The 2019 edition of the ICC Cricket World Cup is less than two months away and teams have either finalised or are in the process of finalising their squads for the big event. Sarfaraz Ahmed’s Pakistan will be looking to emulate the class of 1992 and win their second World Cup as they kick off their campaign against West Indies on May 31 at Trent Bridge.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has already shortlisted 23 probables for the tournament, out of which eight will not make the cut.
We take a look at the 15 players who should be on the plane to England for the Men in Green.
The skipper will be desperate to build on his side’s Champions Trophy victory in England two years ago and will know that this is, in all probability, his last chance at winning the World Cup.
The skipper is one of the best thinkers in the limited-overs formats, masterminding not only the Champions Trophy victory but also Pakistan’s rise to the top of the T20 rankings.
At a personal level, Sarfaraz cemented his spot in the last edition, impressing with a 49 against South Africa and a century against Ireland, and has a penchant for stepping up in the big games.
The left-handed opener announced himself at the international level in emphatic fashion with a century on ODI debut and has not looked back since.
While there were several questions surrounding his inclusion in the side given his relationship with chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq, the young opener has impressed in the 50-over format. An average of nearly 55 at the top of the innings shows he has the character as well as the skill set to bat deep. However, the southpaw must still perform at the mega event if he is to silence his doubters and goes into the series having struggled against Australia in the three ODIs that he played.
The 28-year old Fakhar is known for his aggressive approach and can be a one-man wrecking crew if he gets going in the tournament. An average of over 53 and a strike-rate of almost 100 means he is a shoe-in at the top of the order for Pakistan, especially considering his heroics in England two years ago. Fakhar looked uncomfortable against the South African pacers in his last series and struggled in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) as well but should rightfully keep his place in the side considering the destructive abilities that he possesses.
The middle-order Haris Sohail may arguably be Pakistan’s most in-form batsman and has registered scores of more than 50 in six of his last eight ODI knocks.
His 291 runs against Australia came at an average of 72.75 and the middle-order batsman can also bowl a bit in the middle overs. Sarfaraz will be keen to have Haris on the plane considering Shoaib Malik’s poor form and Mohammad Hafeez’s injury concerns.
Babar Azam is the darling of the nation and rightly so. The 24-year-old is the biggest gem in the batting line-up and will be key to any hopes that Pakistan may harbour at this World Cup.
The number three batsman will anchor the innings for Pakistan at the World Cup and is the only Pakistani batsman in the top 10 ODI rankings. While there are some who criticise him for his inability to hit big, the right-hander is one of the best in the world at holding the innings together and rotating the strike.
A must-have for Pakistan at the top of the order if they are to go deep at the tournament.
Hafeez is nearing the end of a career that was built mainly as an all-rounder. However, the right-hander is no longer the force he once was with the ball and must rely on his experience and batting ability to justify his place in the squad.
Currently nursing an injury he suffered during the Pakistan Super League, the veteran will in all likelihood make the squad if he recovers as expected. An average of less than 28 in England does not make for good reading though and the 38-year-old must step up if he to justify his spot in the playing eleven.
Malik, like Hafeez, is reaching the end of his career and will be desperate to end it on a high. Despite being a mainstay in Pakistan’s middle-order for some time now, the 37-year-old is no longer a guaranteed starter considering his poor recent form and abysmal record in England.
The middle-order batsman averages 26.4 since the start of 2018. His record in England makes for even more worrying reading as he has scored just one fifty in 24 matches in England at an average of 13.63. However, Malik’s experience as well as his ability to both anchor the innings as well as clear the boundaries mean he is sure to make the cut despite the worrying signs.
Pakistan’s lack of power hitters mean Asif Ali may find himself on the plane to England despite his mixed performances in international cricket so far.
The Islamabad United batsman boasts a strike-rate of over 130 in ODIs, even if his average stands at just 28.57, and may be the side’s designated ‘finisher’ in the final 10 overs of the game.
His ability to clear the boundary is unmatched in the Pakistan side and that unique skill-set should be enough to see him make the side, especially considering the lack of alternatives for that role.
Imad was the stand-in skipper to stand-in skipper Shoaib Malik against Australia and remains one of the side’s ‘senior’ players ahead of the World Cup. The Karachi Kings captain showed against the series of Australia that he has the potential to be a match-winner with both bat and ball for Pakistan but will have to work on his consistency.
His ability to bowl at the start of the innings as well as in the middle overs means he will be a handy weapon for Sarfaraz in England, especially if the ball starts to grip in the surface.
At the wrong side of 30, Imad will know this is his last chance to make an impact at the biggest stage as a regular in the side.
Shadab Khan’s star has waned a little in recent times considering his poor run of form of late. However, the young all-rounder remains a key part of the Pakistan set up and will surely feature heavily in England.
Sarafaraz and coach Mickey Arthur will be hoping that the decision to rest him against Australia will mean he returns reinvigorated for the upcoming tournament.
The right-arm pacer is going to be Pakistan’s biggest pace weapon at the World Cup, especially considering how well he fared in England two years ago. Hasan was used to devastating effect in the middle of the innings during the Champions Trophy, and won the man of the series award for his 13 wickets.
It will be interesting to see how Sarfaraz uses his highest-ranked ODI bowler and whether he will be given the new ball or entrusted with the older one like he was in England two years ago.
Mohammad Amir divides opinions like few others but there is little doubt that the under-fire pacer will be a key part of Pakistan’s pace battery come the World Cup.
The left-armer has struggled for wickets of late and was rested for the series against Australia. His heroics in the final against India two years ago have not been forgotten though, and Sarfaraz and Arthur will have him in their plans despite publicly criticising the Karachi Kings pacer recently.
Shaheen Shah Afridi
The teenager bowls with pace and accuracy that belies his young age but his work load must be carefully managed considering the amount of cricket he has played ever since he burst onto the scene at the U19 World Cup last year.
The 19-year-old has a bowling average of less than 20 in ODIs but was afforded some much-earned rest for the Australia series. His bravery as well as his ability to take wickets mean he will feature heavily for the Men in Green at this World Cup and hopefully for many more to come.
A controversial choice considering the Hyderabad-born is just 19 and struggled in the three ODIs he played against Australia. However, his ability to reach speeds of nearly 150km/h mean he can’t be ignored.
Sarfaraz may also want to give the young pacer a chance considering how much he impressed under his command during Quetta Gladiators’ PSL-winning campaign.
Faheem Ashraf justifies his place ahead of the likes of Junaid Khan and Usman Shinwari due to his superior batting and fielding abilities.
However, the Islamabad United man has a woeful batting average of just 13.27 in ODIs. Pakistan’s inability to score quickly at the death is no secret and the left-hander must start justifying his all-rounder tag to give Pakistan the firepower they need in the final overs.
Faheem remains a handy bowler though and an economy of 4.56 shows just how canny a bowler he is in the latter part of the innings.