Pakistan squad for World Cup: Talking points

Ahead of Pakistan’s team selection day, here’s an all-round analysis of the possible ins, outs and surprises.

Pakistan will announce its squad for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 on Thursday.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

The Pakistan cricket team is set to announce its squad for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 on Thursday. Following the 5-0 whitewash against Australia in the UAE, there are a few areas to be addressed as Pakistan has the firepower to spring a surprise.

The last time the World Cup was held in England [in 1999], Australia had beaten a strong Pakistan side — led by Wasim Akram — to lift the trophy.

New faces

Pakistan rested its regular opener Fakhar Zaman against Australia. Imam-ul-Haq, the other opener, played only three games. Replacements Shan Masood and Abid Ali had a decent outing in their maiden ODI assignment.

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Masood scored a fifty in the final ODI to better his average in the otherwise quiet series. Abid scored a century in one of his two games, but the ICC reported that he failed the Yo-Yo test. His inclusion could turn a few heads.

ICC tournament players

There are some cricketers who store their best for ICC tournaments. Wahab Riaz is one of them. The fast bowler hasn't played an ODI since 2017, but his form in ICC tournaments cannot be ignored. The intimidating spell against Shane Watson in World Cup 2015 is regarded as one of the best in the history of the tournament. Recently, Riaz claimed 17 wickets in 13 matches [finished as the third-highest wicket-taker] in the Pakistan Super League to present his case before the selectors. But his record in England could damage his chances — four wickets in eight ODIs at an average of 99.5.

Pakistan fast bowler Wahab Riaz during the fiery spell against Australia in World Cup 2015.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

In World Cup 2011, he had picked his maiden five-for in the semifinal against India.

Fast bowlers

Hasan Ali, who was phenomenal in the ICC Champions Trophy in 2017, will be expected to lead the pace attack. Youngster Shaheen Shah Afridi is an automatic choice as well. Akram-endorsed Mohammad Hasnain may just sneak in.

Hasan Ali stood out in the Champions Trophy in 2017.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

The real challenge will be to choose between Mohammad Amir and Junaid Khan; the latter’s concern is his fitness, Amir — on the other hand — has not fired ever since the Champions Trophy two years ago. Junaid’s advantage lies in his Lancashire county cricket experience in England.

Need for a power-hitter

Pakistan needs power-hitters to get them to competitive totals. In the series against Australia, it failed to reach the 300-run mark. Asif Ali, who has a strike-rate of 130.71 in ODIs, could be considered. The right-hander smashed the bowlers in the recently-concluded Pakistan Cup. The 41-ball 62 and 33-ball 42 were impact knocks.