Of the 10 teams competing in the 2019 World Cup, Pakistan boast the most recent ODI experience in the United Kingdom. Granted, that experience resulted in a four-nil series defeat earlier this year, but the time at the batting and bowling crease was invaluable for a nation eager to defy a substandard sixth position in the International Cricket Council’s rankings for ODI teams.
Pakistan have all of four semi-final exits for 11 World Cup campaigns. They won the title in 1992 and were runners-up in 1999. This new century, indeed, requires more than yet another quarter-final or group stage goodbye. At the helm, they have an astute leader in former South Africa head coach Mickey Arthur. The Pakistani head coach is a stickler for discipline and fitness – and has been commended by most but criticised by some for this straight approach.
Batsman to bank on
Captain Sarfaraz Ahmed has publicly declared intention to bat higher in the order during the World Cup, which was suggested and later evidenced during the recent ODIs against England. The steely right-hander averages more than 55 at fifth in the order, relaying sixth might be too low and four too high. Wherever he slots in, impetus provided by the experienced Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik will need to be continued. Alternatively, an oft-fragile middle order might require stabilising.
Bowler to bet on
The 33-year-old Wahab Riaz was a controversial late inclusion in the World Cup squad – and has not played ODI cricket in two years. While he hasn’t done so lately, there is proven match-winning ability in his offering. The left-armer can swing the ball late – and dig in some short stuff when required. The short-ball work-over he gave Australian batsman Shane Watson during the 2015 World Cup is particularly memorable.
Pakistan dominated the West Indies in ODI cricket between 2008 and 2011, winning eight consecutive matches. That stretch included four fixtures in neutral territory, which will again be the case come 31 May’s meeting at Trent Bridge. Riaz played some county cricket for Derbyshire last year – and will have some insight into conditions expected in Nottingham.
Pakistan showed big tournament temperament by winning the 2017 Champions Trophy, but haven’t relished solid ODI form since. A five-nil series whitewash at the hands of Australia earlier this year is testament to this. The World Cup, perhaps, might see them ‘switch on’ again – and come within a couple of points of a semi-final berth, but ultimately not enough.