Pakistan: Can the mavericks steal the show again?
Since their success in the 2009 edition of the tournament in England, the Men in Green are still searching for the perfect concoction to bring the trophy back home again. With a fearsome bowling attack, some of the best T20 batters in the world and familiarity with the conditions in the United Arab Emirates, the team are expected to pose a serious challenge for the title again.
Ahead of their blockbuster opening fixture against India, we take a deep look into their squad for the tournament.
A format in which they have been at their mercurial best, Pakistan have always been at home in T20 cricket, winning their first ever match in the format in 2006 against England.
They went on to showcase what a tour-de-force they were in the format in the following four T20 World Cups, reaching at least the semi-finals in all four editions. They made the final in 2007, only to go down to rivals India, but enjoyed their crowning moment two years later at the next edition.
Despite having all the tools in the shed, the success of Younis Khan's men from 12 years ago is yet to be replicated.
The road to the ICC Men's 2021 T20 World Cup has not been smooth, with head coach Misbah-ul-Haq and his trusted deputy Waqar Younis stepping down a mere few hours after the squad for the tournament was announced. But Pakistan have often found a way to thrive through turbulence, and for the whole, they have enjoyed a strong 2021 in the format wth nine wins to just five losses. That includes series wins over South Africa (twice), Zimbabwe and the West Indies, and a 2-1 loss to England in England.
With devastating pacers, clever spinners and skilful batters in their squad, Pakistan have as good a chance as any side to make it to the latter stages of the tournament. They have also spruced up their coaching staff with the additions of legendary Australian opener Matthew Hayden and iconic South African pacer Vernon Philander to the support staff. The pair with a proven international pedigree in their resume will hope to make a positive impact on the side during their brief stay with the team during the tournament.
There's also the small matter of the opening pair of Mohammad Rizwan and Azam who average 48.40 and 46.89 in T20I cricket. To put that in perspective, in the history of the format only Virat Kohli averages more among players with a minimum of 20 innings. That is a bedrock on which anything can be built.
Squad: Babar Azam (captain), Shadab Khan (vice-captain), Asif Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Wasim Jnr, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shoaib Malik.
Travelling Reserves: Khushdil Shah, Shahnawaz Dahani, Usman Qadir.
24 Oct – v India
26 Oct – v New Zealand
29 Oct – v Afghanistan
2 Nov – v Namibia
7 Nov – v Scotland
Best finish: Champions — 2009
After the heartbreak of the 2007 final loss against arch-rivals India, Pakistan bounced back brilliantly by winning the 2009 edition in England. The following two campaigns in 2010 and 2012 were also relatively successful for them, reaching the semi-finals. For the past two editions, they've endured disappointment, failing to reach the final four. With conditions in the UAE and Oman suiting their brand of cricket, they will be keen to return to the pointy end of the tournament.
Look out for
Tasked with leading the bowling attack, Hasan Ali's wealth of experience in the format along with his clever change of pace will be perfect in the conditions of the UAE. He can also be a handy contributor with the bat lower down the order, with his dangerous hitting prowess.
Having played 41 T20I matches, Ali has already picked up 52 wickets at an impressive average of 21.73. Despite not being at his best in the recently concluded T20I series against West Indies and England, the pacer will have a big role to play in the balance of the Pakistan bowling attack, both as an attacking and a defensive option.
The star player of the side as well as their leader, Babar Azam will be tasked with the responsibility of leading the charge with the bat alongside experienced campaigners Mohammad Hafeez and Mohammad Rizwan. He will also have to be on his A-game in terms of tactics on the field while manoeuvring his bowlers.
Currently ranked No.2 in the world in the ICC MRF Tyres T20I player rankings for batters, Babar boasts of a highly impressive record in the shortest format of the game. He has scored 2204 runs in 61 games at an average of 46.89 and striking at 130.64. He has 20 half-centuries and 1 century to his name.
He looked in impressive touch in the series against England and West Indies, with two substantial knocks of 85 and 51 against his name. If Babar strikes his best form during the tournament, the whole nation of Pakistan will breathe a sigh of relief.
India - Don't look further than the clash between the two arch-rivals, who share such a rich history between them. Pakistan are yet to win a match in the T20 World Cup against their neighbours. Overall, Pakistan have won only a single T20I encounter against India, all the way back in December 2012 in Bengaluru. They will have a big opportunity ahead to right the wrongs of the past when the two sides take to the field on October 24 in Dubai. A win against one of the tournament favourites and their biggest rivals would set up the Men in Green perfectly for the challenges ahead.