'Pakistan don't have a finisher of Hardik Pandya' caliber' - Shahid Afridi
Hardik Pandya has been in terrific form as an end-overs aggressor for India in T20Is ahead of the T20 World Cup.
Former Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi rued the presence of an end-overs aggressor of the "calibre" of premier India allrounder Hardik Pandya. Afridi said Pakistan had bank on players like Asif Ali and Khushdil Shah but they haven't produced the kind of goods that Pandya has for the neighbours.
Speaking on Pakistan-based Samaa TV with sports presenter Sawera Pasha, Afridi raved over Pandya after his magnificent finish in the T20I series decider against Australia on Sunday (September 25). The right-hander recovered from a scratchy start to hit a match-winning 25 not out off 16 balls.
In the opening game of the series against the Aussies, Hardik Pandya smashed his way to arguably his best knock for India in T20Is - 71 off 30 deliveries in Mohali. Earlier in the season, Pandya hit another critical 33 off 17 versus Afridi's countrymen in a group stage encounter of the Asia Cup 2022.
Afridi said Asif and Shah, and other middle-order Pakistan batters, haven't been able to play knocks of such substance with the acceptable frequency with the bat in hand for the team.
Pakistan missing their Hardik Pandya: Shahid Afridi
"This kind of a finisher (like Hardik Pandya) we don’t have. We thought Asif Ali, and Khushdil will do the job but they haven’t," Afridi said on Samaa TV. "Nawaz is also not that consistent, and neither is Shadab. Among these four players, at least two need to be consistent."
Nawaz, who was sent in as a successful pinch-hitter for Pakistan's victory in the Asia Cup rematch against India in the Super 4s stage, made 42 off 20 balls that day but has a career T20I strike-rate of only 129.89. Asif, another player with six-hitting capabilities, has a healthier strike-rate of 138.53 but averages only 16.3.
Part of the trouble for the Pakistani middle-order is the lack of opportunities to find time in the middle before they could explode. Boasting of two prominent anchors at the top in skipper Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan, their game plan sets up for wickets in hand ahead of the final over the assault.
But that sells the middle-order short, especially with Babar (129.83) and Rizwan (128.59) operating with middling strike-rates and taking too many balls out of the game at their respective end. While Rizwan faces an average around 31 balls per innings in T20Is, Babar plays out nearly 29 balls at his end.
Afridi, meanwhile, also spoke about Pakistan's chances of reclaiming the T20 World Cup trophy in Australia. "In the kind of pitches on which we are playing now, you need two genuine fast bowlers and one all-rounder. The new guy Jamal that we have picked, why don’t you play him? Play him as an all-rounder, make him bowl and then ask him to bat. You will get to know what type of cricketer he is."
“If Pakistan are dreaming to win the World Cup then they need to work a lot on their bowling and batting and minimize the mistakes that they have been committing in the last few matches."