Was 2021 Pakistan’s Most Productive Year In T20Is?
2021 saw the Pakistan team put in some memorable performances in the shortest format under Babar Azam’s leadership.
A stellar run in T20I cricket trumpeted Pakistan’s cricketing campaign in 2021. The year for the Men in Green started with imposing home and away series victories against the Proteas. They went down 2-1 in England in a closely fought, three-match series against a formidable white-ball side and managed to trounce the two-time world champions, West Indies, both home and away.
It was, however, their delightfully bossy T20 World Cup campaign which commenced with a ten-wicket hammering of India that was Pakistan’s T20I highlight of the year. Following the mega-event, Pakistan whitewashed the Bangladesh side at home that had effortlessly beaten the T20 World Cup finalists, Australia and New Zealand, earlier in the year.
While they recorded a sky-high 20 wins in the format – the most by any team in a calendar year – was 2021 the most productive year ever for Pakistan’s T20I side? In this article, we try to dissect how well Pakistan actually did in 2021, relative to their performance in previous years.
Since 2016, Pakistan’s win-loss ratio in 2021 was the third-highest for a calendar year. They had never played more than 20 T20Is in a year. In 2021 alone, the Asian side featured in 29 matches, three of which ended up as no results. Pakistan’s win-loss ratio of 3.33 was, by far, the highest for any Test-playing nation in 2021, with the second entry on the list being South Africa’s 1.875. However, it looks tiny compared to the gargantuan heights Pakistan scaled in 2018.
In 2021, Pakistan had the best win-loss ratio in away and neutral T20Is in comparison to all other teams. This is even more notable given Pakistan also played the highest number of away and neutral T20Is in 2021 (23), with Australia being second on that list. From a broader perspective, Pakistan’s win-loss ratio in away or neutral venues in 2019 and 2020 was 0.20 and 0.67, respectively.
2021 was also a wonderful year for Pakistan in terms of their away exploits in T20Is in SENAW. They won on five occasions, which is the most number of victories they have registered in away games against SENAW in any calendar year. The above graphic lists down those years in which Pakistan have appeared in at least three away games versus SENAW.
As far as matches in Asian conditions are concerned, the Babar Azam-led side won 80% of their games. The above graphic lists down all the years where Pakistan have played at least five T20Is in Asia. Although 80% is a downgrade from a barely believable and spotless record in 2020 and 2018, it is still quite decent in comparison to how the other Asian sides fared in relatively favorable Asian conditions in 2021: Afghanistan (60%), India (60%), Sri Lanka (50%), and Bangladesh (40%).
Each year since 2016, Pakistan have won more matches chasing totals than defending them, barring 2019. What’s important to note here is the fact that of the 80% matches in 2021 where Pakistan successfully chased down totals, 55% were away games (three in Dhaka, two in Johannesburg, and one in Centurion, where Pakistan hunted down 205 runs with 9 wickets intact).
In comparison with 2018, which is Pakistan’s most productive year in T20Is as per numbers, Pakistan won all four of the matches they chased in. However, only one of them was an away game (in Harare against Zimbabwe). Similarly, in 2017 and 2020, only two out of four and one out of five matches in which Pakistan chased and won were held on away venues. Therefore, 2021 stole the limelight in this regard.
We now shift our focus to how well Pakistan did in individual departments against the rest of the world (the other seven teams from the ICC T20 World Cup Super-Eights). On the batting front, Pakistan were easily better. Since 2016, this was the only time Pakistani batters have averaged in excess of 40 in the powerplay overs, and it’s a major enhancement from 26.7 in 2020 and 21.3 in 2019. Of course, all thanks to Mohammad Rizwan and Babar Azam, who not only scored heaps of runs at the top but, more often than not, ensured that Pakistan’s middle and lower orders had a solid platform to capitalize on.
For the Test-playing nations who have appeared in 10-plus T20Is in 2021, Pakistan also had the best balls-per-boundary ratio and the best strike rate at the death. They moved towards employing death-hitting specialists in the latter phases of a batting innings, and it clearly paid off for them in 2021.
In the bowling department, Pakistan have significantly improved in the Babar Azam era. Pakistan averaged 42.6 and 60.3 with the ball in the powerplay and middle-phase overs during 2019. It is, then again, the death overs where Pakistan made the difference in 2021. Together, their bowlers struck every 10.8 balls, scalping 65 preys during overs 16 to 20 – the most by any team in 2021.
As per the above charts, 2021 for Pakistan’s T20I side was a terrific year where they won more than twice the games they lost. While 2021 does not stand out as the single-most productive year in their T20 history, going by the numbers, it is one of the more vital years for the Men in Green with respect to the future of their T20I line-up. With the cream of national talent distilling through the PSL and getting refined at the international level around their already-established T20I core, Pakistan now have a formidable group of T20I specialists at their disposal.
After soaring to untrodden highs in 2018, Pakistan had miserably crashed down into an insufferable abyss in mere months. With these new, promising talents coming through the ranks, Babar Azam’s men will be hopeful that they can keep the balance of the side clotted together as they tread on a different route in 2022 to get hold of the glittering T20 World Cup trophy.