Plan for Pakistan: Open with Fakhar, send Babar or Rizwan at No. 3

“They rely so heavily on Rizwan and Babar that you’d want to separate them I guess if they bat first,” Uthappa said on ESPNcricinfo’s T20 Time Out program after Pakistan went to India in the Asia Cup opener.

“You would probably want to send Fakhar Zaman up there and have a left-right batting combination so the bowlers bowl from different angles, and you’ve had Babar or Rizwan come in at number 3 so there’s a little more depth and someone can get the role of the leaf anchor for them and hold up one end while the others revolve around these guys.”

Arthur, Pakistan’s head coach for just over three years from May 2016, agreed with Uthappa, adding that having Fakhar at the top would force the bowlers to change their stances.

“We used to build as best we could, and that was quite a good recipe for us. The difference between that team and the team now is that we had Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik in the middle.”

Mickey Arthur on the successful Pakistani T20I side from a few years ago

“I think they should [separate Babar and Rizwan]. Fakhar hits the ball in different areas, it frustrates the bowlers a little bit,” said Arthur. “It’s the different angles, you have a left and a right hand. So spread Babar and Rizwan and you put Fakhar Zaman back on top.”

Pakistan has won 11 out of 14 T20Is since the start of the 2021 T20 World Cup. But the three games they lost all came as they batted first. Also in the first T20I against India, after Pakistan lost Babar and Fakhar in the power play, Rizwan struggled to give the innings momentum working alongside the middle class. His strike rate was below 100 for parts of his innings before being fired in the 15th over for a 42-ball 43.

“Pakistan has a template that hits second, I don’t think they came up with a template that hits first,” Uthappa said. “They have a pattern for the first six overs, and after that they’re looking, they don’t really know what they’re doing.

“It feels like they’re shooting in the dark a little bit and you feel like they don’t really get how to hit first, they don’t really get that template, they lost five wickets – it would have been a better position for them They would have read the game much better, they would have judged the wickets faster and understood a par score that we could defend with our bowling team.”

It’s no secret that Pakistan relies heavily on their top three batters. Before the T20I against India, Rizwan, Babar and Fakhar accounted for almost 67.5% of the runs in Pakistan since the start of the 2021 T20 World Cup. Teams know there is not much among those three, although the middle class tends to be the few scored points that they scored quickly.

“In terms of blueprint, when I was with Pakistan, and we had a more successful time in T20 cricket, we set ourselves up to hit 160 first and then rely on our bowlers to squeeze,” said Arthur. “We used to build as best we could and that was a really good recipe for us. The difference between that team and the team now is that we had Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik in the middle.

“In the middle they are a very young outfit now, they don’t have a lot of experience, and if you take them down three wickets early I think they will struggle.”