want to give his best performance. In form or out of form, opposition teams fear him, this time he is in form, they'll fear him even more. 

1 comment: