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Absence of key players hurts Pakistan in Sri Lanka T20Is

The absence of key players, along with baffling inclusions, has shaken a dominant outfit to its very core

PHOTO: AFP/PCB

Pakistan, the number-one ranked Twenty20 (T20) side in the world, faces the prospect of a series whitewash against a depleted number-eight ranked Sri Lanka side, after the Islanders took an unassailable two-nil lead in the three-match series.  

The absence of key players along with baffling inclusions has shaken a dominant Men in Green outfit to its very core.

With the exception of fast-bowler Shaheen Shah, who is recovering from illness, the players that could have saved Pakistan from embarrassment are as follows:

Mohammad Hafeez

All-rounder Mohammad Hafeez is one of the most experienced T20 players on the planet. A batsman who can bat at any number, a bowler who can deliver with the new and old ball alike; Hafeez’s selection for the national T20 side was a no-brainer.

The all-rounder could have provided stability and power-hitting in the batting department along with economical spells of bowling. 

Shoaib Malik

Another exceptional talent that was not included in the team was all-rounder Shoaib Malik. Easily one of the best players of spin bowling in the world today, the veteran was instead allowed to play in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) while the national side was utterly humiliated at its home ground.

Malik should have been the obvious choice ahead of batsman Umar Akmal — who was dismissed for a golden duck in, both, the first and second T2OI against Sri Lanka.

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Haris Sohail

Once considered a defensive batsman, Haris Sohail has reinvigorated his career through fiery performances in the 2019 International cricket Council (ICC) World Cup in England that helped Pakistan’s batting line-up stand up to the best in the world.

His recent performances indicated a batsman hungry for runs coupled with a fearless yet technically sound approach. The fact that Sohail is an excellent player of spin bowling made his non-inclusion all the more baffling.

Abid Ali

Batsman Abid Ali has waited a long time to get an opportunity to showcase his talent on the international stage. A fine batsman with excellent wristwork, his free flowing innings against Sri Lanka in the third One-day International (ODI) provided Pakistan with a glimpse of his capabilities. His knock of 74 runs off 67 deliveries propelled Pakistan to an easy chase against the islanders in the third ODI in Karachi.

A T20 opportunity for the hungry opener felt like the next logical outcome. However, that was not to be and the Pakistan batting line-up struggled at the top of the order in the shortest format of the game.

Usman Shinwari

Fast-bowler Usman Shinwari is a walking highlight reel. His performances with the new ball have earned him various accolades in the previous years.

One of the best at utilising the new ball, Pakistan could have used his abilities to great effect in the ongoing T20I series, where the bowlers failed to make a mark upfront against the second string batting line-up of Sri Lanka.

Umer Khan

The wonderkid, who shot to fame in the Habib Bank Limited (HBL) Pakistan Super League (PSL), has fallen off the radar after his magical spells for the Karachi Kings franchise.

Once deemed as the next big find for the shortest format, Umer could have provided an additional spin option that Pakistan clearly lacks.

Fakhar Zaman (First T20I)

Opener Fakhar Zaman has been a regular at the top of the order for Pakistan in the shortest format. He was replaced by batsman Ahmed Shahzad in the first T20 after scoring 54 and 76 in the second and third ODIs respectively.

Replacing an in-form batsman turned out to be a baffling move as it destabilised the entire batting order and led to an embarrassing defeat.

Iftikhar Ahmed (Second T20I)

All-rounder Iftikhar Ahmed turned out to be a pleasant surprise in the recently concluded ODI series as well as in the first T20I against Sri Lanka.

Many changes were expected for the Men in Green in the second T20I against the Islanders, however, Iftikhar was not among them.

The all-rounder had grabbed every opportunity with both hands and contributed with both bat and ball throughout the series. In a must-win game against the Islanders, the non-inclusion of this talented individual doomed Pakistan to embarrassing defeat.