SWOT Analysis: Can Bismah Maroof’s return inspire Pakistan to best finish?

For a team that has won only two of its 23 previous matches at the tournament, the ODI World Cup might not always bring the best memories. However, Pakistan finished fifth in the ICC Women’s Championship and narrowly missed out on direct qualification for the 2022 World Cup.

Pakistan have made some rapid strides over the last World Cup cycle and inspite of not having played in 2021, they put in an impressive display in the warm-up match against New Zealand in the lead-up to the World Cup.

Pakistan have never been to the knockout stage of the World Cup but this tournament promises to be more competitive than most previous editions.

Strengths

Return of Bismah Maroof

Only Javeria Khan has scored more runs and has a better average than Bismah Maroof in ODIs among all Pakistan players till date. To say that Bismah’s return boosts the Pakistan batting, would be a massive understatement.

Bismah’s return not just bolsters the batting but it is her captaincy that adds a far greater value to a young team. Eight different women have captained Pakistan in ODIs but Bismah is the only one with a positive win-loss ratio. Moreover, some of the team’s best results have come under Bismah.

ALSO READ: Bismah Maroof: A chance for us to break the glass ceiling

Aliya Riaz and Nida Dar’s middle order versatility

With Bismah on maternity leave for most of the past two years, Pakistan’s top order has been in plenty of strife and Aliya Riaz and Nida Dar often found themselves digging the team out of a hole. To their credit, they have done it on more occasions than not and have reveled in the responsibility of being the team’s finishers.

With them likely to slot in at five and six, Pakistan’s batting, which has been a big concern for them in the last few years, has players who can repair the damage as well as increase the scoring rate at will in the last few overs. Dar’s average in the last five years is almost ten runs more than her career average, while Riaz would want to make a mark in her first ODI World Cup.

ALSO READ: I want to be the player who finishes matches for Pakistan: Aliya Riaz

Fatima Sana’s emergence

Pakistan’s spinners have historically been their strength, but in Fatima Sana, they finally have a bowler who wants to be the fastest in the world and has grown by leaps and bounds in the last 12 months, testament to which is her being awarded ICC’s Emerging Cricketer of the Year.

She enjoys bowling with pace bowling spearhead Diana Baig and even though she has not played in New Zealand before, the conditions at the World Cup might suit her well. Watch out for her late-order pyrotechnics too as she is more than capable of changing the course of the match in the end overs.

Pakistan squad

Weaknesses

Top order woes

In the absence of Bismah, Pakistan’s top order has had a difficult time in the last World Cup cycle. Their top three have only averaged 24.34 in 34 matches. What compounds their problems further is that they only go at a pedestrian strike rate of 59.93.

One big reason for that was the downturn in Javeria’s form as captain. The pressure of captaincy seemed to tell on her as she only averaged 15.88 as captain. By contrast, her average under Bismah’s captaincy is an extremely impressive 40.

Big match inexperience

Pakistan have only played six ODIs in the last five years against Australia, England and India, which are currently the top, second and fourth ranked team respectively in the ICC ODI rankings. That means they have very little experience of playing the big teams. Moreover, they have never been in a knockout match previously at the World Cup and Dar is the only player from the country to have played in a major overseas league.

Opportunities

Can Javeria Khan regain her touch?

When Bismah took her maternity break, Javeria was the natural choice to take over as the captain. However, both the team’s as well as her form nosedived in her tenure at the top. Javeria is arguably Pakistan’s best batter of all time and she has enjoyed playing without the burden of captaincy in the past.

If Pakistan are to make a significant dent in this tournament, Javeria’s role as the team’s most experienced batter will be crucial and the team will be reliant on her for good starts.

Bismah Maroof’s winds of change

Irrespective of what happens at the tournament, Bismah’s return to the team is a big moment in sport as her decision to take a maternity break made the Pakistan Cricket Board, the first board in Asia to introduce a maternity clause in their contract.

Bismah’s return to action will inspire countless women to continue their careers post maternity and also force more boards to introduce a similar clause in their contracts.

Threats

Worst win-loss record

Pakistan have played the other seven teams that will be at the World Cup 30 times in the current World Cup cycle. However, they have only won seven of those 30 matches for a win-loss ratio of 0.33, which is easily the worst among all the eight teams in action.