Seven Players Who Missed Out on Selection for the 2021 T20 World Cup

Chief Selector Mohammad Wasim announced a 15-man Pakistan squad alongside three reserves for the world event.

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The feelings of anger among sports fans after seeing their favorite players missing out from the contingent going for an important event are not uncommon. The picture of social media timelines of Pakistani cricket fans was no different after the country’s squad for the upcoming T20 World Cup was announced on Monday, September 6. This article is about the seven players who would have most likely got selected in a 25-member squad but failed to make it into the final 18 players. We will look at the probable reasons for their non-selection, how they could have benefitted the team, and their recent form.

1.    Faheem Ashraf

Being a regular in the squad for some time and then getting dropped just before the World Cup. This is not the first time it has happened with Faheem Ashraf. Two years back, before the 2019 ODI World Cup, Faheem played two or matches in each of Pakistan’s last four ODI series. His name was removed from the final squad for the World Cup. This year, he is among the nine Pakistani players who have played ten or more T20Is. He is the only one among them who will not be traveling to UAE for the T20 World Cup.

Faheem was not at his best in T20Is recently but didn’t fare poorly either. Since his return in T20Is against Zimbabwe last year, he has taken 11 wickets in 15 matches at an average and economy of 31 and 7.6, respectively. He didn’t score much (averaging 12.6) but had a decent strike rate of 137.

There are very few bowlers in the world who have done better than Faheem in UAE. Of the 19 Pakistani bowlers with 30 or more T20 wickets in the UAE, no one has a better average (16.9). In T20Is in UAE, he has the best bowling average (12.8) and economy (5.1) for Pakistan (min 10 overs). But this all didn’t prove enough in the eyes of selectors, who preferred Faheem’s PSL-teammate Mohammad Wasim Jr. over him.

2.    Wahab Riaz

Wahab Riaz, no more a death-overs specialist, probably lost his spot in the World Cup squad after losing his special ability. He went for over 12 runs/over in the death-overs (17-20) of PSL 6. In the Powerplay, he bowled 14 overs in PSL 6, most by him in this phase in a PSL season. Wahab’s efforts to become a better new-ball bowler have produced results, but they didn’t prove enough to get him into the team. Pakistan already have pacers (Shaheen, Hasan) & spinners (Nawaz, Imad) who could open the innings with the ball.

Another of Wahab’s weaknesses is the high frequency of his bad days. He has conceded 10 or more runs per over in a T20 eight times since the last December. If he could have maintained his death-bowling skills, his premier T20 record in UAE, and his capability to contribute with the bat (T20 SR of almost 140 in UAE), he would have surely improved his selection chances over Haris Rauf.

3.    Haider Ali

Another Peshawar Zalmi player who failed to make it into the World Cup squad is Haider Ali. A year back, he was seen as the next big thing in Pakistan’s batting lineup, but things have changed since then. After scoring two half-centuries in his first 3 T20Is, Haider has averaged only 11 in the next eleven innings with a strike rate below 120. His recent form in the Caribbean Premier League is also poor. In the first five innings of the season, he has scored only 63 runs (100 SR).

Haider Ali in T20s

2020

 

2021

25

Inns

22

709

Runs

310

30.8

Avg

14.8

5

50+

1

157

SR

118

11.9

Balls/6

18.7

Besides poor form (which is not uncommon even among the selected players), Haider is probably one of the best batsmen against spin in the country. Even with a below-par performance in PSL 6, he holds the best strike rate against spin (172) for any local player in PSL (min 50 balls). This could have advantaged the team, particularly considering the venue of the World Cup.

4.    Sarfaraz Ahmed

Sarfaraz has remained in Pakistan’s T20I squad regularly as a backup wicket-keeper. He has played only two games since 2020 and didn’t bat in both. As a batter, he does well against spin and isn’t bad against pacers too. Azam Khan, who was preferred over Sarfaraz as the backup wicket-keeper, scores much quicker against the spinners but has struggled against pacers. In PSL, Sarfaraz averages 30 against pacers with a strike rate of 125. Azam scores with almost the same rate (121 SR) but averages half (15). Against spin, Azam has a strike rate around 150, 13 higher than Sarfaraz. While Sarfaraz has more experience with the gloves, his batting style has less utility for the team than Azam.

