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The Road Ahead for Pakistan in the T20 World Cup: Challenges and Expectations

As the T20 World Cup 2024 commences, the Pakistan cricket team, led by the returning king Babar Azam, embarks on another journey filled with anticipation and hope. Despite recent struggles, including a 2-0 defeat against England in a 4-match T20 away series, the team is determined to make a strong comeback.

The T20 World Cup, held in the US, presents a unique opportunity for Pakistan. The US, an emerging hub for cricket, has a rich history with the sport dating back to the early 1700s. However, the road to victory is steep. The challenges facing the team are multifaceted, stemming from issues within the team and the broader structure of Pakistan cricket.

On paper, Pakistan appears to be a strong contender. They have a history of performing well in tournaments, and T20 cricket is arguably their strongest format. Their victory in 2009 under Younis Khan’s captaincy, largely due to Shahid Afridi’s exceptional performance, is still fresh in memory. They have also been runners-up twice, narrowly losing to India in 2007 and England in 2022.

The team boasts two of the world’s top-ranked batsmen, Babar and Mohammad Rizwan. Their pace attack, featuring Shaheen Afridi, Haris Rauf, and Naseem Shah, is formidable. New talents like Abrar Ahmed, Saim Ayub, and Azam Khan, along with experienced players like Imad Wasim and Mohammad Amir, add depth to the squad.

However, beneath the surface, the team faces significant challenges. Despite the success of Babar and Rizwan, concerns persist about their scoring rate and ability to secure victories for Pakistan. The middle and late order’s performance has been inconsistent, with Fakhar Zaman being the only player capable of turning the game in Pakistan’s favor.

The bowling department, traditionally Pakistan’s strength, is also struggling. No Pakistani bowler ranks in the top 10, with Afridi being the only one in the top 20. The all-rounders, Shadab Khan and Imad Wasim, are also outside the top 10.

In 2024, Pakistan’s T20 record has been disappointing, with only five wins out of 14 matches against Ireland and a below-strength New Zealand team. The team’s formula is unsettled, and fielding has been a concern.

The new white-ball coach, Gary Kirsten, is tasked with reversing this trend. He faces a significant challenge, given the current state of the team. Some players, like Azam and Amir, may not contribute significantly. Others, like Babar, Rizwan, and Fakhar, need to step up and deliver consistent performances.

The underlying issues plaguing Pakistan cricket run deep. The cricket board is often led by amateurs who are in political favor. The system now relies heavily on the Pakistan Super League (PSL) for its talent pipeline. However, the PSL has been criticized for its quality and its ability to unearth new stars.

Despite these challenges, there is hope. Kirsten’s leadership could energize the team and lead to a reversal of fortunes. He needs to make the best of the situation and do so ruthlessly. This includes making tough decisions about the team’s composition and strategy.

Pakistan needs not less than a miracle to win the T20 World Cup 2024. The favorites remain Australia, England, and India, with New Zealand and co-hosts West Indies also being strong contenders. However, if Kirsten can reignite the spark of random genius in Pakistan’s cricket, the team may yet surprise everyone. After all, the beauty of cricket lies in its unpredictability, and Pakistan’s fans are eagerly waiting for their team to reclaim its glory.

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