An in-depth look at the 16-man Pakistan squad for the Asia Cup
Less than four days remain for the Asia Cup to get underway in the UAE and the six participating teams are all set to battle it out for the crown of the continent’s best.
With the tournament opener fast approaching, we take a closer look at the Pakistan squad who are among the favourites for the crown.
The men in green have been placed in Group A of the tournament along with arch-rivals India and qualifier Hong Kong.
COACH – MICKEY ARTHUR
The South African has a reputation of being a hard taskmaster and he has very much lived up to his billing ever since taking the reins of the Pakistan team in 2016. Within a span of two years, Arthur has completely transformed the side, especially in limited-overs cricket. His tenure has seen them rise to the top of the T20 rankings along with capturing the ICC Champions Trophy in England last year.
CAPTAIN – SARFRAZ AHMED
The wicketkeeper-batsman has grown into the role ever since being handed the T20 captaincy in 2016. Turning Pakistan into T20 world beaters, Sarfraz and Arthur have completely changed the approach of the team with their insistence on youth. The same upturn has followed in the ODI setup too after Sarfraz was appointed skipper in the format last year. He showed his captaincy credentials by leading Pakistan to a fairytale win in the Champions Trophy in what was his first major series as ODI skipper.
STAR MAN – FAKHAR ZAMAN
There is probably no bigger in-form batsman in limited-overs cricket at the moment than Pakistan’s Fakhar Zaman. A late bloomer, the left-handed opener has gone from strength to strength ever since his rollicking displays in the Champions Trophy last year. In the team’s recent ODI series in Zimbabwe, Fakhar finished as the highest run-scorer by a considerable margin while becoming the quickest batsman to the 1000-run mark in ODIs. In the process, he also became the first Pakistan batsman to register a double ton in the 50-over format and he is primed to have another strong showing in the UAE.
ONE TO WATCH – SHAHEEN SHAH AFRIDI
The 18-year-old pacer has already been hailed as the next big thing in Pakistan cricket and is the latest product to emerge from the country’s famed pace-bowling conveyor belt. After an excellent showing in Pakistan’s run to the semi-final of the ICC U19 World Cup in New Zealand earlier this year, Afridi has followed it up with a strong showing in the Pakistan Super League (PSL). That has seen him capped three times already at the T20I level and he showed he is ready for the international stage with a three-wicket against Australia recently.
STRENGTHS – BOWLING
Although there is quality in every department for Pakistan, none of them are as strong as their bowling. With Mohammad Amir and Hasan Ali leading the pace attack and Shadab Khan providing the threat with his leg-spin, the bowling attack has all bases covered. It has been the major reason for Pakistan’s rise to the top of the T20 standings and the strength in depths available to Sarfraz and Pakistan are unrivalled by any other team in the competition.
It is in the batting department that Pakistan will feel they are at the weakest. Although the likes of Fakhar, Babar Azam and Shoaib Malik give the batting a strong look on paper and they were on fire in the series against Zimbabwe, they are yet to be tested thoroughly against a strong opposition in a high-stake clash in recent times.
It is hard to look beyond Pakistan and India as favourites for the Asia Cup title given their ODI form. Sarfraz and his men should have no trouble in advancing to the Super Four and even the final. In the case of a potential final between the two arch-rivals, it is hard to pick a winner yet given how past form and records go out of the window when the two teams meet.
Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Shan Masood, Sarfraz Ahmed(c & wk), Shoaib Malik, Haris Sohail, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Junaid Khan, Usman Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Asif Ali, Mohammad Amir
GROUP STAGE MATCH 1
September 16: Pakistan v Hong Kong
Venue: Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai.
Time: 14:00 GST
GROUP STAGE MATCH 2
September 19: India v Pakistan
Venue: Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai
Time: 14:00 GST