Pakistan announced their 15-man World Cup squad last month along with two additional players for the England series in shape of Mohammad Amir and Asif Ali. Now with just a week left in ICC’s deadline to make any team changes, Sarfraz Ahmed and company has more unanswered questions as compared to a month ago.
One of the very few positives for the men in green at this stage is a stable top-order, which ironically is so unlike Pakistan. Fakhar Zaman and Imam ul Haq have had an exceptional start to the tour of England and Wales; whereas, Babar Azam and Haris Sohail have also been amongst the runs.
Pakistan’s batting woes lie in the lower-middle order which lacks depth and the potential to strike big. It remains to be seen where Mickey Arthur adjusts the seniors, Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez, especially when Asif, arguably the only power-hitter in the team, has shown immense promise with a couple of fiery half-centuries.
Logically the experienced duo should not break into the playing eleven at Haris’ expense, as the elegant left-hander in his short career so far has been a far more consistent run-scorer than Malik and Hafeez have been in the last decade and a half.
Bowling has always been Pakistan’s stronger suit. The likes of Hassan Ali, Junaid Khan and Amir laid foundations of their team’s champions trophy triumph back in 2017 and Pakistan fans are expecting the same from their seamers in the upcoming mega event. However, there have been some alarm bells ringing due to the ease with which England have racked up high scores at Southampton and Bristol. The team management do have the option of recalling Usman Shinwari.
Pakistan’s newest pace sensation; Mohammad Husnain is likely to be given an opportunity in the last two games of the series which will decide the teenager’s fate for the 2019 World Cup.
Inzamam and company have invested quite a lot in Faheem Ashraf in the last couple of years but the Kasur-born all-rounder is yet to justify the faith shown in him. Except for the series against Zimbabwe in 2018, Faheem’s bowling stats are poor. He came to the limelight after a match-winning cameo with the bat against Bangladesh in a warmup game before the champions trophy but the left-hander has so far miserably failed to translate his batting potential in international cricket. An occasional six here or there is surely not good enough when you are representing your country.
Mickey and Sarfraz are now left with only 4 matches (two against England and two practice games against Afghanistan and Bangladesh respectively) to find the right combination before their opening World Cup fixture against the West Indies on May 31.