Pakistan are set to announce their squad for the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019 on Thursday, 18 April. However, following their 5-0 whitewash against Australia, there are questions that need answering. Have your say.
1. The Australia series was a chance for Pakistan to test their bench strength. Fakhar Zaman, one of the regular openers, was rested, while Imam-ul-Haq played just three of the five matches. Shan Masood and Abid Ali were tried out in their stead – both made their ODI debuts – and they were decent. Masood scored a half-century in the final ODI, although he aggregated just 111 in four ODIs. Abid, meanwhile, scored a brilliant 112 in one of his two outings. However, according to reports, Abid failed the yo-yo fitness test, potentially putting his place in the World Cup squad in jeopardy. Will Pakistan include him on form alone?
2. When Pakistan announced their 23-strong World Cup probables, there were notable omissions, the experienced Wahab Riaz being one of them. Wahab hasn't played an ODI since 2017, but his form in ICC tournaments cannot be ignored. In the 2015 ICC Men's Cricket World Cup, his searing spell against Shane Watson in the quarter-finals is still spoken of in awe. More recently, he finished as the third-highest wicket-taker in the Pakistan Super League, with 17 wickets in 13 matches. That said, Wahab's form in England must be taken into account – it is less than impressive. He averages a whopping 99.5 in the eight ODIs he has played there, with just four wickets to show for it.
3. Among the pacemen, Hasan Ali, one of their more experienced paceman, and Shaheen Shah Afridi, the vibrant youngster, are automatic picks. Mohammad Hasnain, endorsed by both coach Mickey Arthur and the legendary Wasim Akram, also is seemingly set for a call-up. The question is, who will be picked between Junaid Khan and Mohammad Amir? Junaid's primary problem is his fitness. Constant injuries have been a hindrance, but when he does play, he is imposing and a menace. What will also work in Junaid's favour is the fact that he has played for Lancashire in county cricket, and his experience of English conditions could be vital.
Then there is Amir. Since the ICC Champions Trophy 2017, Amir has struggled – he went wicketless in nine of the 14 ODIs he has played since then. Fitness is also a worry. Amir's potential and quality are well known, though, and for the selectors, it will be a battle between form and pedigree.
4. One of the Pakistan's biggest problems, which became evident after their mauling by Australia, was their lack of power-hitters. Pakistan struggled to breach the 300-run mark, even as Australia constantly powered on in the death. While Pakistan's openers laid solid foundations, there was no one to make it count. Their only hope, for now, is Asif Ali, who didn't play the Australia series. Should he fail the fitness test or get injured during the tournament, Pakistan could struggle.
5. Pakistan won the Champions Trophy two years back on the back of all-round, spirited performances. They saw off home favourites England in the semi-finals, and then toppled arch-rivals India by a mammoth 180 runs in the final, the largest margin of victory by runs in the final of an ICC ODI event. Just how much will that performance boost them as they return to England for the World Cup?
World Cup probables: Sarfaraz Ahmed (c), Abid Ali, Asif Ali, Babar Azam, Faheem Ashraf, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim, Imam-ul-Haq, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood, Shoaib Malik, Usman Shinwari, Yasir Shah
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