Batting in T20s Since 2020

Sarfaraz Ahmed

 

Azam Khan

29

Inns

47

640

Runs

970

29.1

Avg

23.1

4

50+

5

134

SR

152

36.8

Balls/6

10.7

In a time where there is uncertainty among the team’s management, Sarfaraz, being one of the most successful T20 captains in UAE, could have played some sort of a guiding role for Pakistan’s T20I captain Babar Azam. With no national duty now, Sarfaraz has the time to play a full domestic season and an opportunity to improve and knock the doors of national selection again.

5.    Shoaib Malik

Malik is the man with the most T20 runs and matches for Pakistan and has played the most T20s for any player in the UAE. Alongside his experience, one of his other strengths is his ability to play quick against spin. His strike rate against wrist-spin in the recent PSL edition was more than 180. But he has struggled against pacers, particularly quick ones. Malik’s recent form in Caribbean Premier League is also worrying for him. He has scored 33 runs in 5 innings with a strike rate of below 60 in the ongoing CPL season.

Malik played his last match for Pakistan in August 2020 against England. He has batted at #4 in seven of his last ten T20I innings and usually arrived at the crease around the half-innings mark. With Babar & Rizwan as openers and Hafeez in middle-order in Pakistan’s current T20I side, on most occasions, there will not be many spare balls for a player like Malik to come in, get set, and then start the assault. This is probably one of the major reasons why he missed the chance to play his sixth and probably last T20 World Cup for Pakistan.

6.    Iftikhar Ahmed

Now let’s move towards another off-spin all-rounder who is almost nine years younger than Malik. The one player whom Iftikhar could have most likely replaced in the current squad would have been Khushdil Shah. They have an almost similar record in PSL 6. Khushdil averaged 36 against pace with a strike rate of 146. Iftikhar’s record was 34 Avg / 137 SR. Against spin, Khushdil scored run-a-ball while Iftikhar’s strike rate was 93. Both were not dismissed by a spinner.

With the ball, both took a wicket, each conceding between 9 & 10 runs an over. In T20Is since 2020, Khushdil’s batting record is 24/113, while Iftikhar’s is 21/107. The only big edge Khushdil had over Iftikhar is that he is a left-hander and the only specialist left-handed batsman in Pakistan’s 15-men squad. His presence in the batting lineup would bring some diversity and could create a bit of fear among the opposition’s leggies and left-arm spinners.

7.    Sharjeel Khan

In the 15-player squad of Pakistan, there is no one besides Babar Azam & Mohammad Rizwan who has regularly opened the innings in T20s in the last few years. The stability provided by the Babar-Rizwan duo in top-order has probably left no space for any other opener.

Sharjeel Khan was decent with the bat in the recent PSL. He got three batting opportunities in the national side this year. All three of them were as an opener. He played only 43 balls collectively in these and scored 46 runs. A big knock in any of these three would have probably increased Sharjeel’s chances to play in the upcoming World Cup.

Pakistan T20I Openers Since 2019 (Min 3 Innings)

Player

Inns

Runs

Avg

SR

50+

Babar Azam

26

976

40.7

141

10

Mohammad Rizwan

17

880

80.0

139

9

Haider Ali

3

34

11.3

131

0

Fakhar Zaman

13

132

10.2

110

0

Sharjeel Khan

3

46

15.3

107

0

Final Words

Pakistan still have time till October 10 if they want to make any change in their contingent for the World Cup. In this period, there is a 5-match T20I series against New Zealand followed by the National T20 Cup and then a 2-match series against England. As we have seen a change in team management just before the important upcoming event, seeing last-minute shuffles in the squad will not be a surprise too.

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