Former champions Pakistan are counting on fit-again pace spearhead Shaheen Shah Afridi to return to their devastating best in the T20 World Cup in Australia.
The 22-year-old was given the green light to make the squad on Tuesday after recovering from a right knee injury sustained in the first Test against Sri Lanka in July.
He missed the Asia Cup, the T20 series against England, and this week’s tri-series in New Zealand.
The tall left-arm fast bowler has completed an intensive rehabilitation period in London and will fly to Australia, where he will look to regain his rhythm in two warm-up matches in Brisbane next week, the first against England on Monday.
Pakistan will have their final warm-up against Afghanistan next Wednesday to prepare for their blockbuster opener against India on October 23 at the Caverns Melbourne Cricket Ground, which is expected to be attended by 90,000 spectators.
Shaheen destroyed India’s top order at last year’s T20 World Cup in Dubai, dismissing Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, and Virat Kohli, returning figures of 3-31 as Pakistan took 10 wickets. won from
Pakistan’s first World Cup win against India set up the team’s march to the semi-finals, where they lost to eventual champions Australia.
“He has recovered and we are confident that he will be at his best in the India match,” captain Babar Azam told AFP.
We have a very good fast-bowling attack led by Shaheen.
Top-order batsman Fakhar Zaman, who scored an unbeaten 55 against Australia in last year’s semi-final, is also on the road to recovery from a knee injury.
“Zaman, who is one of three traveling reserves for the T20 World Cup, will accompany Shaheen to Brisbane and complete his rehabilitation,” the country’s cricket board said on Tuesday.
Fragile middle order
Since last year’s World Cup, Pakistan has swept the T20I series 3-0 against Bangladesh and the West Indies, losing again to Australia in the only T20I in Lahore and the one-off T20I in the UAE. Reached the final of the Asia Cup where they lost to Sri Lanka.
England beat them 4-3 in the home series. Pakistan won their first two matches in the ongoing tri-series against Bangladesh and New Zealand before losing to the Black Caps in the third match on Tuesday.
“Our team has done well, so I am optimistic about our chances in the World Cup,” said Azam, whose team is in Group 2 with India, Bangladesh, South Africa, and two qualifiers. It is the top two teams that reach the finals.
Pakistan has a powerful and diverse bowling attack, with the rapidly improving Haris Rauf, Naseem Shah, and Mohammad Hasnain alongside the Shaheens.
Leg-spinner Shadab Khan leads the spin quartet along with left-arm Mohammad Nawaz, off-spinner Iftikhar Ahmed, and leg-spinner Usman Qadir.
Pakistan’s middle-order batting has been their Achilles’ heel despite Azam and Mohammad Rizwan in the top order.
The pair set the world record for the most cases without losing a wicket when they scored 203 runs to beat England in Karachi last month, with Azam making an unbeaten 110 and Rizwan 88 not out, the T20I record. It is his second double-century opening stand.
But if this pair falls early, the team’s batting weakness could be exposed.
“Besides the positives, we had some concerns and I think our middle order needs to step up,” admitted Azam, who gave Iftikhar, Shan Masood, Khushdil Shah, Hyder Ali, and Asif Ali all opportunities. But failed to create consistency. Effects of.
“We have tested our bench strength by fielding different batting and bowling combinations. We are also working on our fielding.”