Which side will win the National T20 Cup 2023/24?
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There were lofty hopes for Pakistan entering the 2023 World Cup. Many pundits and enthusiasts had pegged them as potential semi-finalists. However, Pakistan crashed out during the group stages and perpetuated its record of failing to secure a semi-final berth more than once this century in an ODI Wolrd Cup. What went wrong?

By PakPassion Staff (13 November, 2023)


Great Expectations:
It was during the toss in Pakistan’s final match against England that Babar Azam knew his World Cup campaign was truly over. Going into the match, there was a mathematical chance that Pakistan could have secured a spot in the semi-finals if they batted first. However, England won the toss and batted, essentially sealing Pakistan's fate in the tournament. Babar Azam's hollow smile thereafter signified the collapse of his World Cup aspirations.

Many pundits and observers had touted Pakistan as a potential semi-finalist prior to the World Cup. Pakistan boasted the top rank in ODIs, the best-rated batsman, and one of the most esteemed pace attacks in the competition. The fervor around 'The Pakistan Way'—an approach marked by positive, bold, and aggressive play—had generated immense anticipation among fans. With the tournament being held in India, a country that had shunned Pakistan's cricket for years, hopes were high for the boys in green to shine on the world stage.

However, it became increasingly apparent, especially after the crushing defeat against India, that the pre-tournament expectations were merely a facade, swiftly crumbling as the tournament progressed.

Pakistan only managed to secure victories in four matches but faced defeats in five. They suffered losses against the Netherlands, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and New Zealand. Even their win against New Zealand was largely owed to Fakhar Zaman and the intervention of the weather, utilizing the DLS method.

In the game against the Netherlands, Pakistan struggled with their batting. Major teams batting first against the Netherlands scored significantly higher—322 (NZ), 399 (AUS), 339 (ENG), 410 (IND)—while Pakistan could only muster 286. This underperformance highlighted the glaring lack of firepower in their batting lineup.

And indeed, this was a recurring theme throughout the tournament.


With their top 5 batsmen—Abdullah Shafique, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan, and Saud Shakeel—functioning more as run accumulators than aggressors, Pakistan failed to consistently achieve scores of 300–350. Throughout nine games, they only surpassed 300 twice (against Sri Lanka and Australia), while other top-tier teams regularly achieved scores beyond 300 when batting first.

The Pakistani batsmen, in general, began too cautiously, accumulating numerous dot balls and failing to capitalize on the power playovers. Notably, it wasn't until their sixth game against Afghanistan that they managed to strike a six during the power play overs, marking the first occurrence in 2023. This lack of early aggression, reminiscent of '90s-style cricket where runs were accumulated slowly until the last 10 overs, proved costly. In matches against Afghanistan and South Africa, their conservative approach resulted in falling short by 15–30 runs, contributing to critical losses that ultimately halted their progression to the semi-finals.

The team's batting style shifted notably when Fakhar Zaman rejoined the lineup during the Bangladesh game and onwards. His aggressive approach against opposition bowlers aligned more with modern cricket, revitalizing the team's batting dynamics.

Skipper Babar Azam's performance during the World Cup epitomized this lack of intent. Despite scoring four half-centuries, his inability to convert these starts into substantial scores, along with his slow strike rate of 83, highlighted his struggle on flat Indian wickets. His seven soft dismissals out of eight added to this concern, reflecting a broader issue within the team's culture. If the captain sets a slow pace, it sets a detrimental example. This is best seen by comparing his average vs. strike rate with that of the number 3 batsmen in other counties. He only has a better strike rate than his Dutch and Bangladesh counterparts.

Player Country Runs Average Strike Rate
Kusal Mendis SL 294 32.66 114
Mitch Marsh Aus 426 60.85 110
Rachin Ravindra NZ 565 70.62 108
Virat Kohli Ind 594 99 89
van der Dussen SA 442 55.25 89
Joe Root Eng 276 30.66 88
Babar Azam Pak 386 40 83
Colin Ackerman Ned 216 24 82
Najmal Shanto Ban 222 27.75 78




Pakistan's challenges extended beyond batting. Their bowling department potentially squandered their semi-final aspirations.

In matches where Pakistan batted first, their bowling struggled, conceding high totals: 344 (vs SL), 367 (vs Aus), 204 (vs Ban), 401 (vs NZ), and 337 (vs Eng). The team's inability to restrict opposition scoring, a supposed strength, was evident in these statistics.

Their bowling problems started with their opening bowlers not finding their rhythm (except for the match against Bangladesh). While Shaheen Shah Afridi was the standout bowler by taking 18 wickets, he only took 3 wickets with the new ball. With Naseem Shah injured, the team’s inability to take wickets with the new ball hurt. But what hurt Pakistan even more was Haris Rauf’s performance as well as their spinners.

Haris Rauf struggled to find his rhythm this tournament, especially in the early stages. In fact, when he bowled in the power play, his economy was over 10. He was not able to find a good line and length and bowled a considerable number of wides. While he bowled well at the death, and while he did pick up 16 wickets, he conceded 533 runs and in doing so, broke the unfortunate record of conceding the most runs in ODI World Cup history.

However, it was the inability of their spinners to take wickets and contain runs in the middle overs that really hurt Pakistan. Out of the 65 wickets that Pakistan’s bowlers took, only 12 were taken by spinners. In fact, 4 of those 12 wickets were taken by the part-time bowler, Iftikhar Ahmed. Shadab Khan, Usama Mir, and Mohammad Nawaz struggled to land the ball consistently and in the right areas, and they were not able to generate significant turn. They consistently bowled too short or full tosses, which were easily dispatched to the boundary. In fact, their frontline spinners bowled so poorly that Iftikhar ended up bowling the most overs of spin with better results:

  Overs Wickets Runs Average Economy
Ifthikar Ahmed 48 4 262 65.5 5.45
Shadab Khan, Usama Mir & Mohammad Nawaz Combined 110.5 8 708 88.5 6.4

If you compare the frontline spinners of other countries compared with Shadab Khan, it is evident that Pakistan was just not good enough in their spinning department to compete:

Strike Rate
A Zampa Aus
M Santner NZ
A Rahid Eng
K Yadav Ind
K Maharaj SA
R Khan Afg
A Dutt Ned
S Al Hasan Ban
M Theekshana SL
S Khan Pak



Captaincy and game awareness:

Babar Azam’s captaincy was timid, and it lacked aggression and tactical guile. For instance, against Australia, when it seemed Pakistan would not chase the total, they should have aimed to play out the overs to reduce their net run rate deficit. Instead, their tailenders attempted big hits and got out early.

Against Bangladesh, Babar Azam should have utilised more overs from his fast bowlers to dismiss them faster. Instead, he bowled out his spinners first. This would have helped their net-run rate situation as well.

In the match against South Africa, Pakistan's tail-enders were dismissed in 46.4 overs, lacking a strategic approach. The team should have focused on playing out the remaining overs more wisely.

Contrast this with New Zealand’s loss to South Africa. Despite their expected defeat, the Black Caps made sure to utilize as many overs as possible, even sending Matt Henry to bat with a torn hamstring to squeeze every run for their net run rate calculations. Such instances of match awareness make a significant difference.


Considering Pakistan's poor all-round performance in batting, bowling, and game approach, they didn’t merit a place in the semi-finals; they simply weren’t good enough. Ultimately, landing in 5th place, just above Afghanistan based on net run rate, was more good fortune than merit.

Moving forward, they'll need to rethink their approach to the game, not just discussing “The Pakistan Way” but genuinely implementing it. Otherwise, they will be left behind as the game evolves and modernises without them.