High five for Pakistan

Pakistan under Sarfraz Ahmed are increasingly establishing themselves as a leading ODI side, writes K Shahid

High five for Pakistan
Pakistan’s 5-0 clean sweep of Sri Lanka in the recently concluded series was the sixth time that the national side whitewashed their opponent in a five-match ODI series. It is yet another feather in the cap of Sarfraz Ahmed, who has strongly rebounded from the Test struggles and is increasingly shaping up an ODI side that should now be considered among the elite in world cricket, after having bagged the Champions Trophy in England in June.

Even so, no matter how big the margin, there is always room for improvement. And for this current lot there are quite a few chunks that need to be ironed.

Starting off up top, Fakhar Zaman, the only Pakistani batsman who got a bat in each of the five ODIs, failed to make a single half-century. He did have a couple of 40s, but when one adds his tallies in the T20 Independence Cup, Zaman has consistently failed to impress since his Champions Trophy heroics.

Hasan Ali

Meanwhile, one wonders what Ahmed Shehzad needs to do to be permanently dropped from the ODI side. There could be a case for his presence in the T20 squad, however flimsy it might be, but he should be absolutely no way near the ODI side, with his criminal inability to rotate strike.

Imam-ul-Haq might’ve resoundingly replaced Shehzad with a debut ton – making him the first Pakistani to score a century in his first ODI – but a deeper look shows that he is still clearly a work in progress. He doesn’t quite look comfortable in his stroke-play and seems to be another addition to the increasing list of Pakistani batsmen who like to take their time on the crease.

As discussed regularly in this space, this is also something that hampers Babar Azam’s play despite his continued record-breaking run-spree.

With Mohammed Hafeez in trouble again over his bowling action, and despite all his experience might struggle to maintain a permanent slot in the side should he be banned from bowling, it is veteran Shoaib Malik that is the only batsman that can use the longer handle.


Even those that follow him, Sarfraz Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan – occupying positions where designated hitters should come in – struggle to clear the boundary on a regular basis.

Pakistan’s lower-order batting remains a major concern and they’ve continued to struggle to score big at the tail end of their innings. Even the Champions Trophy win was based on Pakistan’s bowling prowess, coupled with a top order surge from Fakhar Zaman.

Faheem Ashraf has the potential to be the all-rounder that Pakistan have been missing, especially in terms of being a big hitter, but he unfortunately hasn’t had any stints with the bat even in the games that he has played in.

If Pakistan can address their two glaring weaknesses in the batting – a consistent opening pair, and flamboyance in the lower order – they would become the team to beat anywhere.

As has been often discussed here, in recent times Pakistan have often fielded a starting 11 where at least six of the players could bowl the allotted 10 overs.

Pakistan’s strength in the spin department – with Shadab, Imad, Hafeez along with Shoaib Malik – coupled with the dominance of Hasan Ali and the emergence of Rumman Raees and Usman Khan Shinwari means that the team now has world-beating talent in both the pace and spin departments. And the most promising aspect about this is that most of them are youngsters that will only get better as they get more matches under their belt, and should be primed for a strong show in the 2019 World Cup.

With Pakistan currently in the middle of the T20 series against Sri Lanka and West Indies two play another T20 series in Pakistan next month, the team’s next ODI assignment would be in New Zealand in January – unless a South Africa tour materialises in December.

That would be the true test of where Pakistan stand against the very best in their own backyard. They won’t be able to rely on their bowling to win the entire series in New Zealand. The batting would have to come good against world class opposition in demanding conditions.