Pakistan’s Spin Dilemma: Can Usama Mir Step in for Shadab Khan? – News18

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Usama Mir or Shadab Khan – a conundrum for Pakistan in World Cup 2023

Concerns mount for Pakistan as Shadab Khan’s form wavers, while Usama Mir emerges as a potential solution in their World Cup campaign.

It was not long ago that Pakistan were considered one of the top contenders for the World Cup 2023. After all, they were the No.1 ranked ODI team, but all of that changed after they suffered a heavy defeat to India in the Asia Cup. Add to that the injury to Naseem Shah and it seemed the wheels were coming off for the Babar Azam-led team at the most inopportune time.

But the biggest worry Pakistan has been the form, rather the lack of it of their lead spinner Shahdab Khan for over a year now.

Shadab did stroll out the middle for the toss ahead of Pakistan’s 2nd warm-up game against New Australia at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium, Uppal in front of what was a sparse crowd which swelled up as the day went on.

Australia won the toss and posted a solid 351 – with Shadab returning 10-0-69-1. Haris Rauf went for 97 in his 9 and Mohammad Wasim Jr. went for 63 in his 8. In comparison, Shadab’s numbers look decent but the larger stats to look at here is his record in the last year in ODIs he averages 39.07 going at an economy of 5.54. For a bowler, who operates in the middle overs with a very high economy rate and considering Pakistan go into this World Cup in the subcontinent with a ragtag spin attack it is worrisome.

On commentary, former Pakistan skipper and recently the PCB chief, Ramiz Raja said to the tune of Pakistan not having even a single specialist spinner. That is a damning statement considering the backing Shadab, the vice-captain of the team, seems to be getting from the management.

While we may not want to take the practice games too seriously, Shadab will be feeling the pressure to deliver.

Usama Mir, a more traditional leggie was added to the World Cup squad as a late addition with Pakistan dropping the pace bowling allrounder Fahim Ashraf. Hasan Ali was a direct swap for injured Naseem.

And Usama, who made his ODI debut only this year, can very well be speculated pipped Ashraf as a backup to Shadab if needed. Mohammad Nawaz is the third spinner in the Pakistan squad. And even his numbers are not looking great.

Pakistan’s lack of wicket-taking ability in the middle-overs by Nawaz and Shadab cost them dearly in the Asia Cup, and if this trend follows in the World Cup, Pakistan could very well be on the flight back home sooner than they expect.

However, Mir did put up a strong case for making the XI with another decent performance, well better than Shadab, in the 5 overs he bowled today. He broke a promising opening stand and later accounted for both the Australian openers.

Hailing from Sialkot and aged 27, made his Pakistan debut earlier this year after a stellar domestic season. Surprisingly, he remained on the bench throughout the Asia Cup, despite having played alongside Shadab during the Afghanistan series leading up to the tournament. The lack of wickets in the middle order, both for Shadab and left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz, contributed to Pakistan’s early exit from the Asia Cup.

Interestingly, both Mir and Shadab were coming up at the same time as Saeed Ajmal’s career went downhill and it was Shadab who had pipped the 27-year-old then. But, Mir, with his PSL performances in and exploits in England in the subsequent years, including The Hundred, put himself back in the reckoning and now finds himself on the cusp of what could be a surprise World Cup appearance come October 6th vs. the Netherlands.

As for the match, Glenn Maxwell and the lower-order went ballistic in the middle overs especially targeting both Shadab and Nawaz with the Big Shoe adding 71 off 70, Cameron Green 50* off 40 and Josh Englis 48 off 30 taking Australia to 351/7 after David Warner (48) and Mitchell Marsh (31) had their fun in the middle.

Pakistan replied, in kind – rather Babar Azam did with a scintillating 90 off 59 and Iftikar Ahmed promoted up the order and got a good hit in the middle with an 85-ball 83. Australian bowlers did not exert much with as many as eight bowlers used. Pakistan were bowled out for 337 losing the tie by 14 runs and heading to tournament proper with two losses in the warm-up games.

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