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The Pakistan side looks set to make a mark in World Cup 2023

The SWOT analysis of Pakistan’s World Cup 2023 squad. Pakistan set to make history again.

Asia Cup 2022, Group A, Pakistan vs Hong Kong_ Pakistan beat Hong Kong by 155 runs and enter Super 4. Pakistan to play India on 4th Sept (Images_ ©PCB_Twitter)
Pakistan can stun any team on a given day (Images: ©PCB/Twitter)

The ODI World Cup 2023 is going to captivate cricket fans in just a few days. The cricketing powerhouses have finalized their squads and are now meticulously honing their strategies and techniques.

In this highly-prized tournament, India is a hot favorite due to their recent record and the fact that they are playing on home soil, while Pakistan is being seen as an enigmatic dark horse, evoking memories of Imran Khan's 'cornered tigers' who triumphed in the 1992 World Cup.

It has been 31 years since that historic victory in Australia, a moment etched in cricketing history. Now, the Pak team under the captaincy of Babar Azam will be on the quest for glory. Their journey has been marked by seven attempts over three decades, yet the echoes of 1992 linger on.

The recent Asia Cup 2023 was a disappointing outing for the Men in Green, with defeats against India and Sri Lanka in the Super 4 clash.

Reflecting on their last World Cup campaign in 2019, Pakistan reached the Final 8 but fell short of the coveted semi-final spot due to net run rate. The upcoming World Cup in India offers a chance at redemption, and the schedule is set with challenging encounters against formidable teams.

Strengths of Pakistan

Pakistan's strength lies in its top-order batting, with outstanding players like Babar Azam, Imam-Ul-Haq and Mohammad Rizwan - all securing 50+ average in ODIs since 2022. Also, the formidable pace battery is a major boost for the Men in Green.

The top three—Imam, Babar and Rizwan, along with Fakhar Zaman - who has scored a staggering 947 runs in the last 25 matches—form the core of the batting unit, and their performances will be pivotal for the team.

In the absence of Naseem Shah, the pace duo of Haris Rauf and Shaheen Afridi will be incharge of inflicting the damage on the opposition’s batters, something they are very good at. This pace battery is complemented by Hasan Ali, another quick bowler, who adds depth to the bowling lineup.

Familiarity with Subcontinent Conditions

While Pakistan has not played in India recently, their experience in similar conditions at home gives them an edge. Their batters have the ability to play in slow and turning tracks, and their pacers and spinners are adept at exploiting the subcontinent conditions, which will be an added advantage as the tournament progresses.

Asia Cup 2022, Super 4, Pakistan vs Sri Lanka_ Babar Azam gets out on 30 against Sri Lanka; SL beat Pakistan _ Walking Wicket (Photo_ ©PCB_Twitter)
Babar Azam to play a key role for Pakistan in WC 2023 (Photo: ©PCB/Twitter)
Weaknesses of Pakistan

The middle-order and spin department pose significant concerns for Pakistan. Inconsistent performances and a tendency to falter in critical situations have haunted the team’s middle-order since time immemorial.

Additionally, the form of vice-captain Shadab Khan is a big worry, as the vice-captain has only managed to score 300 runs in the past 16 matches. His team expects a little more contribution from him to have a solid depth in batting. Also, as the prime spinner of the team, Shadab has been unable to provide crucial breakthroughs in the middle overs.

Over-dependence on Babar Azam

The reliance on skipper Babar’s performance is a huge concern for Pakistan. The captain has stood up in most of the crucial situations with an average of 61.91 in the last 25 innings. However, seldom has he got support from his fellow batters, especially the lower middle order. The concerning signs for the Men in Green is that if their skipper fails to provide a solid base, the team tends to struggle in the whole innings, which is a big vulnerability in crucial matches.

Lack of depth in batting lineup

In a tournament where it is expected that there will be high-scoring matches, Pakistan's batting lineup lacks power hitters, barring Iftikhar Ahmed. The slump in Fakhar Zaman's form exacerbates this weakness, potentially leaving them struggling to chase imposing totals. No other batter in the team, other than Iftikhar and Shadab, have a strike rate above 100 - which is a big cause of concern.

Opportunities for Pakistan

With favourable conditions and consistent performances in the past year, Pakistan have the golden opportunity to clinch the ODI World Cup after 31 years. The return of Hasan Ali adds a promising dimension to the team.

Silencing critics

Pakistan will aim to silence its critics after facing intense heat for the subpar performances, especially during Asia Cup 2023. A World Cup win would temporarily halt the relentless media critique and provide a respite from the constant scrutiny.

Threats for Pakistan

The inconsistent batting lineup is the primary threat for Pakistan. If the top order falters, the lack of experience in the lower order could be detrimental. The absence of young fast bowler Naseem Shah due to injury is another setback, but Shaheen Afridi and Haris Rauf have shown their ability to dismantle strong batting lineups.

Tendency to falter under pressure while chasing

Historically, Pakistan has struggled in chasing big totals, relying heavily instead on their bowling prowess. The pressure intensifies when chasing substantial scores against formidable opponents with robust bowling lineups.

Pressure of playing in India

None of the current Pakistan squad members have the experience of playing in India. The political tension between the two nations adds to the pressure, so does the presence of a scrutinising crowd, which could affect their performance adversely.

While challenges persist, the brilliance of Babar, the emergence of promising talents, and the presence of seasoned players gives Pakistan the potential to make a mark in World Cup 2023. Their journey begins on October 6 against the Netherlands, setting the stage for a captivating tournament and a shot at cricketing glory.

Pakistan World Cup 2023 Squad: Babar Azam (c), Shadab Khan, Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Abdullah Shafique, Mohammad Rizwan, Saud Shakeel, Iftikhar Ahmed, Salman Ali Agha, Mohammad Nawaz, Usama Mir, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Wasim.


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