As the focus has been on off-field matters as Pakistan prepares to be a co-host of the hybrid model Asia Cup, some lingering questions remain around their Asia Cup playing line-up. Factoring those in, we tried to pick how Pakistan's Asia Cup playing XI might look like.
- 1 Pakistan's Asia Cup Squad
- 2 Batsmen
- 3 All-rounders
- 4 Bowlers
- 5 Pakistan's probable playing XI
- 6 1. Fakhar Zaman
- 7 2. Imam-ul-Haq
- 8 3. Babar Azam (c)
- 9 4. Mohammad Rizwan (wk)
- 10 5. Agha Salman
- 11 6. Iftikhar Ahmed
- 12 7. Mohammad Nawaz
- 13 8. Shadab Khan
- 14 9. Shaheen Shah Afridi
- 15 10. Harris Rauf
- 16 11. Naseem Shah
- 17 Final Thought
- 18 Shahid Afridi to Sohail Tanvir: A look at Pakistan players in the IPL
- 19 James Anderson credits former Indian quick for bowling techniques, lauds Jasprit Bumrah
- 20 Shreyas Iyer and Ishan Kishan: Series of events which led to BCCI axing the duo from central contracts
- 21 Sourav Ganguly responds to Sunil Gavaskar comparing Dhruv Jurel to MS Dhoni
Pakistan's Asia Cup Squad
Babar Azam (C), Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Rizwan, Abdullah Shafique, Mohammad Haris, Iftikhar Ahmed, Tayyab Tahir, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Agha Salman, Mohammad Wasim, Haris Rauf, Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Usama Mir, Fahim Ashraf.
Contrary to the historic norm, Pakistan has a really strong Batting contingent in this era, led by captain and talisman Babar Azam. The opening pair of Imam and Fakhar has been consistently prolific. Wicket-keeper Mohammad Rizwan has been another mainstay with his tenacity and unorthodox technique.
The Middle order overall is yet to properly find its feet, with hard-hitting Iftikhar Ahmed, Salman Ali Agha and prodigious Mohammad Harris all offering different options and skill-sets.
Vice-captain Shadab Khan is the premier all-rounder of this side with his leg spin and lower order hitting. Agha Salman has staked his claim for a middle order spot and is a handy off-spinner. Left-hander Mohammad Nawaz’s recent performance both with the ball and the bat has made him an indispensable member of the setup.
While not as proficient as the other three with the bat, Mohammad Wasim offers a different option as the pace bowling allrounder. Each of them being a different type of bowler brings real versatility to Pakistan’s Asia Cup squad.
Pace bowling has been the historic strength of Pakistan. The quartet Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Shah, Haris Rauf and Ihsanullah form a formidable fast bowling Arsenal for Pakistan.
Shaheen returning to his best has been such a welcome sight for Pakistan, as his ability to swing the new ball at pace is vital. Rauf can rip through line-ups with sheer pace and Naseem Shah has shown he possesses a wide range of skills along with searing pace. Leg spinner Usama Mir is a clever bowler and will be the wildcard of this attack.
Pakistan's probable playing XI
With such a wide array of options to choose from, Pakistan is likely to adjust their playing XI according to condition and opposition. However, some templates have emerged over the last year in terms of the composition of Pakistan’s playing XI.
Taking account of such variables, we tried to pick Pakistan’s probable playing XI for the Asia Cup.
1. Fakhar Zaman
Prolific and explosive at the top, Fakhar Zaman is the tone setter with his gung-ho approach. When he gets going, he can be a force to be reckoned with. With an average of 48.43 and a strike rate of 93.27, he is an emblem of aggression and consistency.
While there is the perception of his weakness against high quality, high pace short balls, in subcontinent pitches with lower bounce, that is unlikely to be an issue. His recent form against New Zealand suggests he is ready and raring to go as well.
The calmness to Fakhar’s rage, Imam will offer stability at the top. While Fakhar looks to go ballistic right from the off, Imam is more measured in his approach and this complementary style suits Pakistan’s top order perfectly.
Technically sound and pleasing to the eye, he keeps the scoreboard ticking with minimum fuss. A 50+ average in 59 ODIs is a testament to his consistency and how often he gets his team to solid starts. He walks into this playing XI as the top-order conductor.
