They Just Have to Believe

There is enough talent, experience and game smarts in this Pakistan team to clinch a semi final spot in the World Cup. They just have to believe.

It’s quite an irresistible outfit when you look at the make up of the various aspects to the team. You have the best fielding unit of any team in Asia – good skills, well coached, backed by an energetic and vocal wicket keeper; then there is the battery of high class spin bowling options, a pair of pace bowlers who continue to improve with every outing and the return of their captain and best batter in Bismah. There is plenty to like about this team.

Leadership

The return of Bismah Maroof from maternity leave bolsters the batting significantly but it is her calm demeanour on the field as captain that is her greatest asset. While on leave the team was skippered by Javeria Khan the team’s most experienced batter but one always felt that she was a reluctant leader and indeed it impacted her batting – with all the cricket Pakistan played in 2021, only once did she pass the half century mark. The return of Bismah means that Javeria can do what she does best, unencumbered by the leadership.

Having the experienced Nida Dar as vice captain is an excellent move. Already the team’s best player she has real street smarts about her game. She will add greatly to the leadership team and the extra responsibility will push this player to greater heights.

Match Fitness

Team Pakistan played more cricket than most teams during the Covid riddled year of 2021. The PCB backed their team and gave great support to training and other administrative structures. All this was in mind for the team to be as well prepared for the World Cup as they could be and the best way to do that is to play cricket.

Squad

Bismah Maroof (c), Nida Dar (vc), Muneeba Ali (wk), Sidra Ameen, Anam Amin, Aiman Anwer, Diana Baig, Ghulam Fatima, Javeria Khan, Nahida Khan, Sidra Nawaz (wk), Aliya Riaz, Fatima Sana, Nashra Sandhu, Omaima Sohail

Iram Javed, Najiha Alvi and Tuba Hassan named as reserves.

Runs

A well accomplished middle order actually makes selection a difficult issue with the return of Bismah. With Bismah and Javeria Khan you have the two highest run scorers for Pakistan in ODIs. Nida Dar is in the top ten as is Aliya Riaz. That’s the bedrock of the middle.

The biggest challenge for Pakistan is that far too often all of the runs come from the middle order after calamitous starts from the top order. They tried so many different opening combinations in 2021 it is difficult to know who will open for them in the World Cup. I’m not sure coach David Hemp knows.

The upside of that however is that no matter how poorly Pakistan begins their innings, the middle order and lower middle order are good enough to repair the damage. If the top order can fire then this batting unit is capable of scoring 275+. The left-handed Muneeba Ali seems the most likely and then it’s a toss-up between Nahida Khan and Sidra Ameen. Whatever that combination is they must perform if Pakistan is to be a serious contender for the World Cup.

Wickets

This is an area of great strength for the team. You’ll likely see the slow left-arm spin of Anam Amin opening the bowling at one end. She is fast becoming one of the best in the world at this craft. Her economy is astounding and she takes wickets too, her 5-35 against West Indies at Karachi in November is testimony.

Anam Amin may not open every time with Pakistan also going the traditional route with their two pace bowlers, Diana Baig and Fatima Sana. Diana has been opening the bowling for Pakistan for some years but Fatima is only new to the format, just 15 games so far for the twenty year old from Karachi. However, such was her performance in 2021 that she was named the ICC Emerging Women’s Player. Pakistan have unearthed a potential superstar here. And she can bat. This is her first big tournament. Expect her to rise even higher.

Diana has been the mainstay of the pace attack but she is also the team’s best fielder. Outstanding at point in the early overs, then patrolling the outfield towards the back end. She is equally good in close or on the boundary.

Nida Dar. Need I say more? She is such a cunning operator when she is bowling her off-breaks. Always thinking. Always looking for a wicket. It’s that street fighter attitude she brings to her batting, always planning, always in the game. Such a good promotion to vice-captain.

Another of Pakistan’s gun fielders is left-arm slow bowler Nashra Sandhu. She demolished New Zealand in a warm-up match for the World Cup taking 4-32. She is one of three left-arm slow bowlers in this team and Pakistan are quite happy to bowl all three. It’s one of their secret weapons.

Best XI

Muneeba Ali, Sidra Ameen, Javeria Khan, Bismah Maroof, Nida Dar, Aliya Riaz, Fatima Sana, Sidra Nawaz (wk), Anam Amin, Nashra Sandhu, Diana Baig

Semi Finals?

Can this Pakistan team do something they’ve never done before, make it to the semi-finals of the World Cup? Many would say it’s a stretch and that there are six other teams with better claims. Much would need to go the way of Pakistan but they certainly have the talent to upset a few of those six stronger teams. This team can do it. They just have to believe.

Photo: courtesy PCB

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