The countdown to the much-anticipated Cricket World Cup 2023 has begun, and cricket enthusiasts worldwide are eagerly awaiting the clash of titans on the pitch. While teams are fine-tuning their strategies and gearing up for the ultimate showdown, Pakistan’s journey to the World Cup has taken an unexpected turn especially with one their star bowler Naseem Shah injured.
The Asia Cup 2023 served as a crucial precursor for many teams, offering them an opportunity to assess their mettle and fine-tune their combinations against formidable opponents. However, for the Babar Azam-led Pakistan cricket team, the Asia Cup proved to be a bitter disappointment.
Firstly, Pakistan lost the privilege of hosting the entire continental event, which was a blow to their aspirations. Then, their performance in the Asia Cup was far from ideal, as they finished at the bottom of the Super 4 stage following losses to arch-rivals India and Sri Lanka. This string of defeats dealt a significant blow to their morale and preparations for the upcoming World Cup.
Adding to Pakistan’s woes, their star pacer, Naseem Shah, is now facing uncertainty regarding his availability for the Cricket World Cup. During the Asia Cup Super 4 match against India, Naseem suffered a shoulder injury that has cast doubts on his participation in the mega event.
According to a report from ESPN Cricinfo, scans on Naseem’s injured right shoulder have raised concerns about his fitness in time for the Cricket World Cup. The report suggests that if the results of the secondary scan mirror those of the initial scan, Naseem Shah might be forced into a prolonged injury-induced break.
The pivotal moment occurred during the Super 4 game against India when Naseem had to leave the field during the 46th over. He did not return to bat, leaving Pakistan’s hopes hanging by a thread.
Pakistan’s quest for the Asia Cup 2023 title was shattered when they faced a must-win match against Sri Lanka. Opting to bat first, Pakistan posted a competitive total of 252/7 in 42 overs, thanks to Mohammad Rizwan’s unbeaten 86. However, it was Kusal Mendis and Charith Asalanka’s explosive batting display that propelled Sri Lanka to victory, with just one ball remaining and two wickets in hand. This heartbreaking elimination left former Pakistan skipper Shahid Afridi vocal in his criticism of the team’s selection.
Afridi strongly rebuked Pakistan’s management for their lack of experimentation with the lineup and their failure to bench underperforming players like Shadab Khan. He emphasized the importance of making strategic decisions, particularly in the context of a major tournament like the World Cup.
“This is an age-old problem. India is playing in the Asia Cup, and I’ve seen changes in almost every game in their team. They’ve rested senior players, fielded juniors – it shows that they are preparing for the World Cup. These decisions are very important; you select a 15-member squad because the benched players are as capable as those in the starting XI. There should be no hesitation in resting first-choice players,” Afridi expressed during an interview on Samaa TV.
As Pakistan navigates these challenges and attempts to regroup for the Cricket World Cup 2023, the cricketing world watches with bated breath, curious to see how they will overcome these obstacles and strive for glory on the grandest stage of them all.
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