Pakistan will hope to draw from their memories of the 2017 Champions Trophy triumph in England when they take on a formidable West Indies unit in their 2019 World Cup campaign opener at Trent Bridge on Friday.
Sarfraz Ahmed and his men have not been in the best of form in the ODI format for some time now but will but they will hope that the magnitude of the World Cup will inspire them to raise their game against the Caribbean side.
PAKISTAN’S POOR ODI FORM
“We will seek inspiration from our Champions Trophy win because then also we were losing and then we lifted ourselves at the right time to win the trophy,” the Pakistan skipper told the media ahead of Friday’s clash.
The Men in Green come into Friday’s clash on the back of a 10-game losing run in the one-day format which included a recent 0-4 whitewash at the hands of hosts England. That is not even counting their defeat to Afghanistan in the unofficial warm-up clash which further exposed their ODI woes.
Quite simply, Pakistan have not been the same force in the 50-over format as they have been in T20Is where they are the No1 ranked outfit for some time now.
It is this poor form that Sarfraz’s men will need to shake off if they are to make a run at this World Cup.
MEN IN GREEN BANK ON AMIR AND WAHAB’S EXPERIENCE
One of the major talking points ahead of Pakistan’s campaign opener is the lack of potency in their pace battery at the moment. For a nation famed for its fast-bowling richness, Pakistan’s current pace unit does not inspire much confidence.
Pakistan will hope that experienced left-armed pacers Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz can turn back the clock following their late additions to the 15-man World Cup squad.
Amir has been out of form since the 2017 Champions Trophy triumph with just five wickets to show for in his last 15 ODI appearances. Wahab, on the other hand, was not even included in the 23-man World Cup squad but Pakistan’s fast-bowling troubles in the England series has prompted the selectors to hand the pacer a shock recall.
Pakistan do have Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi and Mohammad Hasnain in their pace ranks. but it is Amir and Wahab who will need to lead from the front with their experience of playing in major ICC tournaments previously.
POWER-PACKED WEST INDIES IN OMINOUS FORM
They might no longer be the force they once were in international cricket but the current Windies ODI outfit is starting to come together nicely for the World Cup.
With Chris Gayle and Andre Russell in menacing form at the moment, the Windies are capable of tearing any bowling attack at will as New Zealand learned the hard way in the recent warm-up clash.
The Caribbean side scored a mammoth 421 against a formidable Kiwi unit which had bowled out India for just 179 a few days before. Its not only Gayle and Russell who are intimidating opposition bowlers, with young Shai Hope looking in pristine touch as well over the past one year.
It is this brutal firepower that Windies will look to maximise in the tournament as they seek to bring back the glory days.
It is no wonder then that Hope believes that Windies could be the first side to break the 500-run barrier.
Pakistan: Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali, Sarfraz Ahmed (c and wk), Shadab Khan, Wahab Riaz, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Amir.
West Indies: Chris Gayle, Evin Lewis, Shai Hope (wk), Dwayne Bravo, Shimron Hetmyer, Nicholas Pooran, Andre Russell, Jason Holder (c), Oshane Thomas, Sheldon Cottrell, Shannon Gabriel.
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With the Cricket World Cup finally here, we at Sport360 took out our crystal balls and made some prediction regarding which players and team will come out on top at the end of the six-week long tournament.
Here is what our writers came up with when attempting to predict the top run-scorer, top wicket-taker and the World Cup champions.
Top run-scorer: David Warner
If the floor for Warner at the IPL was a half-century, just imagine what he can do across 50 overs at the World Cup. He’s also the kind of character who will thrive on any jeering from the English.
Top wicket-taker: Trent Boult
There are very few genuine swing bowlers at the World Cup – especially with a Kookaburra – and if the New Zealand left-armer gets it going, just as he did in the warm-up against India, he’ll rack up the scalps.
