Halfway through the T20 World Cup 2021, Pakistan have been the team of the tournament so far. They won all their first three matches in the Super 12 round in a rather contrasting fashion. They began by thumping India by 10 wickets, a team they had not beaten in any World Cup match prior to their latest meeting in Dubai. Against New Zealand, they were briefly in trouble but kept their calm to get over the line. In the match against Afghanistan, they seemed to have completely lost the plot but recovered in a sensational fashion. What is it that makes this Pakistan team so special and featured? Here’s an analysis.
- Their lethal pacers
This is one of Pakistan’s biggest strengths at the ongoing T20 World Cup. In Shaheen Afridi, they have arguably the best left-arm seamer in the tournament. Afridi can bowl at speeds in excess of 150 but the crucial factor is he does so without losing shape or rhythm. The way he got rid of Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul against India was sensational. And Afridi’s carried on the good work. Haris Rauf has been a surprise success story. He has proved to be lethal as well and has also bowled with a lot of pace. He was next to impossible to play against New Zealand. On current form, the Afridi-Rauf duo spell double trouble for the opponents.
2. Dynamic opening pair
If it has been Afridi and Rauf with the ball, openers Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan have done an equivalent job with the bat. Azam has struck two half-centuries in three matches and has been in sublime form. Rizwan too has been in excellent touch. The best aspect of the Azam-Rizwan pair is that they understand and complement each other very well. The two know exactly when to attack and when to rotate the strike more often than not. Both are capable of shifting gears as per the demands of the situation and are proven performers. Pakistan couldn’t have asked for a better opening pair.
3. Brute finishing power
At the start of the tournament, critics wondered whether Pakistan have enough firepower in the lower-order to finish off matches. Pakistan have answered that with an emphatic yes. In back-to-back games, Asif Ali has pulled them over the rope with some fantastic big-hitting. If the performance against New Zealand was impressive, he was outstanding against Afghanistan, hitting four sixes in an over. Ali has been the missing piece in the puzzle for Pakistan. But one cannot ignore the contribution of veteran Shoaib Malik. His sixes have come at critical junctures.
4. Their familiarity with UAE conditions
While Pakistan would have been disappointed that they couldn’t play a lot of international cricket at home during the last decade, their experience of playing in the UAE – their temporary home for many years – seems to be coming in extremely handy in the T20 World Cup. They know the conditions in the UAE like the back of their hand. This is what gave Babar the confidence of predicting that Pakistan will beat India. The captain and his men then walked the talk.
5. They are still operating at about 90 percent
The standout part of Pakistan’s performance in the T20 World Cup has been that they have found a number of different match-winners in each game. It began with Afridi against India, Rauf carried forward the good work against the Kiwis while Asif Ali took it to a different level with his monster hitting against Afghanistan. The worrying factor for opponents is that two of their key members are yet to fire. Mohammad Hafeez has failed to shine with the bat so far while Hasan Ali has been abysmal with his fast bowling. One can only wonder what will happen if Hafeez and Hasan also join the party for Pakistan.