Pakistan were thought to be the dark horse of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023, and with Babar Azam leading from the front, one felt they would have a valid shout to squeeze through to the semis. However, issues on and off the field saw the Men in Green leave it too late, and depending on other teams for results is never a grid idea, and hopefully, players will learn. At the 2023 World Cup, Pakistan began with two wins, which was seen as a significant boost in self-confidence. Beating Sri Lanka in a record chase was a massive achievement. However, Babar’s men lost steam quickly, losing four consecutive matches for the first time in their World Cup history.
Pakistan also finished their 2023 World Cup journey with a shambolic defeat to fellow strugglers England. The Pakistani side finished fifth for the second consecutive World Cup, and somewhere one feels stuck in a cycle. Pakistan bowling coach Morne Morkel has resigned from his post. Babar Azam has left the captaincy, with Shan Masood getting the captain’s armband in Test cricket while Shaheen Afridi getting the nod in T20Is. Here, we present six major reasons why Pakistan failed in the ICC World Cup 2023.
Usama Mir dropping Warner starts the rot
When Pakistan and Australia faced off in Bengaluru, Pakistan were better placed with two wins and a defeat against a superior Indian team. Australia were off to a poor start (L2) before overcoming Sri Lanka. The Aussies were batting first at the Chinnaswamy, and Usama Mir, who replaced Shadab Khan, dropped a sitter in the 5th over. Shaheen Afridi had David Warner top-edging a short ball, and Mir at mid-on dropped a lolly. And after that, the crowd witnessed Warner and Mitchell Marsh adding a record 259 runs as Australia posted 367/9. Pakistan’s body language on the field was abysmal as they dropped a couple of more catches and allowed easy runs. Who knows if Mir had held on and Pakistan’s body language could have been more different and sorted.
Loss against Afghanistan was the biggest disappointment
Not taking anything away from the Afghans and their solid World Cup show, but Pakistan were expected to win this. Pakistan came to the match on the back of two shabby shows versus India and Australia, respectively, and fans wanted a response. Pakistan were off to a good start but lost the plot in the middle overs as Afghanistan spinners ran riot by applying brakes. Pakistan needed a mentor with the bat, and nobody went the distance. You often need your big guns in such situations to go on and make a real difference, and 282 was never a daunting total. Pakistan were 25-30 runs short before the bowling disappointed big time. Defeat against the Afghans was the lowest point in Pakistan’s journey.
Where was Fakhar Zaman?
Fakhar Zaman played the opening match versus the Netherlands and only returned for the last three games. He was benched because of a low score against the Dutch. Pakistan did not have the luxury of an aggressor upfront in Fakhar’s absence. In the other sides you have Rohit Sharma, Warner, or Quinton de Kock, for that matter, but there was no plan here. Imam-ul-Haq struggled, and often Babar had to come early on. Fakhar showed why he can turn things around in a flash, and his knocks of 82 and 126* in the wins versus Bangladesh and New Zealand later on highlighted the plot Pakistan misread by omitting him. Fakhar’s presence would have allowed more freedom to Abdullah Shafique and the number three and four batters coming in. Without Fakhar, Pakistan struggled to get the desired impetus upfront, and quick runs never came.
Babar deserves to receive the flak
Babar Azam failed to lead the side well, and also his contribution with the bat is questionable. Babar averaged a mere 40.00 and scored 320 runs without a single ton. His pattern of dismissals looked similar. The majority of his dismissals were against poor deliveries where perhaps he sensed an opportunity to score big runs and ended up being dismissed rather softly. On three occasions, he was dismissed and caught at midwicket while trying to clear the man stationed there. One found no rhythm in his batting. Barring the NZ match, he got out at crucial moments after hitting a fifty. Where was the hunger to stick out and score big runs? Often, it was witnessed Mohammad Rizwan dictating things on the field as Babar was cut a sorry figure. He often looked clueless and remained dependent. Decisions such as dropping Fakhar and bringing in an inexperienced figure like Mir for the clash against Australia were dubious calls. Pakistan always depended on Babar for runs, but they often didn’t arrive.
Lacklustre and shabby spin bowling
Pakistan had a dismal spin attack. One had ample time post the 2019 World Cup to build a spin attack for India’s conditions, but the homework wasn’t there. Shadab Khan isn’t someone who will pick regular scalps. Mir was lethargic and a mere rookie. Mir managed just four scalps from four games at a dismal 62.00 and an economy rate of over 7. Shadab claimed just two scalps from six games. His economy rate was above six. Bowling all-rounder Mohammad Nawaz, with his left-arm spin, averaged 111.50 and conceded at 5.89. Forget wickets; even containing runs was missing from the spin unit. A part-timer in Iftikhar Ahmed won’t help just when other top sides had at least one major contributor in the spin department. Here, it was a complete failure of sorts. Pakistan’s spin show was a no-show.
Leaking runs never help
Naseem Shah’s injury was a blot on Pakistan’s bowling, but Pakistan flattered to deceive despite a promising pace department. Shaheen was the pick of the lot, claiming 18 scalps, but overall, the department was a letdown. Haris Rauf was plundered for runs at will as he set the unwanted record of conceding the most runs in a single World Cup edition. Despite 16 scalps, his economy rate of 6.74 was a major negative point. Mohammad Wasim was a positive factor as he bowled with heart, but not having him consistently in the line-up backfired. Hasan Ali, with all his experience, disappointed in terms of giving away runs. And a lot of runs leaked because of dismal fielding in a department, which cost Pakistan in the last two World Cup editions as well. Dropping sitters, inability to be effective in boundary fielding, and failure to cut down singles and twos were aspects that bothered Babar and his men this time, too.