NEW DELHI: Bowling has traditionally been Pakistan’s strong suit but since that is unlikely to be the case in India, the onus will be on their batters, skipper Babar Azam in particular, to drive their bid for a second 50-overs World Cup title.
Pakistan were the number one ODI side a month ago and Babar’s team looked favorites as they began their campaign in the recent Asia Cup.
Defeats by arch-rivals India and Sri Lanka in the tournament not only knocked them off the perch, however, but also left them with new concerns.
Pace spearhead Naseem Shah injured his bowling shoulder against India and was ruled him of the World Cup disrupting his potent new-ball partnership with Shaheen Afridi.
Hasan Ali was drafted in but Pakistan would not rely to a large extent on Afridi to get those early breakthroughs.
Pakistan spinners, including vice-captain Shadab Khan, also struggled for wickets in the tournament but Babar believes in the players who put the side top of the rankings.
“We know we have lapsed in fielding and in our wicket-taking abilities in the middle overs but we are going to work on it and hopefully will not be repeating them,” Babar said before leaving for India.
The 28-year-old was not amused when asked if the 1992 winners would be happy with a top-four finish in India.
“The top-four is a small goal for us. We want to come out as winners,” said Babar.
Although this is not the first time Pakistan would enter a World Cup looking slightly unsettled, they will have their work cut out in India.
That is partly because Pakistan face a unique problem in India, for geopolitical reasons.
Thanks to a soured political relationship between the Asian neighbors, bilateral cricket remains suspended between India and Pakistan, who meet only in multi-team events.
Pakistan last toured India for the T20 World Cup in 2016 and their players do not feature in the Indian Premier League either.
It leaves them with little knowledge of the conditions they would encounter in the next six weeks but Babar is unperturbed.
“Although we have not played in India before, we are not under any pressure,” he said.
“We have done our research and we have heard the conditions are quite similar except maybe in Chennai where spinners get a lot of help.”
Pakistan begin their campaign against the Netherlands on Oct. 6 and face India in a soldout Oct. 14 game in Ahmedabad.