The 2019 World Cup is done and dusted. And as is the case with all teams, preparations start for the next tournament irrespective of how this year unfolded.
For teams that did well, it’s about continuing the good work while phasing out those who will be past their prime in four years. For those who struggled, a complete overhaul may be on the table.
Pakistan fall somewhere in between. They didn’t qualify for the semi-finals but their campaign can’t be termed a failure. They defeated both finalists England and New Zealand in the group stage and only missed out on the semis due to one crushing defeat to West Indies at the start of the tournament that ruined their net run rate.
Having said that, issues remain and Pakistan will look to blood in some fresh talent, especially since veterans like Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik and Wahab Riaz won’t be part of the mix during the 2023 World Cup in India.
Here we take a look at the players who could feature in the 2023 edition for Pakistan.
Pakistan are still searching for a solid all-condition opening combination but left-hander Fakhar should be more than capable of going big on subcontinent pitches. His weakness in English conditions suddenly become Fakhar’s strength and his ability to dominate on flatter wickets can be a real plus for Pakistan.
Every time Imam has been thrown into the deep end, the left-handed batsman has found a way to score runs – in any format and against any opposition.
His technique is good enough to handle most challenging conditions and should therefore be eager to make the most of opening the batting on the benign surfaces of South Asia.
Got a chance against Australia in the UAE before the World Cup and even scored a century, albeit in a losing cause. Has a double century in one-day cricket, which means he has the game to go big at the top of the order. However, like Imam he lacks the power game and hence might not get too long a rope should he fail to cement his place.
The finest player in the Pakistan line-up and the best young batsman in the game. There is no record that seems to be beyond the 24-year-old’s reach and at the 2023 World Cup, Babar could well emerge as the most prolific batsman.
Babar is equally comfortable against pace and spin and will be at home in the subcontinent sun. Expect some big runs from him, hopefully with the added responsibility of being the vice-captain.
The left-handed batsman was a revelation at the 2019 World Cup, coming in late and delivering from the word go under the pressure of qualification. His blazing 89 against the Proteas and 68 – while chasing – against New Zealand remain two of the finest innings in the tournament.
His left-arm spin is a huge bonus and the 30-year-old should form the bedrock of Pakistan’s batting.
Mohammad Rizwan (wk)
The next wicketkeeper after Sarfraz Ahmed. Rizwan was tried out during the ODI series loss to Australia in the UAE in the lead up to the World Cup, smashing two centuries in four innings and giving a good account of himself.
Rizwan already has 32 ODIs and 13 T20s under his belt, along with a solitary Test. With Sarfraz’s support base not as a large as it was in 2017, Rizwan will most likely get a longer look-in in one or two formats with an eye on the 2023 tournament.
Sarfraz Ahmed (wk)
If nothing else works in the next three years for Pakistan, Sarfraz remains the best option. You get a safe pair of gloves, reliable batting and tonnes of experience, which is critical in a high-pressure tournament like the World Cup. However, if Rizwan begins to perform then Sarfraz might see himself sidelined from limited overs cricket.
Imad Wasim (captain)
The left-arm spinning all-rounder was added to the 2019 World Cup squad despite not passing the fitness test, given the value he adds to the team. And by winning a lost match against Afghanistan with the bat in the last five overs, Imad proved he has the mental fortitude to deliver when the chips are down.
His left-arm spin and lower order-hitting will be like gold dust in India. Also, ideal candidate for captain. Let’s not forget, he was Pakistan’s captain in the 2008 U19 World Cup where Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson were his counterparts. Plus, he leads Karachi Kings in the PSL, so he knows what he is doing.
Faheem Ashraf seems to have lost the faith of the team management. His place in the squad could go to right-arm seamer and left-hand batsman Talat, who is a lot more attacking. The 23-year-old can be made into a quality seam bowling option who has the power game ideal for the lower middle order.
The leg-spinner disappointed in England this time, with fitness issues most likely the reason behind his below par effort. He is a quality wrist spinner and a more than capable batsman. At 20, he has years of top quality cricket ahead of him. If Shadab can focus on returning to top fitness levels, he will be a force to be reckoned with in the subcontinent.
A World Cup in the subcontinent means spinners will be crucial. Left-arm spinner Umer Khan impressed in the PSL this year for Karachi Kings, picking up 15 scalps in 11 games. However, he is a pure bowler and team management will need the 19-year-old to provide a bit more if he is to be a part of the World Cup.
A quality left-arm spinner who also knows how to handle the bat. Gohar has already made his ODI debut, so the management knows about him. Has a superb first-class record – more than 100 wickets in 28 games – and switches between formats comfortably. Worth investing.
The left-arm quick only played five games in the 2019 World Cup and showed how big a mistake the team had made in not having him feature in all matches. A total of 16 wickets, including a five-for at Lord’s, was easily the best effort by a Pakistan quick. Should be even better in four years.
Unfortunate to miss out on World Cup selection despite being Pakistan’s most consistent quick over the last two years, Shinwari should be a straight swap for the ageing Wahab Riaz. The left-arm quick has pace and attitude, which is something Pakistan are missing.
Where is Pakistan’s next 150kph quick? Here he is. Rauf is a genuine quick who swings the ball a mile and bowls a mean yorker. His ability to bowl well with the old ball is something the team will look forward to having. The right-arm fast bowler will hopefully get enough opportunities at the highest level.
Was supposed to be the surprise package of the World Cup after grabbing the headlines for Quetta Gladiators in the PSL. Hasnain didn’t get a chance as he was not deemed ready for the highest level. But rest assured, he will be the leader of the pack soon. What’s more, bowls in the 150kph bracket.
The left-arm seamer has been blowing hot and cold for more than year now. Went wicketless for the best part of 2018/19 before shining at the start of the World Cup. Then the wickets started to dry up towards the end of the tournament. Amir has the class and experience but whether he will retain his edge in four years remains to be seen.
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