Sunil Gavaskar column: Pakistan's team selection for World Cup was hard to understand

But Babar Azam's team have a chance to earn a face-saving win today against England

By Sunil Gavaskar

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Pakistan captain Babar Azam during a practice session at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. — AFP
Pakistan captain Babar Azam during a practice session at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. — AFP

Published: Sat 11 Nov 2023, 8:38 AM

When the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup schedule first came out, most cricket fans would have marked certain must see matches. One of them would have been between the defending champions England and Pakistan.

Scheduled on the penultimate day of the group stage, it would have been pencilled as the match that could decide the semifinalists.

It still is a match that can technically be called a quarterfinal for the Pakistan team but after New Zealand's thumping win over Sri Lanka in their last game, they know that not even a miracle can get them to qualify as the fourth semifinalist.

All kinds of permutations and calculations can be tried but still it will be New Zealand who will join India, South Africa and Australia in the semifinals.

Pakistan's four losses have cost them the spot in the semifinals. Out of nine group matches, if a team won six, that team was certain to qualify.

India have won eight on the trot and so have finished on top while Australia and South Africa can finish with 14 and so will finish second and third.

The net run-rate also comes into play and it is here that New Zealand with 300 plus scores in some of the games have done wonders to their run-rate and so will be extremely difficult for Pakistan to catch up with.

For England, the added incentive is to be able to qualify for the Champions Trophy to be played in Pakistan in 2025. To qualify for that, the teams had to finish in the top eight of this event as only eight teams will be participating in that tournament.

They too have struggled with getting off to a good start with Jonny Bairstow, who was in cracking good form in the English season, has just not been able to recapture a semblance of that form and so it's been left to Dawid Malan to take more responsibility at the top.

With Joe Root and Jos Buttler also struggling, the English batting has just not been able to give their bowlers enough runs to defend.

The England bowlers too, have not been consistent and so for a great part of the tournament the team was pretty much in the basement of the table of points. This last game gives them a chance to redeem themselves and scratch through to the qualification for the Champions Trophy.

For Pakistan too it's a chance to go back on a high with a win over the defending champions. They started the tournament well but after the heavy loss to India their morale seemed down and they were unable to lift themselves.

Their team selection, especially that of the spinners, was hard to understand. That area was their weak point and with the much heralded new ball bowlers also unable to strike the early blows the opposition was able to get after the slower bowlers.

Babar Azam would be looking to finish off on a personal high and also lead the team to a face-saving win. (Professional Management Group)

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