World Cup Preview: Will Bismah Maroof’s Pakistan punch above their weight?

Pakistan © Getty Images

The history of the ODI World Cup has only seen three champions thus far in Australia, England, and New Zealand. With the 12th edition of the tournament upon us, numerous sides are gearing up to bag the elusive silverware and one of them is the Bismah Maroof-led Pakistan team.

The challenge for the green brigade is to not only put the mental block of not doing well in the tournament away but also prove the cricket pundits wrong who are not rating them high enough.

How they made it

Pakistan qualified for the tournament based on their ranking after the World Cup qualifier in Zimbabwe was called off due to the emergence of the latest COVID-19 variant and the subsequent travel restrictions. They comprehensively defeated both Thailand and Zimbabwe but lost to Bangladesh in a cliff hanger before the tournament was eventually called off.

What have they done in the past?

Pakistan made their 50 overs World Cup debut in the sixth edition of the event, which was organised in 1997-98 in India and finished at the bottom.

They did not play in the next two editions and made a comeback in the 2008-09 edition. Since then they have played every edition and are preparing to compete in their fifth World Cup. They were the wooden spooners in the last World Cup after losing all seven games.

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Best World Cup finish

Their most memorable World Cup was their comeback edition (2008-09) in Australia as the Urooj Mumtaz-led side played some good cricket, defeating the West Indies and Sri Lanka and securing the fifth spot on the ladder. 

Since they had a nightmarish outing in the 2017 World Cup, they are not being rated very highly by cricket pundits this time around. But the team looks spirited and is well and truly capable of causing some upsets despite all odds.

Squad

Bismah Maroof (c), Nida Dar (vc), Aiman Anwar, Aliya Riaz, Anam Amin, Diana Baig, Fatima Sana, Ghulam Fatima, Javeria Khan, Muneeba Ali, Nahida Khan, Nashra Sandhu, Omaima Sohail, Sidra Amin, Sidra Nawaz (wk)

Likely playing XI

Nahida Khan, Sidra Ameen, Javeria Khan, Omaima Sohail, Bismah Maroof(c), Nida Dar, Aliya Riaz, Fatima Sana, Sidra Nawaz (wk), Diana Baig, Nashra Sandhu

Key players

Javeria Khan

The most-experienced player in the squad, Javeria has played 115 ODIs and has been around since 2008. The 33-year old veteran has amassed 2874 runs, including two centuries and 15 half-centuries thus far. She is one of the most important pillars of the Pakistani batting order and will play a crucial role if the side has to advance to the knockouts.

Bismah Maroof

The skipper of the side, Maroof is not only one of Pakistan’s best all rounders, but is also one of their biggest match winners. In 108 ODIs, Maroof has scored over 2500 runs and also bagged 44 wickets. She took over the reins of captaincy from Sana Mir after the 2016 World T20 and will look to lead her side by example. She has shown a lot of maturity with the bat recently and is well and truly capable of playing the anchor’s role. 

X factor

Having picked up 20 wickets in 13 matches at an outstanding average of 24.90 in 2021, right-arm pacer Fatima Sana will be the player to watch out for in the World Cup. It was her outstanding run during the whole of 2021 that helped the 20-year old bag the ICC Emerging Cricketer of the Year award.

Although it is still early days as far as her international career is concerned, the amount of promise she has shown thus far can make her a dazzling star in the coming years.

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Sana recorded five for 39 against the West Indies in the fifth ODI at the Coolidge Cricket Ground in Antigua and gave a glimpse of her potential which has been on the rise ever since. She ran through the West Indian batting order and didn’t give them any respite whatsoever. The young speedster will be expected to shoulder the onus of the bowling attack with senior pacer Diana Baig and it wouldn’t come as a surprise if she dismantles some batting orders in the World Cup.

Prediction

Group stage exit

Pakistan have not been able to do well in the recent past. They lost their last four ODI series against England, South Africa, and the West Indies both in the Caribbean and at home. Although they have some quality players in their squad, an early exit from the group stage is on the cards for them largely based on their recent performances.