Pakistan were up until recently the top-ranked ODI team in the world. They also possessed the best bowling attack in white-ball cricket. But within a matter of weeks, their world has come crashing down after injury to premier pacer Naseem Shah and a string of shocking defeats.
The defeat against the Afghans in Chennai was the most devastating, as they were outplayed in all three aspects of the game by a team that had never defeated them in an ODI.
Substandard fielding, weak bowling and average batting have all combined to push Pakistan towards the wrong end of the points table.
Pakistan have now got two wins, three defeats and four points to their name. They also have four matches remaining, with South Africa and New Zealand still to come.
It is not looking good for Pakistan as they seek to somehow salvage the tournament and sneak into the semi-finals. The top four teams at the end of the group stage make it to the semi-finals.
Pakistan’s remaining World Cup fixtures
Pakistan v South Africa: Friday, October 27, Chennai
Pakistan v Bangladesh: October 31, Kolkata
Pakistan v New Zealand: November 4, Bengaluru
Pakistan v England: November 11, Kolkata
How can Pakistan qualify for World Cup 2023 semi-finals?
It is not going to be easy. Firstly, Pakistan need to win their remaining four games. That includes matches against seriously in-form Kiwis and Proteas. Whether they can even attempt to do that looks doubtful, given how easily Pakistan were defeated by Afghanistan.
Even so, if they do somehow win all their remaining games, Pakistan will not be out of the woods.
In the 2019 World Cup, Pakistan missed out on qualification for the semi-finals by a fraction on net run rate, after being tied on 11 points with New Zealand.
Four years ago, India and Australia topped the group stage with seven wins and England in third with six victories and 12 points. New Zealand and Pakistan both had five wins and three losses, with one match rained off.
Pakistan’s game against Sri Lanka and the Kiwis’ game against India were called off. If both had won those matches, Pakistan, New Zealand and England would have been tied on six wins and three losses, with net run rate deciding two semi-finalists.
It shows that even with six wins in this World Cup format, Pakistan or any other team can’t be assured of a spot in the last four.
Pakistan currently face the biggest threats from Australia (2 wins, 2 defeats) and Afghanistan (2 wins, 3 defeats). The Aussies have fixtures against the Netherlands, New Zealand, England, Afghanistan and Bangladesh to come. The five times world champions have it in them to win four of these, which would put them level with Pakistan if the team in green win their matches.
As things stand, net run rate will once again be the deciding point and this is where Babar Azam’s team (-0.4 NRR) need to up their game as teams like India, South Africa and New Zealand have such phenomenal net run rates, even a defeat or two are unlikely to hurt their chances.
If Pakistan lose one more game, their qualification chances will be all but over as they can then finish with five wins at best, which is unlikely to be enough for passage to the next round.