According to reports, the team management of the Pakistan cricket team has decided on the playing XI which will take the field in the first ODI on Friday.
The team management, which include head coach and chief selector Misbah-Ul-Haq and captain Sarfaraz Ahmed, have finalized the lineup. Fakhar Zaman and Imam-Ul-Haq are expected to open the innings. Babar Azam will resume normal service at number 3. Haris Sohail will bat at number 4. Skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed will bat at number 5. One of either Asif Ali or Iftikhar Ahmed will take up the number 6 position. If Pakistan want an extra bowling option, then Iftikhar Ahmed could be preferred. On the other hand, if Pakistan want to give Asif Ali a decent opportunity, then he will take up the finisher’s position.
Imad Wasim will bat at 7. So that doesn’t change although his fitness will be in the spotlight. Shadab Khan will bat at number 8. The three pace bowlers reportedly finalized are Muhammad Amir, Wahab Riaz and Usman Shinwari. It seems to be a decent XI covering all basis. The tough call for Sarfaraz Ahmed and Misbah will be whom to chose between Iftikhar Ahmed and Asif Ali. They could face criticism either way. There will be immense pressure on Asif Ali because Iftikhar, as mentioned by Misbah in his presser a couple of days ago, is a three dimensional cricketer. He gives Pakistan the extra bowling option and is also a specialist slip fielder. A position where Pakistan have struggled to find good catchers. The reserve players will get opportunities somewhere in the series. Abid Ali could play in at least on of the games. The same goes for Muhammad Husnain and Muhammad Nawaz. Muhammad Nawaz will have to play out of his skin to prove his selection right. So far his returns in Pakistan colours have been poor to say the least.
With Muhammad Amir and Wahab Riaz present in the pace bowling department, there is a lot of experience and skill to work with. Usman Khan Shinwari will have less pressure on him and will also get to learn a lot of things from the pace duo. Pakistan won’t play a lot of one day international cricket over the next year or so, so it’s important that focus is not shifted from one day cricket. Preparations for the next World Cup have to start from this series. The Indian conditions should be kept in mind before making selection calls specifically in the bowling department.
One or two new spinners could have been given an opportunity in this series just to see their temperaments at the highest level. Guys like Umer Khan and Ibtesam Sheikh, although raw, give Pakistan very good options to work with. They are energetic and skilful. Besides, age is on their side. They could be groomed into very fine spinners. Both give different options to the skipper. Ibtesam is a wrist spinner with a very good googly and has the ability to turn the ball. Umer Khan on the other hand is a very fine finger spinner. He has a good arm ball and relies on variation in pace to bamboozle batsmen. Both should be part of Pakistan’s World Cup 2023 plans. They could bebe.of great support to Shadab Khan, who it must be said, is carrying the brunt of Pakistan’s spin bowling department.