Heading into the 2022 ODI World Cup, Pakistan would have been confident of registering their best-ever finish at a World Cup. They had, afterall, finished fifth in the last ICC Women’s Championship, narrowly missing out on direct qualification for the World Cup.
With their best batter and captain Bismah Maroof returning to the team, Pakistan would have looked to better their record of never having won more than two matches in a single edition of the World Cup.
How they fared
Pakistan finished eighth out of eight teams for the third edition in a row. Unlike the previous two editions though, they won a match this time around, defeating semifinalists West Indies in a rain-curtailed match. The win was their first at the ODI World Cup in 13 years, with them having last won two matches in the 2009 edition.
Having remained winless in the last two editions of the World Cup, Pakistan would be happy with halting their losing streak. However, they would not be happy with finishing at the bottom in an edition that also featured tournament debutants in Bangladesh.
What did they get right
Return of Bismah Maroof
As has been the case for much of her career, Bismah’s return significantly strengthened the team and her captaincy was impressive as well, even though Pakistan could not capitalize on a few openings in close matches. The overreliance on Bismah continues to be a problem though as she was the only batter from the team to average more than 35. Her strike rate was only 62.62 but Pakistan often lost their openers early and Bismah had to rescue them out of a hole on multiple occasions, with her best knock, an unbeaten 78*, coming against the eventual champions Australia. Her rock the cradle celebration was also one of the highlights of a tournament that had its fair share of feel good moments.
Nida Dar’s resurgence
Pakistan’s lead allrounder, Dar, had missed the 2017 World Cup and was keen to make amends this time round after playing the 2013 World Cup in India. While she was inconsistent with the bat, she was Pakistan’s stock as well as strike bowler, fronting up impressively to bowl at all stages of the innings and picking up some big wickets during the tournament. She had struggled for penetration even while being economical over the past couple of years but in New Zealand, she was the team’s leading wicket-taker while also maintaining an impressive economy rate.
Sidra Ameen’s emergence
In 38 ODIs before this World Cup, Sidra Ameen had only scored three 50s at a strike of 50. At the World Cup though, she was Pakistan’s leading run-getter and also scripted history by becoming the first batter from Pakistan to score a hundred at the World Cup when she achieved the feat against Bangladesh. Ameen debuted for Pakistan in 2011 but the presence of Javeria Khan and Nahida Khan has meant that her opportunities have been limited. While her strike rate and rotation still remains a concern, this might just be the tournament which helps her turn a corner in her career.
What did they do wrong
Inconsistency in selection
Nine of the 15 members in Pakistan’s squad played in each of their seven matches in the tournament. While they shuffled between Anam Amin, Aiman Anwer and Ghulam Fatima for the fifth bowler’s role based on conditions, it was the inconsistency in selection for the second opener’s role that hampered the team. Javeria Khan has been Pakistan’s most successful opener historically but she was left out after just one game owing to a groin injury and she never found a place back in the team even after recovering from the injury. With Ameen generally operating at a sedate pace, Pakistan probably missed a trick by not playing Muneeba Ali from the outset.
Pace bowling concerns
Both Diana Baig and the young sensation Fatima Sana have won Pakistan matches in the past and bowled challenging spells in this tournament too but on the whole, Pakistan’s pace bowling was a big letdown, both in the powerplay as well as in the final overs. Pakistan’s pace bowling average of 51.90 and their strike rate of 5.62 was the worst of the eight teams in action. As a result, Pakistan had to rely on their spinners even in conditions which didn’t always assist them. Unsurprisingly, their one win in the tournament came on a surface which was the most spin-friendly out of the ones they played on.
At 35, Dar might not play in another 50-over World Cup but she was involved in most of the best moments that Pakistan had in this World Cup. Her career-best figures of 4-10 helped Pakistan clinch a dominant win against West Indies and she also took Pakistan very close to a win against South Africa with a knock of 55 on a tricky surface against the best pace-bowling attack in the tournament.
Dar also showed the impressive ability to fight back whenever she was attacked by a batter, picking up the big wickets of Harmanpreet Kaur, Amelia Kerr and Amy Satterthwaite. She was Pakistan’s leading wicket-taker in the tournament with 10 wickets and her bowling average was also the best of all the Pakistan bowlers.
Future star/Young player that impressed
Considering the fact that Muneeba Ali was the one opener who was a regular in the playing XI over the last 12 months, it was slightly surprising when Pakistan chose to drop her upon Bismah’s return to the team after her maternity break. Despite of playing only two matches, Muneeba’s flowing strokeplay showed what Pakistan was lacking in the earlier games. The left-hander also provides Pakistan with a left-right combination and her ability to take advantage of the fielding restrictions is something that should stand Pakistan in good stead in the time to come.
The undisputed star of Pakistan’s World Cup campaign, Bismah’s daughter was a hit not just with Pakistan players but also opposition players and fans alike. The toddler became an internet sensation and was also the subject of some of the most heartwarming images right through the tournament.
More importantly, though, Bismah’s return will inspire a lot of other women to resume their career post maternity and also bring much-needed discussions about the need for maternity clauses in contracts to the forefront.