Pakistan head into the World T20 on the back of a woeful Asia Cup. Pakistan’s T20I form has generally been pretty uninspiring since the biannual event in 2014. Top order remains the chronic disease though the bowling looks far better than it did about six months ago. Let’s look at how the all teams have fared since the last edition.
In 20 International T20 matches, Pakistan have lost 9, won 10 and tied 1. Three of their wins have come against a Sri Lankan team going through a rebuilding process and 50 per cent of the 10 wins have come against teams ranked outside the top 8 in the ICC rankings (4 vs Zimbabwe, 1 vs UAE).
Pakistan are placed in a group that also contains India, Australia, New Zealand and another qualifier. It could even be Bangladesh. Against these four, Pakistan have played nine matches out of which they have only managed 2 victories.
If Pakistan look for a silver lining despite being placed in a tough group, it is that their two victories came against New Zealand and group rivals Australia are still struggling to adjust to T20 cricket. They are one of the two teams who have a worse win/loss ratio than Pakistan.
It is important to remember that Pakistan haven’t played a T20 match in India. They have, however, played 15 in similar Asian conditions.
Out of these 15, Pakistan have won 6, lost 8 and tied 1 game. If you don’t count the results against Zimbabwe, UAE and Sri Lanka then Pakistan, against rest of the opposition, have managed not a single win in 9 matches: they lost 8 and tied 1.
Batting is considered Pakistan’s Achilles heel. Much of the issues stem from a top order collapse. Pakistan have tried 20 different batsmen in the top 3 positions in 20 matches and yet the top 3 have contributed the least percentage of runs to the overall total among any of the top 8 teams.
Pakistan’s average run rate has been 7.41 which amounts to an average score of 148 in 20 overs, only Sri Lanka have a lower average run rate.
In 20 innings, Pakistan haven’t crossed the 180-run mark even once, the highest score of 176 came against Zimbabwe.
Contrary to popular belief Pakistan do better when chasing rather than setting targets. They have won 6 out of 11 (4 losses, 1 tie) while chasing, scoring at 7.79 RPO. They have a better win-loss ratio (1.50) than Australia (1.33) in chases. However, three out of these six successful run chases have either come against Zimbabwe or the UAE.
Pakistan seem lost when batting first with no clear plan or target in mind. All 170-plus scores have come in run chases. The highest Pakistan have posted batting first is 167, losing 5 out of 9 matches. Their win/loss ratio at 0.800 is still not the worst among the top 8 teams; Australia have lost 3/3, South Africa 5/8, Sri Lanka 3/5.
Bowlers have always been considered the saviors of Pakistan cricket. It is almost a given that the batsmen will fail and the bowlers will somehow conjure up some magic to save Pakistan.
Even during lacklustre performances, Pakistani bowlers have come out with their heads held high, managing the second-best economy rate of any team, only behind tournament favorites India.
Among the four teams in their World T20 group, Pakistan are the only side not to have conceded a 200-plus score.
Four Pakistani bowlers in the World T20 squad have an economy rate of under-7 (Imad 6.15, Amir 6.70, Irfan 6.71 and Afridi 6.87).
There is enough in the bowling arsenal to not only stop runs but also take wickets. The likes of Wahab and Sami have a higher economy rate but both have exceptional strike rates, 18.6 and 18, respectively.
There is some concern about the spin bowling department; Afridi has failed to pick up wickets despite being very economical, he averages less than a wicket per match, Imad averages a wicket every match while Mohammad Nawaz hasn’t yet found his feet in international cricket despite a brilliant PSL under his belt.
Some concerns have been raised whether Pakistan spinners are good enough to pick up wickets during the middle overs. However, that shouldn’t be a worry if they play three genuine pacers, one of whom can partner a spinner in the middle overs as a wicket-taking option.
If you look at Pakistan’s overall numbers and the batting, it doesn’t really inspire any sort of hope, however the bowling does induce confidence and belief.
Can Pakistan make it into the semi-finals? It will be tough but if numbers are anything to go by then they should be in the running considering Australia’s troubles and a fifth team having to come through the grueling qualifying process.
Pakistan certainly aren’t one of the two favorites to qualify from this group but they have always played better with the underdog tag. It will be important to back the strength — bowling — and play with at least three genuine fast bowlers instead of opting for someone like an Anwar Ali (All-rounder) in a hope to strengthen the batting.