Autopsy One: Pakistan and their T20 fortunes

posted on 2018-07-09 12:27:31
posted by Clive Azavedo

Pakistan’s resurgence in the bowling is largely down to the Pakistan Super League.

Image courtesy: NDTV

When international sides started playing T20, there was one side in the world which looked like an ideal fit for the format. That side was Pakistan, given the obsession with tape ball cricket in the sub continent and having the players who possess the right temperament in addition to that the unpredictable nature of the T20 format and you get an idea as to why that belief existed.

In the early days of the format, no other side dominated like Pakistan. From their first T20 till 31st December 2009 they had the best W/L ratio in the world winning 4.2 games for every 1 loss, no other side even had 2, the next best being South Africa with 1.88 wins per loss. Given T20 cricket’s nature of being a tough format to master, Pakistan had consistency.

Pakistan’s batting in this period was on par with the average in the T20 format, the batting average of 25.81 slightly better than the overall average of 21.41 and the scoring rate of 7.71 better than the overall average of 7.57. But there were two sides (India & Australia) who averaged more than Pakistan and they were 7th in their scoring rate. So although their batting was slightly better than the average, it was not the best in the world and definitely not good enough to explain their W/L record.

The other discipline of the game explains why Pakistan did so well in the early days of T20 cricket, a bowling average 16.95 -- best in the world for sides to have played more than 10 games -- and their economy rate of 6.83 was better than the overall average of 7.58, that’s a difference of 0.75 runs per over which converts to 15 runs over an innings, a huge difference in the format where even the smallest of advantages has to be looked at closely.

There was a slump once they won the WT20, their W/L record of 1.131 wins per loss from 1st Jan 2010 to 31st December 2016 among sides to have played more than 50 T20I’s was only better than Sri Lanka & West Indies who both had 1.068 wins per loss.

Pakistan’s batting average (21.63)  was rock bottom, along with their scoring rate. When it came to batting they were easily one of the worst sides if not the worst around. But their bowling which was their major strength was the reason for their downfall in this format, their bowling average of 22.07 was the 4th best in the world which is just better than the overall average of 22.40, while their economy rate 7.42 was the best it was just better than the overall economy rate of 7.57 runs per over.

Pakistan’s slump in this phase was largely down to the fact that their batting became worse than the average and their bowling which was their strength was just as good as the average T20 side.

Changes were needed for Pakistan, they needed them quick. After the 2016 WT20, the PCB moved swiftly by appointing Sarfraz Ahmed as the new T20 captain. The T20 side needed a new approach, they needed to improve their batting and they need to make their strong suit which is bowling the best in the world. For that they needed a supply line of players. That supply line was the Pakistan Super League.

Pakistan’s batting since 1st Jan 2017 has improved leaps and bounds, in terms of average the side (30.60)  is second only to India (34.4), the scoring rate (8.33) is the 6th best in the world and is just better than the overall scoring rate of 8.27 runs per over. Pakistan’s boundary index (which is the number of runs scored in boundaries per 100 balls) is 71.5 which is below than the overall average of 75. But it has to be noted that in the 3 phases of Pakistan’s T20i history, this phase is the first time Pakistan has crossed more than 70 boundary runs per 100 balls.

Pakistan’s bowling which was one of the main ingredients in their success in the early days was back at being it’s best. Pakistan’s bowling average of 19.06 is the best in the world and below the overall average of 24.06, while the economy rate of 7.28 is second only to Afghanistan’s 7.26 runs per over and better than the overall rate of 8.27 runs per over. Pakistan on average does 20 runs better in an innings than the average bowling line up which is even better than the 15 runs saved in an innings in the early days. When it comes to conceding boundaries, Pakistan is the most miserly, conceding just 66 runs in boundaries per 100 balls which is 9 better than the average.

Pakistan’s resurgence in the bowling is largely down to the Pakistan Super League. Shadab Khan, Hasan Ali, Rumman Raees, Mohd Nawaz, Usman Khan Shinwari, Shaheen Shah Afridi are just some of the bowlers who have made it to the side after a strong PSL performance. This list does not include Mohd Amir, Imad Wasim & Faheem Ashraf who were with the side before the PSL.

Given how well Pakistan has been doing and you would think that they could not do better than this, but there is one slight weakness in this side, Fakhar Zaman’s opening partner. While Fakhar has been a revelation since he has come on to the international stage, it’s his lack of contribution from his opening partner which is a cause of concern. Babar Azam seems like a solution to this issue though, he is a free scorer in the powerplay using the field restrictions to score runs and once the powerplay overs are done he can play an attacking brand of cricket without the fear of losing his wicket given how deep the Pakistani batting line up is.

Pakistan’s T20 side has adapted to the growing needs of T20 cricket which is all rounders, in their last T20 against Australia they batted till 10 and had 28 overs of bowling options. This deep batting lineup gives them them the license to go out and play the most attacking game they can with the knowledge that if things go wrong in a chase, the lower order is capable enough to knock off runs in a tense situation. With experienced heads like Sarfraz Ahmed and Shoaib Malik, the side can set totals or chase them down.

While Pakistan’s batting has improved a lot from the early days of T20 cricket, their bowling is one of the major components in their game. Given how the format is dominated by the batsmen, Pakistan looks to it’s bowlers to win them games, the bowlers can defend a mediocre total set their by batting and if they bowl first ensure that it’s a manageable chase. Pakistan’s T20 side is back at being their best in one of the most volatile formats of the game.

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