ODI World Cup 2023: Pakistan performance review
Pakistan won four matches and finished fifth on the points table.
There was pressure but there was a belief when Pakistan came to India for the ODI World Cup 2023. Since the conditions are more or less the same, the Babar Azam-led side was expected to at least qualify for the semi-finals, if not win it. They started the tournament in a remarkable fashion, winning the first two games but things changed drastically after that. The Men in Green suffered an embarrassing defeat at the hands of India and that started a losing streak of four matches, which ended up defining their campaign as the team finished fifth on the points table and missed the flight to Kolkata.
Meanwhile, despite having quality players in the mix, the team never looked mentally ready. Their approach also didn’t suit modern-day cricket, which Shadab Khan later accepted as well. The openers continuously failed to put up a show and that created pressure on the middle order. Babar Azam, who was in sensational form coming to the ODI World Cup failed to capitalize on his starts while Mohammad Rizwan proved to be good but not someone who could carry the team.
On top of that, there was too much outside noise. As soon as things started to go south, there was extreme criticism from former players and Pakistan media, which could have been avoided at that point. Babar's WhatsApp chat was reportedly leaked in the media and all this created unnecessary pressure and tension, which none of the players would want while representing the national color in a mega tournament.
On top of that, all the criticism was solely directed at Babar, even when the bowling unit was calamitous. Haris Rauf had a disastrous time in the middle while Shaheen Afridi was average to start. Despite that, Pakistan would not be happy with their efforts in the tournament.
The good, Bad, and not so pretty
Fakhar Zaman warming the bench for the longest period of time made very little sense, especially when Imam-ul-Haq was not performing at his best. Barring the one match against Australia, where he scored 70 runs, the 27-year-old failed to perform to his potential. Things changed when Fakhar came into the mix as There was a sense of belief and Pakistan were motivated to finish well as the chance to qualify for the semis was pretty much alive.
Fakhar eventually played well and hit 220 runs in four matches, including a blistering century against New Zealand. Pakistan required 402 runs to win the match and Fakhar gave the perfect start as Pakistan were 200/1 after 25.3 overs. Rain spoiled the day but Babar and Co. won the match on the DLS method, which kept them in the hunt. Had the team management introduced Fakhar earlier in the tournament, things could have gone in some other direction.
There were too many big-name under-performers in the team as well. Shadab Khan, Haris Rauf, Iftikhar Ahmad, and one can even include the name of Babar. The team also missed the service of Naseem Shah, who was ruled out of the competition due to a shoulder injury. With Rauf not being able to deliver and Shaheen not on song, nothing went in favour of Pakistan.
The spinners too looked below par. Shadab along with Mohammad Nawaz, Usama Mir, and the part-timers need to improve. Overall, Pakistan may need to change their approach and mentality to excel in the coming times.
The moments that mattered
Beating New Zealand at M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru gave the fans some hope. Bowling first, the team leaked 401 runs and it looked nearly impossible for them to chase it down. However, Fakhar Zaman and Babar Azam were incredible, to say the least, as they were phenomenal in the powerplay and continued to go about it even after that.
They went on to win the match by 21 runs as per the DLS method and that not only kept them alive in the race but also showed that if required, they can play an aggressive brand of cricket. That win should give them the template for the future.
Remember the names
Given that it was his first World Cup, Abdullah Shafique had a good time in the middle, scoring 336 runs in eight matches. He finished as the second-leading run-scorer of the team, ahead of Babar, which is an incredible feat. He is just 23 years old and is deemed as one of the future stars of Pakistan cricket. Thus, Shafique needs to keep his feet grounded and focus on only getting better as there will be a lot of outside noise about him in the coming years.
This was also the first World Cup of Mohammad Rizwan, who finished as the leading run-scorer of the team. He controlled the tempo of the team and ended up scoring 395 runs in nine matches. He has the ability to change gears once settled and can prove to be an asset in the ODI squad in the years to come.
Pakistan need changes in the team to do well in this format. Babar Azam has relinquished his position as the leader and a new ODI captain is yet to be announced. Whoever gets appointed will have a massive task at hand as the Men in Green are not scheduled to play any ODI until late next year, especially when they will host the Champions Trophy in 2025. They have some quality players in the mix who can take the team to the next level in the coming years. Shaheen and Rizwan along with Babar need to take a lot of responsibility for that.
Coming of age
Players like Naseem Shah and Abdullah Shafique are the future of the Pakistan team. Courtesy of the Pakistan Super League, a lot of young cricketers are coming into the mix but they need to play 50-overs cricketto make an impact in the Champions Trophy 2025 or World Cup 2027.