3. Babar Azam (c)
Surely on his path towards becoming an all-time great, captain Babar Azam will be the cornerstone of the team's batting at no.3. Capable of scoring runs at a brisk pace without taking many risks, the talisman will be one of the batter’s to watch in this Asia Cup.
He has an average of almost 60 and a strike rate of almost 90, showing his ability to score runs with remarkable consistency and a rapid rate. He will dictate the pace of play as other batsmen will look to bat around him throughout the innings.
4. Mohammad Rizwan (wk)
Wicket-keeper Rizwan has been one of the most improved batters in the world in the recent past. While not as prolific as he is while opening the innings in the T20Is, he still has an average of 40+ and a strike rate of almost 90 in the ODIs.
He is not yet there but he is quite close to becoming the multifunctional no.4 batsman that all the great teams seem to have. Secure with the gloves, he has also been a breath of fresh air behind the stumps when compared to the woes of his recent counterparts like Sarfaraz Ahmed and the Akmal brothers.
5. Agha Salman
When looking at Pakistan's top four, it is glaringly obvious that apart from Fakhar Zaman, none of the other batters are in the mold of the modern aggressor. Pakistan management also realized this and thus they have opted to give all-rounder Agha Salman an extended run in this role.
He has so far repaid that faith, scoring 3 half-centuries and striking well over 100 in this position. He can bowl some decent off-spin as an added bonus, which gives an extra dimension to this Pakistan bowling as well.
6. Iftikhar Ahmed
An explosive power-hitter in the lower order can change the game within a very short space of time. Which is why veteran Iftikhar Ahmed's hitting ability in that department gives him the edge over competitors in the vital no.6 spot.
He has been destructive in the shorter format of the game, which prompted Pakistan management to give him a run in this role. His exploits in the New Zealand series showed how he perfectly fits what the team needs from the player in this position.
7. Mohammad Nawaz
The idea of Nawaz nailing the no.7 spot mainly comes from his exploits in the T20 cricket and the presence of Shadab Khan coming in at no.8 in this line-up, which allows Pakistan the flexibility. If it
works, Nawaz can take the game away from the opposition in the death overs with his exceptional range hitting ability. He is a handy left-arm spinner and a very good fielder as well, making him the sort of complete package teams look for in that no.7 position. His left-handedness also adds diversity to the setup both with the bat and the ball.
8. Shadab Khan
Pakistan’s vice captain and premier spinner will be expected to take crucial wickets and be their key attacking weapon. The subcontinental conditions and wickets should suit his type of bowling and he has the skill to turn the ball both ways which always presents a threat.
He is more than a handy batsman as well, expect him to come at 7 ahead of Nawaz if the situation calls.
9. Shaheen Shah Afridi
Tall, quick and capable of swinging the ball, the 22-year-old will be Pakistan’s premier pace bowling weapon. Team India found out firsthand exactly how devastating Shaheen can be, and he will also look to replicate that form in this Asia Cup.
Equally devastating with the new and the old ball, Shaheen should be very effective even on the slowish subcontinental surfaces. Don’t discard him from hitting a few big ones with the bat either.
10. Harris Rauf
Famously known for being a product of Pakistan's notorious tape tennis circuit, Harris Rauf can't exactly swing the ball. Instead he relies on express pace, ability to skid the ball off the surface and raw aggression.
On the flat tracks of Pakistan where seam movement is minimal, he can be a real handful by bowling those skiddy bouncers and rushing the batsmen.
He can be a major threat in the middle overs with the cross seam delivery. He also has the ability to do damage with the old reverse-swinging ball, making him an almost automatic choice in this playing XI.
11. Naseem Shah
One of the latest editions to Pakistan's long list of young pace sensations, Naseem Shah rounds up this potent pace trident. Similar to Shaheen, he is a refined fast-bowler, possessing an arsenal of weapons both with the new and the old ball.
He also has express pace meaning Pakistan boasts a trio of fast bowlers all capable of bowling over the 90 mph mark. Naseem should dovetail with Shaheen wonderfully by bowling in tandem in the powerplay and at the death, making him an integral part of the playing XI.
Pakistan has a very good batting line-up in this Asia Cup, something of an anomaly when considering their history. Their setup is blessed with different types of bowlers, an off-spinner, a leg spinner, a left arm spinner as well as both right and left arm seamers who are all quick. A powerful batting lineup complemented by a bowling attack that possesses variety and venom, Pakistan has a squad to beat anyone and be a real threat in this Asia Cup.