The T20 Cricket World Cup is just five weeks away, and with the squad submission deadline approaching soon, Pakistan’s selector and team management are grappling with a number of challenges relating to injuries and the team’s overall approach in this format. Some of these challenges have been magnified further during the recently concluded Asia Cup tournament where the team lost twice to Sri Lanka (including the final), won one and lost one to India, and nearly stumbled against Afghanistan.

Let’s start with the approach first as that has dominated the discussion following the defeat in the final. While there is no denying that both Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan form the backbone of this team and have scored the bulk of the runs for the team, there are questions surrounding the merits of having the two opening together given their playing style and strike rates. There seems to be a consensus on the fact that the team needs an anchor player to hold the fort while others can accelerate the scoring. But the issue arises when multiple players within the line up are playing the anchor role which slows down the scoring rate and only adds further pressure on the batters to follow—especially in run chases. This was witnessed when Iftikhar Ahmed was sent in during the final when Rizwan was on the crease, even though the situation merited a player with a more attacking approach such as Mohammad Nawaz or Shadab Khan.

This is something that must be addressed as it has cost us games, and will continue to do so in the past. On some occasions during the Asia Cup, the team did improvise and shuffle the batting order, but this approach was absent for some reason in the last three games of the tournament.

Considering that Pakistan will play seven T20Is at home against England and a tri-series with New Zealand and Bangladesh, in New Zealand, in the lead-up to the T20 World Cup, it would make sense to have Fakhar Zaman open the batting, with either Rizwan or Babar dropping down the order.

There is also the issue of injuries, with star pacer Shaheen Afridi recovering from a knee injury. While he won’t be available for the series against England, the hope is that he recovers in time for the World Cup. Otherwise, the team will have to bank on less experienced talents like Mohammad Hasnain or Shahnawaz Dahani. The games in the run up to the big tournament will be crucial to sort out these issues and the team management will be hoping that all the pieces fall into place just in time.