GeneralPSL 9: The Audition for the T20 World Cup

PSL 9: The Audition for the T20 World Cup

What’s up for grabs

In my opinion, most of Pakistan’s T20I XI for the mega event later this year is settled. For example, the fast-bowling department is set despite some concerns about a few players’ recent form.

My T20 World Cup Squad

  1. Saim Ayub
  2. Mohammad Haris (wk)
  3. Babar Azam/Mohammad Rizwan
  4. Azam Khan
  5. Shadab Khan
  6. Iftikhar Ahmed
  7. Spin all-rounder
  8. Shaheen Afridi
  9. Naseem Shah
  10. Haris Rauf
  11. Zaman Khan

(For batting depth, 3 pacers may play with another all-rounder at number 8)


  1. Mohammad Rizwan/Babar Azam
  2. Backup batsman
  3. Mohammad Nawaz/any other spin option based on PSL
  4. Faheem Ashraf/Aamir Jamal/Mohammad Wasim Jr./Abbas Afridi

Spots up for grabs


It hasn’t happened yet, but Saim Ayub and Mohammad Haris really should be Pakistan’s T20I openers. A dynamic left-hander partnered with a destructive powerplay basher could help Pakistan get a much-needed strong start in powerplays. In the Caribbean, this sometimes becomes even more important because scoring in the middle overs against spin can be very challenging.

Saim showed glimpses of his potential and must be given a sustained run in the team. He shone last PSL and will hopefully have another good PSL this time around to retain his spot. He also starred in the 2023 edition of the Caribbean Premier League, his first overseas league, where he finished as the 2nd-highest run-scorer and helped his team to win the title.

Haris is a complicated case. Having made a huge impact in Pakistan’s 2022 T20 World Cup campaign where the seniors struggled, he has since not gotten much game time. Chief Selector Wahab Riaz said he was “rested” for Pakistan’s previous T20I series against New Zealand, which is strange considering he needs more game time rather than rest.

Number 3

Ideally, only one of Babar and Rizwan should be in the playing XI, and they must be accommodated at number 3.

In the 11 T20 games Babar has played so far this year, he has scored 4 fifties and has gotten out at 47 twice as well. This might not seem as impressive if you look at strike rates, especially in the games he played in Bangladesh, but if you take the conditions and match situation into account, one of them was a great innings, and the others were mostly decent, too.

On the other hand, with the kind of form Rizwan is in, the PSL might be the final nail in the coffin for dropping him out of the XI. In 5 BPL games, he played only 1 innings with an SR of greater than 100. BPL has slow conditions and is not made for batting at a great strike rate. 11 batters have faced 100+ balls in BPL at the top 3 positions; Mohammad Rizwan’s 82.3 strike rate is the worst among them.

So far, Babar Azam is the frontrunner for this position, having also scored three half-centuries against New Zealand. PSL 9 offers Rizwan the chance to change this, if only one of him or Babar makes it to the final XI, which should be the case.

Number 4

The required skillset of a number 4 T20 batter is primarily to be a good spin hitter, and Azam Khan is one of the best in the world and has been performing in the Caribbean, one of the two host regions. Among overseas players with a minimum of 100 balls faced in CPL, only Tim David and Faf du Plessis have a better average and strike rate than Azam against spin.

However, the problem is he is yet to perform in T20Is. One of the reasons behind that could be that he has not gotten consistent chances in T20Is; he recently spoke about this, mentioning how he has never played more than three games without being dropped. Batting in the middle-order is already a risky job in T20s, and when you don’t give a player consistent chances and keep dropping him every time he is selected after 2-3 games, you are setting him up for failure.

Another option for that is Fakhar Zamam, which I don’t agree with. However, the team has done this before and can surely do it again. Fakhar’s numbers against spinners aren’t bad, but he mostly faces spin after getting set as an opener. Facing spin starting at Number 4 is an entirely different prospect.

This table shows that Fakhar has found it difficult to score against spinners at the start of his innings; once set, he goes berserk against them. He might not be the ideal candidate for number 4. The innings against Australia in the World Cup semi-final, although it came at number 3, shows this. Despite coming in at the 10-over mark, Fakhar scored just 6 runs off 7 balls against Zampa and Maxwell and had a strike rate of over 200 against Hazlewood and Starc, who he took on at the death.

