Pakistan kick off their road to the 2023 World Cup today with the second ODI against Sri Lanka on Monday. The first one day international was washed out due to heavy rain and a wet outfield.
It will also mean a return of one day international cricket to the National Stadium in Karachi. The last one day international in Karachi was played a decade ago incidentally between the same two sides. That was the last series before cricket in Pakistan came to a break for six years. Pakistan are hot favourites to win the series having announced a full strength squad. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, are handicapped with ten frontline players refusing to your Pakistan citing security issues. But it’s a great opportunity for Sri Lanka to get a look at some of the young players. It will help them to develop a team with the 2023 World Cup in mind. Sri Lanka have nothing to lose from this series. They are massive underdogs and will look to take away at least something from this series.
Pakistan will be looking to show their dominance against a depleted Sri Lankan side. Fakhar Zaman will be in the spotlight having had a below average World Cup. He is the only player in the top order having the ability to win games on his own. So his form is critical to Pakistan’s progression in one day international cricket. The other man in the spotlight will be skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed. He has already announced that he will be batting at number 5 in the series. He will have to make decent contributions with the bat to gain back lost ground. Him scoring runs means Pakistan winning games. And ultimately it will have a positive impact on his captaincy.
Pakistan’s form guide in recent times has been a seesaw one. They are coming to this series on the back of four consecutive wins at the back end of the World Cup. But before that they had a washed out game and two losses against Australia and India. And then the series losses against South Africa, Australia and England are other events that have hurt Pakistan’s ODI side. But what these losses don’t show is the amount of times Pakistan got into winning positions and squandered the opportunities. Pakistan could have easily beaten South Africa 4-1 in the ODI series back in January. But luck didn’t favour Pakistan. Then Pakistan could have easily won the last two games against Australia but somehow lost those as well. The series against England shows a result of 4-0. But it does not show how well Pakistan fought in the series. In all the games Pakistan got themselves into winning positions but just like the South African series, they squandered the opportunities. So this is an important series for Pakistan to regain lost form.
Pakistan will have to look at two things considering the World Cup is to be played in India. The first thing is the lack of at least one more quality spinner in the one day lineup. Shadab Khan alone won’t be enough keeping Indian conditions in mind. Pakistan will have to prepare a couple of spinners to support Shadab Khan. Ibtesam Sheikh and Umer Khan are the two options. Both are young and both feature in the Pakistan super league. All they need is exposure at the international level for Pakistan and they will be ready in fours years time. The second thing or worry for Pakistan is who bats at number 6 in one day international cricket. Asif Ali and Iftikhar Ahmed are the two contenders for the slot. Asif Ali has already played decent amount of games for Pakistan at number 6. However, the chances given to him have been inconsistent. So have been hisinconsistent performances. Hence, the pressure on him has mounted. Iftikhar Ahmed, a seasoned performer in domestic cricket, is knocking on the door. With an average of over 50 and a strike rate exceeding 90 in list A cricket, Pakistan are looking at him as a potential finisher at number 6. Iftikhar’s bowling abilities also give him an edge. He is a more than decent sixth bowling option. And is also a specialist slip fielder. So at the moment, Iftikhar Ahmed is looking like the likely pick at number 6 for Pakistan.
The pace bowling department is the strongest suite for Pakistan in one day international cricket. There will be a lot of competition there once Shaheen Afridi and Hasan Ali get fit. Babar Azam and Haris Sohail will control the middle order. Sarfaraz Ahmed at number 5 will be pivotal to Pakistan’s chances in one day international cricket. Pakistan just need to consistently pick wickets in the middle overs. That will happen either with reverse swing or by having quality spinners operating in the middle overs. And spin will play a major part in India with the dry wickets there.
Pakistan have a very able one day international side. They just need to fine tune a few things and they will start winning consistently.