Mercurial Pakistan May Turn Dark Horses for 2017 Champions Trophy
When you think about nearly men at ICC events, the perennial dark horses New Zealand come to mind. But ever since the retirement of Brendon McCullum, it hasn’t looked the same for New Zealand, losing its attacking brand of play which was ever so evident in the rise of New Zealand cricket under BMac. The middle order has failed to cement itself with none of the players turning in consistent performances with players like Ross Taylor, Corey Anderson, Jimmy Neesham and Colin Munro not being able to play to their potential. With them being placed in a group with hosts and tournament favourites, England and another strong team, Australia it is hard to see them qualifying for the semi-finals of the tournament.
Article continues below this ad
With attention shifting from group A to group B, one cannot ignore the mercurial presence of Pakistan in a group with a weakened Sri Lankan team stuck in a transition phase, an Indian team who are coming on the back of a long home season followed by the gruelling schedule of IPL and South Africa who come along with a tag of being chokers in such tournaments no matter how strong their team may be. Pakistan are, by no means, devoid of weaknesses, they always come in to the tournament with probably the best bowling attack only to be let down by their fielding and batting performances.
It looks like the same story this time around but ever since the appointment of the street-smart batsman/wicketkeeper Sarfaraz Ahmed as the captain, the team looks much more tactically equipped on field and display an attacking style of play. Under his captaincy, Pakistan have won 7 T20Is of 8 played and have won 3 of 4 ODIs they’ve played. The top order is filled with attacking and anchoring batsmen with the likes of Ahmed Shehzad, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam and Mohammad Hafeez being in the squad. Shoaib Malik and Sarfaraz Ahmed make up for a good finishing pair for the team.
Pakistan enjoy a much better record against India in Champions Trophy than they do in the World Cups and will look to maintain it in their opening game against the same opposition on June 4. A good start will mean a lot for every team in the short group stage with just three matches to be played.