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T20 World Cup: Pakistan’s middle order not in great form; fast bowlers key against India, says Azhar Ali

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T20 World Cup: Pakistan’s middle order not in great form; fast bowlers key against India, says Azhar Ali

New Delhi, June 6 (IANS) As India and Pakistan gear up for one of the most anticipated clashes in this T20 World Cup, former captain Azhar Ali believes Pakistan have an edge against their Asian rivals in the fast bowling department adding that 2009 champions’ middle order is not in a great form.

Pakistan will face India in the Group A match of the T20 World Cup on June 9 (IST) at Nassau County International Cricket Stadium. The two teams have met seven times previously in the T20 World Cup – twice in 2007 including the Final, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2021, and 2022.

India have won on all occasions, barring the 2021 clash in Dubai, where they suffered a crushing ten-wicket defeat to Pakistan.

Pakistan’s middle-order woes and recent changes in their opening pair have raised concerns. Aggressive opener Saim Ayub didn’t make the cut, prompting a return to the tried-and-tested duo of Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan.

“To speak of Pakistan, their middle order is not in a great form, while the opening pair also had to be changed as drafting in the aggressive Saim Ayub didn’t work. But Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan are back as openers, though there are still a lot of questions that the team will need to answer, especially when it comes to the middle order,” Azhar Ali told The Telegraph.

Azhar suggested that on paper India appears well-rounded and stronger, but Pakistan’s quicks could be the game-changers.

“Yes, in terms of fast bowling, maybe Pakistan have an edge, but India too have a bowler like Jasprit Bumrah and other pacers who are impressive.”

Azhar also highlights the significant gap in spin quality between the two sides. “India’s spinners also can exercise better control… Kuldeep Yadav, (Ravindra) Jadeja jaise bowlers (Bowlers like Kuldeep, Jadeja).

“For Pakistan, Imad Wasim has that (control), but the same cannot be said about Shadab Khan. Current form-wise, Abrar Ahmed should be preferred over Shadab and it’s better if he’s picked from the United States clash (on Thursday) itself as he can make maximum utilisation of the conditions.

“A leg-spinner needs to have a greater amount of first-class cricket experience for better execution of line and length,” said Azhar.

Nassau County International Stadium could play a crucial role in the outcome. Assuming the pitch in New York remains low-scoring, Azhar believes it might favor Pakistan.

“I think the low-scoring pitch gives Pakistan a better chance than on flat tracks. Yes, since that Asia Cup defeat to India last year, our bowling has struggled to have the kind of impact one expects from Pakistani bowlers. But if they can somehow restrict India to a low total by focusing on the hard lengths and not bowling too full, it will be game on,” the 39-year-old added.

The spotlight will be on the duel between Virat Kohli and Babar Azam, two of the finest batsmen in the world. While dismissing comparisons between the two, Azhar praised Kohli’s ability to shine in high-pressure situations.

“In all formats, Kohli has performed for a longer period of time. So, you can’t really compare the two careers. Babar is great to watch and has been quite consistent in T20 cricket also for the last four-five years.

“Like Kohli, he too trusts conventional cricketing strokes. But Kohli is someone who’s more inspirational to other batters. His strength is his ability to perform in crunch games.

“If we look back at that Indo-Pak game at the MCG (in the 2022 T20 World Cup), only Kohli could play such incredible shots at such a pressure situation. Mind you, the Pakistan bowling was much sharper that time,” Azhar concluded.


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