Pakistan aren’t favourites for T20 World Cup but can surprise opponents: Imam

Hard-hitters will be key when the Babar Azam-led side start their campaign, said former cricketer

Pakistan aren’t favourites for T20 World Cup but can surprise opponents: Imam PHOTO: Reuters

Former cricketer Iqbal Imam believes that Pakistan aren’t favourites for the upcoming T20 World Cup, but that is exactly what gives them a chance to surprise their opponents in the mega event.

Imam told The Express Tribune on call that Pakistan’s hard-hitters will be key when the Babar Azam-led side start their T20 World Cup campaign in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The T20 World Cup was shifted from India to the UAE due the worsening Covid-19 conditions in Virat Kohli’s country.

Pakistan will first play India on October 24 and then take on New Zealand on October 26. They will then face Afghanistan on October 29, before facing the two qualifiers on November 2 and 7.

“Pakistan squad has new and young players. If they play to their potential we have a chance of winning the T20 World Cup. The hard-hitters will have to come to the party. We will be relying on them to make Pakistan’s batting stronger,” said Imam.

When asked if Pakistan’s bowling looks as strong as it is always touted to be, Imam said that pacers like Shaheen Shah Afridi and Mohammad Hasnain can perform, even on the flat, batting-friendly UAE pitches.

“In bowling we have Shaheen, and we have Husnain. They are bowling well in the National T20 Cup. There are other bowlers too who can make a difference,” he said.

“As far as spinners are concerned, they will play an important role in the UAE conditions, but our fast-bowlers are also capable of bowling match-winning overs,” he added.

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Pakistan have always been considered the masters of jumping out of a corner to win a mega ICC tournament. The 1992 50-over World Cup win, the 2009 World T20 victory and the most recent 2017 Champions Trophy campaign are proof of that.

This time around, they’ll be angry and motivated at the same time to win the T20 World Cup after New Zealand and then England refused to travel to the country to play their respective series. Imam says he didn’t like what the ECB and Black Caps did.

“I was disappointed for sure. It was heart-breaking. They shouldn’t have done that,” he said.

“No favourite team ever wins a big tournament. So, it will be an open tournament and Pakistan have a chance to grab the title,” he added.

National T20 Cup pitches

The ongoing National T20 Cup attracted criticism over the quality of pitches after two players were caught on microphone talking about how horrendous they were. Later, reports emerged that the newly elected PCB chairman Ramiz Raja also took notice of it and ordered better pitches when the tournament moves to Lahore. However, Imam says the criticism was uncalled for.

“Teams faced problems in the start, but when they understood the conditions, even scores of 175-plus were chased easily. Now you can see that whoever is playing good cricket is winning matches and pitch is playing a minimal role in the results,” explained Imam.

Ramiz’s arrival a ‘good sign’

Former opener-turned-commentator Ramiz Raja was asked by PM Imran Khan to hold the reins of the PCB after Ehsan Mani refused to extend his tenure at the helm.

Ramiz comes with great promises for the future of Pakistan cricket and Imam believes he can deliver on those.

“It is a very good sign. He is a former cricketer, has played and seen cricket all over the world. I have high hopes from him,” he concluded.