Lack of power hitters a concern for improving Pakistan

Nahida Khan congratulates Javeria Khan on her fifty ICC/Getty

Squad list

Javeria Khan (capt), Muneeba Ali, Nahida Khan, Bismah Maroof, Umaima Sohail, Nida Dar, Sana Mir, Aliya Riaz, Aiman Anwar, Sidra Nawaz (wk), Anam Amin, Diana Baig, Nashra Sandhu, Natalia Parvaiz, Ayesha Zafar

World T20 pedigree

An overall record of five wins and 15 losses in 20 World T20 games does not look good, but Pakistan women are on the path of improvement. While they failed to win a single game in the first two editions in 2009 and 2010, the last one in India in 2016 was their best. They beat India and Bangladesh, but a four-run defeat against West Indies (and a 68-run defeat against England) meant they couldn't finish any higher than third in their group.

This time Pakistan have a young side - seven out of 15 players are under 25 - with Bismah Maroof, Javeria Khan, Sana Mir and Nida Dar lending most of the experience. In fact, this will be the sixth World T20 appearance for Javeria and Mir.

Pakistan's strength once again will be their spin attack. Left-arm spinner Anam Amin and offspinner Dar are currently at No. 4 and No. 8 in the ICC T20I bowlers' rankings, and last month Mir became the first Pakistan bowler to top the ODI rankings. Twenty-year-old left-arm spinner Nashra Sandhu completes the spin quartet. On typically slow Caribbean pitches, Pakistan may not hesitate to field all four of them.

The 21-year-old Umaima Sohail showed promising signs with the bat during the T20I series against Australia last month, but there is still a dearth of power-hitters in the squad. But if Bismah, Javeria and the others take the side to fighting totals regularly, Pakistan could spring a surprise or two.

Recent T20I form

Pakistan started the year by defeating Sri Lanka 2-1 under Bismah. Although they failed to make it to the final of the 2018 Asia Cup, they did well to win three out of their five games, with their losses coming against the eventual finalists Bangladesh and India.

They bounced back by defeating Bangladesh 3-0 in an away series, despite playing without Bismah. Under Javeria, their bowlers put up a clinical performance and restricted Bangladesh to under 100 in each of the three completed games, including bundling them out for 30 in the second T20I.

But the gulf between Pakistan and a top team like Australia was apparent when they were clean-swept 3-0, even though Bismah returned to the side for the last two T20Is.

Captain and coach

Javeria Khan had initially filled in for regular captain Bismah when the latter underwent a sinus surgery in July. But after her comeback to the side, Bismah decided to relinquish the captaincy, letting Javeria continue.

So far, Javeria has captained Pakistan in six T20Is, with three wins and as many losses. She is Pakistan's second-highest run-getter in T20Is after Bismah and their top batsman this year, scoring 318 runs at 26.50 and a strike rate of 106. In Pakistan's last two T20Is, against Australia, she opened the innings, a position she is likely to occupy in the West Indies as well.

Mark Coles was appointed as coach in September 2017, after the rift between the previous coach Sabih Azhar and the then ODI captain Mir became public, leading to Azhar's departure.

In his 18-year coaching career, Coles has worked with several men's and women's teams across various levels in Australia and New Zealand. His first assignment as Pakistan women's coach was a three-match ODI series against New Zealand. Although Pakistan lost 2-1, they fought well throughout and registered their first ever win against New Zealand in any format.

Pakistan happen to be in the same group as New Zealand in the World T20 and Coles will hope for an encore from his side.

Pakistan appointed Andy Richards as an assistant coach and batting consultant this July, but it's difficult to gauge his impact in his short tenure so far.

Best players

Bismah Maroof is no longer leading the side, but Pakistan will expect her to lead the batting unit along with Javeria. Although she was out for a first-ball duck in her return game against Australia, her 43-ball 34 in the final T20I was heartening for the team management.

Bismah is among the top ten run-scorers in T20Is in the world, with 1641 runs at 25.24 at a strike rate of almost 89. Her numbers this year are far more impressive: 240 runs from ten innings at 26.66 with a strike rate of 123.07, and Pakistan will hope the 27-year-old carries her good form into the big event.

While Pakistan have Sana Mir and Anam Amin in their ranks, the spinner they would expect to make most inroads is Nida Dar. With 80 wickets from 84 T20Is, Dar is the fourth-most-successful T20I bowler in the world, and her economy rate of 4.99 is second only to Shanel Daley of West Indies among bowlers with at least 50 wickets.

With Mir likely to open the bowling, Dar will be entrusted with being both frugal and incisive during the middle overs.

Where will they finish?

Pakistan have never reached the knockout stages of the tournament. Placed in Group B, they once again face a stern challenge from Australia, New Zealand and India. Given the only team they are favourites against are Ireland, finishing in the top three of their group would be an achievement.