Pakistan start Women’s T20 World Cup campaign against Windies

By: Raheel Hanif      Published: 05:06 PM, 25 Feb, 2020
Pakistan start Women’s T20 World Cup campaign against Windies
West Indies captain Stafanie Taylor and Pakistan captain Bismah Maroof. File photo

Pakistan women’s team will begin their journey in the all-important ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Wednesday against the West Indies Women in Canberra.

Pakistan never reached to the knock out stage at the ICC women events and this time when upsets have shocked all around with India defeating Australia and South Africa downing England, Pakistan can feel a window of opportunity to break into the last four of the event.

Pakistan’s 15-member squad boasts an exciting blend of young and senior players. On the back of her extraordinary run in the National Triangular T20 Women’s Cricket Championship 2019-20 which saw her accumulate 292 runs, including a century and three half-centuries, at an average of 58.40, Muneeba Ali was recalled in the side.

In their opener, Pakistan would take on former champions West Indies who are prone to batting collapse as they dismissed in double figures five times since the last T20 World Cup and bowled out for 71 by Australia in their 2018 semi-final on home soil. They were equally unconvincing in chasing down 79 to beat Thailand in their tournament opener and gave ample opportunity to women in green to shock them and kindle their semi-final hopes in the event.

However, Stafanie Taylor’s side is laced with experience, boasting more T20I caps in their squad than any other nation at the World Cup. Bismah Maroof’s outfit, by contrast, have an average age of 25 and fewer combined caps than all teams apart from Sri Lanka and Thailand. SO Pakistan would really have to on top of their game to trump the West Indies.

West Indies and Pakistan are familiar foes, contesting two warm-up matches in the weeks leading up to the tournament and playing out an entertaining three-match series 12 months ago.

Under the captaincy of Maroof, who will be leading the side in a world event for the first time, Pakistan will be eying to secure a semi-final berth for the first time. Since the last ICC Women’s T20 World Cup in 2018, Pakistan have featured in 14 T20Is. They have won six matches, lost seven and one of them ended in a tie - the second of the three-T20Is in Karachi, which the West Indies won in Super Over.

Pakistan would bank on the experience of all-rounder Nida Dar who is the first Pakistan women cricketer to play in Woman Big Bash League this season and have ample experience to play in Australian conditions. Nida became the first Pakistan player to appear in the competition as part of the Sydney Thunder side in this year's tournament, where she had 11 matches, claiming 13 wickets at 16.92 - the best average in the team - and an economy rate 6.87.

Nida Dar's experience with Sydney Thunder in Women Big Bash League will be vital for Pakistan. 

And Nida claims her side can capitalise on the six-hitting bravado of West Indies after watching them struggle to rotate strike against debutants Thailand.

“West Indies want to show their skills, because they are strong, and hit a boundary from every ball,” said the all-rounder. “They were very disturbed by the pace Thailand bowled to them. Slower balls and variations can be very helpful for us against them as they try to hit hard every time. Maybe in our match they’ll adapt to conditions and try to rotate the strike. Asian teams are giving tough times to everyone at the World Cup and our spinners will try to do the same.”

Nida feels Pakistan can profit from a fresh-faced make-up. “Our youth is the best thing about our team,” said the 33-year-old. “West Indies won’t know all of our players and some of them will be a surprise package. I’m in a team of very talented players with a mix of senior and junior players. I hope they’re looking forward to playing at the World Cup. We just want to show our skills.”

West Indies vice-captain and off-spinner Anisa Mohammed believes their batters must do their bit and help out the bowlers. “I think our batting just needs to improve a bit. Our fielding and our bowling against Thailand was spot on - the seamers set the tone and as spinners, we enjoyed the bounce we got from the pitch. “Pakistan have some good players and they’re a very different team from when we played them in previous series. I think they’re a pretty good team. Their bowling is really their strength, so hopefully our batters can counter that and put a total on the board for us to bowl at. All teams in this competition are strong, everyone’s here to win and to qualify. We’re taking every game very seriously.”

For Pakistan, Ayesha Naseem, an exciting 16-year-old hard-hitting batter, is all set to make her debut, while pacer Aimen Anwar, who is also returning to the national side, is expected to take the new ball with Diana Baig.

The presence of their captain Bismah, who is the only Pakistan batter to have more than 2,000 runs and has the most half-centuries (11) in 106 T20Is from Pakistan, Nida Dar, who has 1,086 runs 92 wickets at an average of 17.82 in 98 T20Is, and Javeria Khan, the second highest run-getter with 1,744 in 97 T20Is, provide the desired shorter-format experience and form the core of the batting department. Aliya Riaz, Diana Baig and Aroob Shah, a 16-year-old leg-spinner, boost the bowling department.

Along with their presence, Pakistan will be pinning their hopes on Anam Amin, who has the most scalps for Pakistan since the last edition of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup in West Indies with 13 wickets at 16.07 in eight matches and will spearhead the bowling attack.

The slow left-arm orthodox, who is a new-ball specialist, was the leading wicket-taker in the National Triangular T20 Women’s Cricket Championship 2019-20 with seven wickets at 13.71. She is currently ranked 13th in the ICC Rankings for T20I bowlers and is hopeful that she will break into the top 10 once again over the course of the ongoing World Cup.

Anam Amin said: “My target is to help Pakistan make history by qualifying for the semi-finals. “I am very excited for this World Cup and my aim is to deliver to the best of my abilities and be amongst the top 10 bowlers. I have been passionate about cricket since my childhood and I used to play tape-ball cricket with boys in the streets. Initially, I faced opposition by my mother on the prospect of taking cricket as a profession. But, I got a lot of support from my father and grandfather. As soon as I broke into the national side, my mother not only accepted me as a cricketer but she now tells me to pick at least two to three wickets every match.”

SQUADS:

PAKISTAN: Bismah Maroof (captain), Aimen Anwar, Aliya Riaz, Anam Amin, Ayesha Naseem, Diana Baig, Fatima Sana, Iram Javed, Javeria Khan, Muneeba Ali, Nida Dar, Omaima Sohail, Sadia Iqbal, Sidra Nawaz (wicketkeeper) and Syeda Aroob Shah

WEST INDIES: Stafanie Taylor (Captain), Aaliyah Alleyne, Shemaine Campbelle, Shamilia Connell, Britney Cooper, Deandra Dottin, Afy Fletcher, Cherry-Ann Fraser, Sheneta Grimmond, Chinelle Henry, Lee-Ann Kirby, Hayley Matthews, Anisa Mohammed, Chedean Nation, Shakera Selman.