If there’s one realm of cricket where Pakistan has always been blessed with ‘gold-standard’ material, it is fast bowling. From the days of Fazal Mahmood in the 1950s to Imran Khan and Sarfaraz Nawaz in the 70s; Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar in the 90s and 2000s to Umar Gul and Wahab Riaz in the past decade, Pakistan has had an embarrassment of riches in the pace department.
In fact, a major reason why Pakistan would frequently beat India and even challenge the mighty West Indies in the 70s and 80s was because of their battery of fast bowlers. The latest in Pakistan’s never-ending supply line are: Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Shah, Haris Rauf, Mohammad Wasim and Mohammad Hasnain.

While Shah and Rauf hold their own at the two spectrums of a T20 innings, the man who can be the game-changer for Pakistan – as was evident at the 2021 World Cup clash against India in Dubai – is Afridi. In his first two overs, the left-arm pace machine dismissed Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul. He later took Virat Kohli’s wicket to finish with 3-31. His lethal spell was the primary reason for Pakistan’s 10-wicket win.
A career-threatening knee injury, which saw Afridi travel to England for treatment, forced him to miss the 2022 Asia Cup. Experts believed that Afridi would come cold into the T20 World Cup. However, things seem to be falling back in place for the Pakistani ace.
In Pakistan’s first warm-up game against England, Afridi bowled just two overs without taking a wicket. In Pakistan’s second warm-up game against Afghanistan, Afridi was back to his menacing best.
With Afridi now fit and firing, will Pakistan have the edge over India? “Pakistan will have an edge because all their fast bowlers can bowl at 145-plus, and that makes a difference. Shaheen, especially, is very good with yorkers. It becomes difficult for batsmen to go after bowlers who can bowl at that speed,” Lalchand Rajput, who coached India to the title in the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007, told TOI.
Afridi isn’t unplayable, though. After his exploits against India, the youngster managed just four wickets in the next five games. He was taken to the cleaners by Australia’s Mathew Wade, who pulled off scoops and reverse scoops against his searing pace in a brilliant come-from-behind semifinal win for the Aussies.


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By Dipak

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