SWOT analysis: Pakistan seeks consistency at World Cup

After the Champions Trophy triumph in 2017, Pakistan, led by Sarfaraz Ahmed, returns to England to match the best of the teams in World Cup 2019.

Captain Sarfaraz Ahmed having a chat with his players during Pakistan's World Cup warm-up game against Afghanistan.   -  AFP Photo

The Champions Trophy triumph in 2017 still fresh in the memory, Pakistan, with Sarfaraz Ahmed as the captain and Mickey Arthur still as the head coach, returns to England to match the best of the teams in the tournament.

Strengths

Pakistan’s bowling during the England series lacked potency and ideas to stymie a belligerent batting line-up that posted two 350-plus scores when it batted first and chased down 359 and 341 in two other matches.

But Pakistan, here must get the benefit of doubt given that it didn’t play any of the four completed ODIs with a bowling attack that you would expect in the World Cup. Leg-spinner Shadab Khan was absent for the series with a viral infection, while the Pakistan selectors have named left-arm fast bowlers Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz in the final World Cup squad in place of Junaid Khan and Faheem Ashraf. 

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With Shadab dovetailing with left-arm orthodox spinner Imad Wasim and Amir playing as one of the three seamers (with Hasan Ali and Mohammad Hasnain potentially the other two), Pakistan will bank on its traditional strength — its bowling — to win a majority of the nine league matches.

Weaknesses

Speaking after Pakistan’s 4-0 ODI series loss to England, coach Mickey Arthur said, “Our fielding has been very disappointing. We competed really well [with England]. The one difference has been our fielding and that’s a real worry for me.” Pakistan dropped catches and its ground fielding was poor throughout the series against England. Shadab is arguably the best fielder in a Pakistan squad which has several slow movers.

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Opportunities

Before the series against England, coach Arthur said Pakistan doesn’t like being associated with the “unpredictable” tag. This World Cup, therefore, provides an opportunity for Sarfraz and Co. to change that perception by . Talking of consistency, the team will have to be consistent to reach the semifinals.

Threats

Pakistan is likely to face competition from South Africa and New Zealand to qualify for the semifinals. However, the match against arch-rival India in Manchester on June 16 is undoubtedly a marquee contest. Pakistan is chasing an elusive maiden World Cup win against India, which has won each of the six meetings between the two sides.

Squad:

Sarfaraz Ahmed (capt & wk), Asif Ali, Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Hasnain, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Shoaib Malik, Wahab Riaz.