They can bat from 1 to 11. They’ve just added one of the best bowlers in the world, Jofra Archer, to their armoury. Clean bill of health. At home. What could go wrong? Plenty has in the past at World Cups, but they’ll never have a more open goal than this.
Top run scorer: Steve Smith
Not only is Smith peaking just at the right time, the Aussie has a point to prove. The hungriest batsman at the World Cup – alongwith David Warner – after being forced away from the game for a year, Smith should set the tournament ablaze.
Top wicket taker: Kagiso Rabada
Among the group of quality fast bowlers assembled in England, Rabada is a cut above. Pace, swing , Yorkers… you name it he has it. Plus enters the tournament in red hot form with the ball. Batsmen beware.
Virat Kohli’s team has a lot going for it – quality batsman in decent form, world class bowling attack and the greatest cricketing brain in the world – MS Dhoni. If the pitches don’t spring a surprise, they have it in them to go all the way.
Top run-scorer: Virat Kohli
His World Cup record has been underwhelming and is something he’ll be determined to put right. His ODI form over the past couple of years has been sensational. Expect him to assume responsibility in a batting order that can struggle at times.
Top wicket-taker: Kagiso Rabada
He’s one of the best bowlers around and this seems like the perfect platform for him to establish himself as much. The conditions should suit him and if he can fire on all cylinders, it gives South Africa a fighting chance.
This isn’t the best team the defending champions have had compete at a World Cup. But there’s a certain defiance about them that’s epitomised by the performances of Steve Smith and David Warner since their return to competitive cricket.
Top run-scorer: Virat Kohli
Having failed to really leave his mark in two previous World Cups, the India superstar will be determined to cement his greatest-ever status in the ODI game by taking the 2019 edition by the scruff of its neck.
Top wicket-taker: Rashid Khan
Once the batting paradises are rolled out in the main tournament, expect the Afghan leg-spin sensation to become the most potent threat. Many international batsmen will be facing him for the first time and could find hard to hope with his subtle variations.
Not many would have given it a serious thought a year ago but the five-time champions are peaking at just the right team with the returns of David Warner and Steve Smith. Have almost all bases covered with no major weakness.
Top run-scorer: Steve Smith
The hunger to perform following a one-year ban could propel Smith to the top of the charts. One could expect some fireworks at the top of the Australian batting line-up with David Warner and Smith out to prove a point.
Top wicket-taker: Kagiso Rabada
Fierce speed, intimidating bouncers and great momentum from a spectacular IPL, Rabada has the potential to gun down top batting line-ups as he looks to help South Africa to a maiden title.
This is probably England’s best shot at a World Cup. The last two editions were won by countries that co-hosted the tournament and hosts England have a genuine chance with their deep batting line-up and fierce bowling attack.
Huge totals are set to be the order of the day in the World Cup which gets underway on Thursday with a clash between hosts England and South Africa.
Hasan, who is set to form a crucial part of Pakistan’s pace attack, is prepared to bowl on flat pitches with little assistance.
“The way modern cricket is going, every bowler needs to know that taking wickets is the key,” the Pakistan man was quoted as saying by AFP.
“You take wickets and you win matches,” he added.
The 24-year-old finished as the highest wicket-taker with 13 scalps in England when Pakistan won the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy two years ago. However, his recent form has not been too encouraging with the pacer picking up just three wickets in Pakistan’s 4-0 ODI series loss to hosts England.
Hasan, though, is not worried about his lack of wickets in recent game.
“I know that I have not taken many wickets since the South Africa tour, but I am doing the hard work with bowling coach (Azhar Mahmood) and once I get my rhythm I am sure wickets will come my way,” he explained.
The Pakistan pacer also believes that the induction of senior bowlers Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz into the 15-man squad for the World Cup has bolstered the bowling attack big time.
“We know that our bowling, which has been our strength, is not doing well but with the return of two experienced bowlers in Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Amir our bowling is now at full strength,” he stated.
Pakistan are slated to open their World Cup campaign on Friday when they take on two-time champions West Indies at Trent Bridge.