Pakistan target growth and maybe an upset

Nida Dar smashes one over the leg-side infield Getty Images

Overview

Over the years Pakistan have not quite managed to reach a level that would see them rank among the favourites. However, several individual players have forged their reputations, and each World Cup, Pakistan have gone in aiming to be a better side than they were last time. It hasn't always worked out that way, and there remains plenty of distance to travel before they can legitimately call themselves a world-class side.

This year, for the first time since 2009, Pakistan will play a World Cup without Sana Mir. She was left out on the basis of her form over the past two years with the ball. In the recent domestic T20 Women's Championship, Anam Amin was the leading wicket-taker with seven strikes at 13.71, while Mir managed four wickets at 30.25.

Mir's omission means Bismah Maroof will take charge of this side for the first time at a global event. Experience as captain should be no problem at this level for the veteran, who has already led her country in 36 T20Is. The core of the side is much the same as it was at the last World Cup for Pakistan, with the recall of Muneeba Ali's and Aiman Anwer after absences of longer than a year a couple of the more notable changes.

It's tough to make predictions about where Pakistan might end up this time around, but there is no doubt they have individual players coming into form at the right time. The side still relies heavily on the experienced hands of campaigners who have been on this journey a number of years, with familiar names such as Javeria Khan, Nida Dar, and Maroof herself among the key players for the side. Youngsters like leg-spinner Syeda Aroob Shah and left-arm orthodox Sadia Iqbal are exciting additions, while Dar, Aliya Riaz and Diana Baig combine to form a formidable bowling line up.

Squad

Bismah Maroof (capt), Aiman Anwer, Aliya Riaz, Anam Amin, Ayesha Naseem, Diana Baig, Fatima Sana, Iram Javed, Javeria Khan, Muneeba Ali, Nida Dar, Omaima Sohail, Sadia Iqbal, Sidra Nawaz (wk), Syeda Aroob Shah

Group fixtures

February 26: West Indies, Canberra

February 28: England, Canberra

March 1: South Africa, Sydney Showground

March 3: Thailand, Sydney Showground

T20 World Cup history

Since the first T20 World Cup in 2009, Pakistan have played 24 games, winning only six. It took until the third edition for them to notch up their first win, although some might argue the opposition it came against may have been worth the wait; it was a one-run win against India in Galle in 2012 that snapped an eight-match World Cup losing streak. Since then, they've picked up a few wins in the competition without ever really threatening the stronger teams, with the five wins that came over the last three editions not proving enough to take them beyond the group stages.

Form guide

It's been a somewhat mixed time for Pakistan, and, in truth a rather predictable one. The highlight came when they beat South Africa in the first two games of a five-match series, only for much of that good feeling to evaporate when South Africa came back to win 3-2. A 3-0 defeat against England in Malaysia was disappointing, if not unsurprising, while when Bangladesh came to visit Lahore for a three-match series, Pakistan did register a clean sweep at the tail-end of last year.

Key players

Nida Dar had a productive season with Sydney Thunder in Women Big Bash League, picking up 13 wickets at 16.92. She became the first Pakistan woman to have played in a foreign league, and her experience at the WBBL should stand her in good stead for this tournament. She is already the leading wicket taker for the country with 92 wickets, and just two games away from joining a select group to have made 100 T20I appearances for Pakistan. Bismah Maroof is the only Pakistan batter to score more than 2000 runs, while her 11 half-centuries are more than any player from Pakistan has managed in the format

What would be a success at the tournament?

Pakistan continue to develop, but as with developing sides, consistency proves elusive. Successes against weaker opponents have been aplenty, and they have run stronger teams close; wins against South Africa and West Indies in the past twelve months is testament to that. Progress beyond the group stages would count as a very successful tournament for Pakistan, while should they win against any side in addition to Thailand, they'd be well within their rights to term it a very respectable campaign.