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Babar, Rizwan & Other Pakistan Players to Watch Out For in T20 WC Clash vs India

India are playing Pakistan on Sunday in both teams' 2021 T20 World Cup opener.

Updated
<div class="paragraphs"><p>2021 T20 World Cup: A look at some of the big Pakistani players who could trouble India on Sunday.</p></div>
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Pakistan begin their T20 World Cup campaign against India in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, 24 October. They have assembled an excellent squad this time with the perfect blend of youth and experience, and that makes them quite an exciting team to watch in this tournament.

Pakistan have one T20 World Cup title to their name in the six editions so far and even that came way back in 2009, so they will be eager to get their hands on their second T20 World Cup title now in order to end the drought that has lasted for 12 years.

While all the team members will need to contribute in order to make this possible, there are certain players who are going to play a key role in determining Pakistan’s chances of success in this tournament. Here, we shall take a look at those players.

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Babar Azam

Pakistan’s captain and most reliable batter, Babar Azam will look to lead the Men in Green from the front. Azam has taken up the opening role permanently in T20s of late and he makes quite a big impact if he ends up playing a long innings.

In 2021 so far, the right-handed batter has amassed 1,363 runs – the most he has ever scored in a year in this format – at an outstanding average of 52.42 and a pretty good strike-rate of 134.68. That pretty much sums up how consistent he has been and the runs have come at a pretty good pace too.

Babar, Rizwan & Other Pakistan Players to Watch Out For in T20 WC Clash vs India

Babar’s limitation though is his approach of taking things slowly at the beginning of his innings. He scores at a strike-rate of less than 120 in the powerplay and if teams do manage to get him early after he has consumed a significant number of deliveries, the approach could backfire for Pakistan.

But as his average shows, he is quite consistent in building his innings almost always and it becomes impossible to dismiss him once he has settled down at the crease. His strike-rate increases gradually as his innings progresses and that makes him a menace to handle for the bowlers in the middle and death overs.

Mohammad Rizwan

It is not easy to emulate Babar’s consistency but Mohammad Rizwan has made that look like a cakewalk. The wicketkeeper-batter has enjoyed a great run of form this year, scoring a total of 1462 T20 runs – more than Babar’s tally.

Moreover, Rizwan has done that at an excellent average of 56.23 and at a strike-rate of 133.39, which is pretty much similar to that of Babar once again. But the way Rizwan approaches his innings is very much different to that of Babar.

In fact, he complements the skipper very well and that’s why their opening partnership has been successful in the matches they have opened together as well.

Babar, Rizwan & Other Pakistan Players to Watch Out For in T20 WC Clash vs India

While Babar secures one end up with his watchful batting at the beginning of the innings, Rizwan takes up the role of the aggressor, as summed up by his superior powerplay strike-rate. And when he slows down in the middle-overs to prolong his innings, that’s when Babar takes off. This shows that the duo make an excellent one-two punch combo, capable of knocking out any bowling attack on their day.

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<div class="paragraphs"><p>File picture of Shaheen Afridi.</p></div>

File picture of Shaheen Afridi.

(Photo: PTI)

Shaheen Afridi

The young pacer has become the leader of Pakistan’s pace attack within a very short period of time. Shaheen has already featured in 96 T20s, claiming a total of 130 wickets at an outstanding average of 21.53. He was also seen in good bowling form in the warm-up games leading to this tournament, claiming four wickets in the two matches.

Shaheen is mainly known for his prowess as a top-tail bowler. He has the natural ability to swing the new ball and his pace makes it incredibly difficult for the batters to tackle him. The left-arm pacer has a career powerplay economy rate of just 6.88. That sums up how good an option he is with the new-ball. He is equally great at death too. While most bowlers struggle to keep their death overs economy rate below 10, Afridi’s economy rate stands at just 8.92 and he also claims a wicket approximately every 13 balls in the death overs.

Pakistan will be looking forward to an equally good outing from Shaheen in this mega event.

Imad Wasim

Pakistan’s spin bowling attack is heavily reliant on Imad Wasim and that’s why the left-arm tweaker has a big role to play in this World Cup. Wasim belongs to one of those rare breeds of spinners who can bowl in all stages of the innings, and can end up being equally effective in all those phases as well.

There are a total of 98 players who have bowled 500 or more overs in T20 cricket history and Wasim’s economy rate of 6.61 is the ninth best among them. Among active players in that list, he is the fifth best. This surely isn’t a mean feat in an era dominated by batters.

Apart from his bowling, Wasim adds huge value with his batting as well. He will be entrusted with the responsibility of playing the much-needed cameos lower down the order. The southpaw has over 2,000 runs to his name in T20 cricket at strike-rate of just a shade under 127.

His death overs strike-rate is much higher than that, though. In 2021 so far, Wasim has registered a strike-rate of 157.27 at the death.

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<div class="paragraphs"><p>Fakhar Zaman has faced the Indian team at the 2019 ICC World Cup</p></div>

Fakhar Zaman has faced the Indian team at the 2019 ICC World Cup

(File photo: PTI)

Fakhar Zaman

While all eyes are on Babar and Rizwan, Fakhar Zaman will be looking to deliver yet another defining performance in this T20 World Cup. Zaman’s batting effort was one of the main reasons why Pakistan could win the Champions Trophy in 2017 and he will be looking to do the same as Pakistan begin their quest against India this time.

Zaman has also been seen in good batting form in the warm-up games. Batting at Number 3, the left-handed batter scored an unbeaten 46 off just 24 deliveries against West Indies, and retired hurt for a score of 52 off 28 against South Africa to give some much-needed batting time to the other players.

Moreover, Zaman is the only left-handed batter in Pakistan’s top six and that’s why his role becomes even more important in helping them win the match-ups. In case a wicket falls early, Zaman won’t be alien to batting in the powerplay at all, as he started his career as an opener.

And when Babar and Rizwan set up a good base for the team, Zaman’s job will be to walk in and smash everything in his arc. That’s how he approaches his batting in T20s as well, and Pakistan will need him to be at his best as they lack significant middle and death overs firepower.

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