Numbers 6 & 7

IftiMania has not fired in this format for quite some time. His last T20 innings that contributed positively to the team was his 60 off just 24 at a strike rate of 250 against New Zealand, which almost won Pakistan the game singlehandedly. His last PSL season was also quite average; besides a couple of innings, he did not perform well for his team.

There are a limited number of choices. Since 2022, among numbers 5, 6, and 7 batters, only 5 Pakistani batters have an SR of more than 145 against pace bowling (minimum 200 balls faced and only leagues). Their names are Azam Khan (173.9), Khushdil Shah (161.5), Shadab Khan (154.3), Iftikhar Ahmed (152.4), and Imad Wasim (148).

Khushdil was a player who found the transition to T20Is quite difficult. Having played 25 T20I innings, his average is still below 20, and the strike rate is less than 110. His limited range and struggles with hitting on the off side perhaps limited him in T20Is, but he seems to have worked on that recently. He did not play a long innings in the BPL recently but showed his hitting prowess with impactful cameos. Continuing to do this regularly can increase his chances of coming into contention for the T20 World Cup.

Shadab Khan, Iftikhar Ahmed, and Imad Wasim – all three can provide bowling options and extra depth. However, Shadab Khan has struggled with his form for quite a while. In 2023, his bowling average in T20Is was his worst in a year since 2020; while he started batting a little up the order in T20Is in 2020-2021, this year has been his worst batting year since then.

He is still a strong batter against spin, probably Pakistan’s best after Azam Khan. Pakistan need him to regain his form in this PSL. With the balance that Shadab provides between pace hitting and spin hitting, he should be slotted in at number 5.

Imad Wasim had a great 2023 in T20s, both leagues and internationals. However, he has retired from the format. He has hinted that if need be and his issues related to the clarity of his role are resolved, he will take back his retirement. He would be ideal for the number 7 spot if he makes a comeback.

For number 7, if Imad is not available, another option can be a newcomer like Arafat Minhas or even Mehran Mumtaz at 8 and a better batting option at number 7. It can be risky to prepare someone like them in a short period, but Pakistan Cricket has not shied away from such experiments.

The management will need to decide on a number 6 alternative for Iftikhar, and one for number 5 might be looked at, too, considering Shadab’s form.

Number 8

The number 8 spot can be used differently according to the conditions or the opposition. If the team goes with Shadab, Iftikhar, or even Khushdil, and another spin all-rounder at 7, they can afford to think about batting depth here, as they don’t need this many bowling options.

So, at number 8, getting a pace-bowling all-rounder who can give you batting depth with a few occasional overs can provide better utility. Currently, only two players on the fringes fulfill this criteria: Faheem Ashraf and Aamir Jamal.

Faheem Ashraf has been a little on and off in T20s; however, in the last PSL, he was exceptional with the bat as he finished a few games for Islamabad, which they were in no position to win. He also bowled a few overs in the 11 games he played, and the fact that after Shadab Khan, he was the only local player in the squad who played all 11 games speaks to his importance in the team combination.

His bowling might still be a concern, particularly because his best utility is in the powerplay, and Pakistan have plenty of other powerplay options. But in this combination, he will be the 6th bowler and will not be required to bowl much, regardless.

Aamir Jamal is the other player in this category, and he is more of a bowling all-rounder compared to Faheem; even in the bowling department, he is quite raw right now and tends to be wayward, although he theoretically provides better phase coverage than Faheem.

Jamal has some potential with the bat. He rose to fame with a spectacular National T20 Cup in 2022, striking at 190+. He was primarily good at using the long handle at the death. Along with this, he also took 9 wickets. However, even in this tournament, he had a high economy rate of 8.5.

Later in the PSL, he performed occasionally with the ball but did not do much with the bat. He will probably get more chances with the bat this season, as he could be batting at number 7 regularly in Zalmi’s combination. His bowling in PSL has been quite wayward, but he has found success in conditions with reverse on offer. This made him lethal last year, and he won Zalmi an eliminator, helping his side defend 52 in the last 5 overs against United’s explosive middle order and winning the Player of the Match award.

The opinions expressed solely belong to the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Grassroots Cricket.

The author

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, conse ctetuer adipiscing elit, sed diam nonum nibhie. Aenean sollici tudin, lorem auci elit consequat ipsutis sem niuis sed odio sit amet nibh vulputate cursus.


At Grassroots Cricket, we give paramount importance to feedback from our viewers. We value your opinions, and in case of suggestions or business inquiries, feel free to get in touch with us.

61-A Main Boulevard Gulberg, Lahore