T20 World Cup: Namibia's big chance to test their game against Pakistan

Asif Ali (right) was Pakistan's hero against Afghanistan. (AFP)
Asif Ali (right) was Pakistan's hero against Afghanistan. (AFP)

Namibia took a giant leap in the sport by qualifying for the tournament

By Ayaz Memon

Published: Tue 2 Nov 2021, 1:03 AM

After three wins on the trot, and that against teams which held out threat, Pakistan’s entry into the semifinal is certain, and only awaits ratification on points. This should come in tonight’s match against Namibia, perhaps the weakest team in the tournament.

In this easy encounter, what is of interest is to see what strategy Pakistan employ in the build-up for the semifinal.

Will they play the same side as in the three earlier matches, or experiment with players to assess the form of those on the bench and also keep them motivated?

Both approaches have merit. Playing the same team gives a sense of continuity to the players. Since the biggest test for Pakistan was against India and New Zealand, it is fair to state that the best playing XI was chosen for those matches. Having won both those games, as well as the third against Afghanistan, these players have vindicated the faith reposed in them, so why unsettle a winning combination.

Looked at from another point of view, since passage into the semi-finals is assured, experimentation comes without risk. There are others in the squad that the team management might want to check out on. In the knock out phase, matches tend to get tougher, more intense, not always the best time to check out bench strength.

There are good reasons too for experimenting in this game and the next, against Scotland. While Pakistan have been on a winning spree, two of the three matches were won under pressure, both New Zealand and Afghanistan running them close till the very end.

This may have thrown up some issues in the batting and bowling for the team management, which experimentation in the league stage might help resolve.

Experimentation also helps in providing rest. While Pakistan’s international commitments haven’t been as packed as India’s or England’s, a brief break can reinvigorate players, especially fast bowlers who have had to toil in the heat of the UAE.

Also, players from all countries have been spending most of their time in the claustrophobic environment of bio-secure bubbles which take a heavy psychological toll. Just being rested for a game may be helpful for some players to gather their thoughts and sharpen their motivation.

Obviously, even if there are changes, these will be restricted to one or two. All told, Pakistan will want to win the match to keep the momentum going, and win it by a wide margin to hike their Net Run Rate which is currently behind Afghanistan.

For Namibia, who took a giant leap in the sport by qualifying for the tournament, this is excellent opportunity to rub shoulders and compete against some of the best players in the game. It’s an important milestone in their learning curve.

Ayaz Memon is an Indian sports writer and commentator

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