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When talking about the shift of venue from India to the UAE for the T20 World Cup 2021. It won’t be wrong to consider the Pakistan Cricket Team the biggest beneficiary of this decision. To shed light on the impact familiar UAE pitches, going to have on Pakistan’s journey in this T20 World Cup, here is the piece.
Pakistan Cricket and the UAE – A Bittersweet Bond
Pakistan Cricket bore a deep wound in March 2009 when the bus carrying Sri Lankan players, en route to Gadaffi Stadium Lahore, was attacked by a group of armed men. The aftermath of this event was a complete shutdown of international cricket in Pakistan for many years to come. PCB had no choice but to turn to the UAE for help, which welcomed PCB’s decision of hosting home matches there with both arms wide open.
UAE and Pakistan’s T20I Cricket Dominance
Pakistan Cricket Team has achieved various feats whilst playing in Dubai, Sharjah, and Abu Dhabi, in all formats but the center of focus is T20I.
The green shirts have played a total of 36 T20I matches in the UAE; the most it has played in a single country, including Pakistan. The performance of PCT in the UAE hit its peak only in the recent past when Pakistan won 11 consecutive series’ in Sarfraz Ahmed’s captaincy, clean sweeping cricketing powerhouses like Australia and Newzealand in the UAE in the process. Such performance had also catapulted Pakistan to the top of the ICC T20I rankings, which is kept for a long time.
These events show Pakistani cricketers generally enjoy UAE pitches and perform to their best in the UAE. Therefore, this shift of venue for the World Cup is expected to play a crucial role in Pakistan’s tournament.
The PSL Advantage at UAE pitches:
Cricket in exile was full of torments for the Pakistan Cricket Board. Security concerns forced the board to host the country’s first premier T20 league abroad. Playing away from home, especially in deserted conditions of UAE, where hardly the players get any fans to cheer for their heroics is never easy. However, the period in exile might prove to be fruitful for the Pakistan Cricket Team in the upcoming mega event.
These pitches and conditions aren’t unknown to our players. It won’t be wrong to say, for a decade UAE was our only home venue in terms of cricket, and the majority of our team knows well about it. The sixth edition of PSL, which was originally scheduled in Pakistan was also moved to UAE for its second leg due to covid related reasons and with World T20 being played in UAE, Pakistani fans won’t might that snub.
Players to Watch Out in UAE
Asif Ali, everyone’s favorite when he wears red for Islamabad United in PSL but when it comes to feature in Green, he hasn’t played up to his potential yet. Without a shadow of a doubt, he is better than his T20I stats of 16.4 average and we have seen it repeatedly in PSL especially in the UAE conditions.
Coming first to the scene with his heroics in PSL 3 final, the right arm batsman has 874 runs with a strike rate of 164 with 68 towering sixes in 6 editions of PSL. Asif in this year’s PSL continued his terrific form to the UAE leg and ended the season with a strike rate of 167. The Pakistani fans won’t mind if he gives the same input with the green jersey on.
The most dependable batsman of the team and now the captain, it wouldn’t be wrong to say Babar Azam is the MVP for Pakistan Cricket Team for this tournament. Babar Azam averages 49.00 in the UAE, a 2.11 run upgrade from his actual average. While his strike rate does drop whenever he has played in the UAE, it should not be forgotten that UAE pitches are known for being slow and how important it is considered to spend as much time as possible on these. The young cricketer, therefore, is built to perfection for the task.
Breaking it down even further, the prolific batsman averages a whopping 57.60 in 5 matches he has played in Dubai Cricket Stadium; the venue for two important matches for PCT, the clashes against India and Afghanistan. If we see Babar Azam replicating what he’s been doing in Dubai, the warning alarm bells in the opponent’s dressing room will go wild.
While stats of all 3 spinners in Pakistan’s squad suggest that they are going to prove lethal on UAE’s spin-friendly track, Imad Wasim deserved a special mention here. The left-arm orthodox bowler was a nightmare for West Indies in 2016, Australia 2018, New Zealand 2018, and all these series were hosted in the UAE. Interestingly, Imad Wasim’s best t20I performance, 5-14, also came in the UAE against West Indies, a figure which still stands as the best one for a Pakistani spinner in T20Is.
With an unbelievable average of just 13.44 and a staggering economy of just 5.50 in the UAE. The 32-year-old left-arm orthodox might well end up being the most successful bowler in the tournament.
Written by: Ashar Ali Khan, Abdul Manan, and M Tahir