Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) recently announced their squad for Asia Cup T20 tournament, which will be played in the UAE.

Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) recently announced their squad for Asia Cup T20 tournament, which will be played in the UAE from August 27 to September 11. The big development in the announcement is that experienced but inconsistent fast bowler Hasan Ali has been given a “break”. Naseem Shah has replaced him. 

Lead pacer Shaheen Afridi, who has been battling fitness issues, has also been picked. The team trainer and physiotherapist will oversee his rehabilitation programme and decide on his international return. Pakistan are the first team to announce its squad for the Asia Cup, a tournament that will also feature India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and a qualifier. With Pakistan having named their squad, here’s a deeper analysis of the team.

Strengths: Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan

In skipper Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan, Pakistan have two of the best T20 batters in world cricket at present. It was mainly because of the duo that the team managed to dominate the T20 World Cup in the UAE last year until they went down to Australia in the semi-finals. Azam has registered scores of 79 and 66 in his last two T20Is. On the other hand, Rizwan’s last five T20I knocks have produced scores of 40, 78, 38, 87 and 23. If these two fire again, they can definitely put Pakistan in command. 

In the bowling, they will be banking on Shaheen Afridi, Shadab Khan and Haris Rauf to deliver the goods. All of them are proven performers in the format. However, there are fitness concerns over Afridi. Pakistan would be desperate for him to be fit for the Asia Cup.

Weaknesses: Inconsistent performers

Inconsistency has been Pakistan’s bane since time immemorial. And that continues to haunt them to this day. This aspect of their game was responsible for their semi-final ouster from the 2021 T20 World Cup in the UAE. He has recently done well, but Haider Ali averages under 24 after 21 matches. Iftikhar Ahmed has one half-century in 18 matches. There is also inexperience with the likes of Khushdil Shah and Usman Qadir still relatively new on the international scene.

Players to watch out for 

Fakhar Zaman: Apart from Babar and Rizwan, Fakhar Zaman will be a key component in Pakistan’s batting line-up. The 32-year-old has not scored a half-century in his last five international innings. However, Zaman is someone who is known to lift his game on the big stage. He will be expected to deliver.

Asif Ali: Pakistan’s surprise hero at the T20 World Cup with his incredible big-hitting, Asif Ali has played only four matches since his duck in the semi-final of the ICC event last year. He has registered scores of 1,9, 21* and 3. The team will look for him to stand up and make an impact again.

Mohammad Wasim Jnr: With his pace, 20-year-old Mohammad Wasim Jnr has claimed 17 wickets in 11 games at an average of 15.88 and an economy rate of 8.10. Pakistan are known as the land of fast bowlers. Wasim is definitely someone the country depends upon to take forward the legacy.

Fixtures:

August 28, Pakistan vs India, Group A: Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai (7:30 pm)

September 2, Pakistan vs Qualifier, Group A: Sharjah Cricket Stadium, Sharjah (7:30 pm)

Verdict: As always, Pakistan are going in with a mixed squad. They have match-winners in skipper Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan, Fakhar Zaman, Shaheen Afridi (if fit) and Shadab Khan. At the same time, they can implode under pressure if they have a bad day. For Pakistan, it’s always about how they turn up for a particular match.

Pakistan squad for T20 Asia Cup: Babar Azam (captain), Shadab Khan (vice-captain), Asif Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Wasim Jnr, Naseem Shah, Shaheen Afridi, Shahnawaz Dahani, Usman Qadir.

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