Can out-of-form Pakistan find a way to win the T20 World Cup?

The 2009 champions must overlook their chaotic lead-up to the World Cup and find form to have a shot at the semifinals.

babar azam
Babar Azam returned to lead Pakistan four months after stepping down from the role [Glyn Kirk/AFP]

Captain: Babar Azam
Fixtures: USA (June 6), India (June 9), Canada (June 11), Ireland (June 16)
Best finish at T20 World Cup: Champions (2009)

Pakistan enter the ICC T20 World Cup 2024 on the back of a tumultuous period on and off the field, and their former leading pace bowler Umar Gul believes the chaotic preparations will hamper the team’s performance at the tournament.

Pakistan, the losing finalists of the T20 World Cup in 2022 had a dismal run at the 50-over World Cup in India in November as they failed to qualify for the semifinals and their captain Babar Azam stepped down from his role.

Off the field, the country’s cricket board has been run by four different chairpersons in the same period, the coaching staff has undergone several changes and the current chairperson has handed the captaincy back to Babar.

To make matters worse, in the 18-month period between the two T20 World Cups, Pakistan have won only nine of their 25 T20 international matches. Their only T20 series win came against Ireland, who are placed five places below them on the ICC T20 team rankings.

All of these issues have compounded to give Pakistan far-from-ideal preparation for the biggest T20 World Cup yet.

“You cannot prepare long-term plans when there are so many changes,” Gul told Al Jazeera.

The former fast bowler was the leading wicket-taker when Pakistan won their only T20 World Cup in 2009.

“Continuity at all levels, including the captaincy, is important as [frequent] changes disrupt the team’s unity and players’ confidence,” Gul said.

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[Al Jazeera]

Pakistan’s two problems: Lack of role clarity, middle-over rut

Pakistan have played plenty of T20 cricket, including their home T20 franchise league, since the 50-over World Cup but have failed to find form and uniformity in their team selection.

The national team’s selectors brought back fast bowler Mohammad Amir and all-rounder Imad Wasim after convincing them to come out of their retirements for the T20 World Cup. In order to bolster the batting, the selectors also fast-tracked power-hitting batter Usman Khan, who had given up cricket in Pakistan and was on qualification pathway to play for the United Arab Emirates.

However, on-field success continues to elude them as they were blown away by England when they toured the defending champions for T20 series.

Gul, who played four T20 World Cups for Pakistan and is among the tournament’s all-time leading wicket-takers, believes Pakistan’s failures are down to rushed decisions and lack of clarity

“The players must have been unsure about their spot and their role in the side because the squad was announced a week ahead of the tournament,” Gul said.

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[Al Jazeera]

Amid all the chaos, Pakistan open their tournament campaign against co-hosts USA in Dallas on Thursday.

Their new coach Gary Kirsten, who linked up with the side before the tournament, will not have much time to sprinkle his World Cup winning magic but Pakistan fans would like to think otherwise and hope he helps the side pick up their scoring rate in the shortest format of the game.

Gul blames Pakistan’s lack of success on their poor batting and bowling during the middle overs.

“Pakistan’s run rate hovers around 7.5 but when we have done better in the middle overs, the team has posted 200-plus scores.

“When Pakistan bowl, Shaheen Shah Afridi bags wickets at the top of the order, but they are unable to get wickets in the middle overs.”

Gul is hopeful that Pakistan can go off on one of their logic-defying runs and make it to the semifinals – as they often do.

Gul’s three Pakistan players to watch

Saim Ayub: “Considering his high strike rate and great potential, Saim can be the X-factor for Pakistan.”

Fakhar Zaman: “When Fakhar gets going, he can win matches single-handedly.”

Shaheen Shah Afridi: “For his unrivalled ability to get crucial wickets from the onset.”

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[Al Jazeera]
Source: Al Jazeera