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Pakistan Lose Strike Bowler Ahead of Asia Cup 2022

In less than five days’ time, India and Pakistan will go head to head in the second game of the Asia Cup 2022.

With a fast-paced format to reflect the T20 game, the Asia Cup 2022 plays out over the next two and a half weeks, starting August 27th. Less than two months out from the T20 World Cup 2022, this tournament presents the perfect opportunity for sides to get some confidence under their belts heading into October.

India and Pakistan are both heavy favorites to win the tournament, with the other four sides significantly off the pace.

However, an injury to Pakistan’s premier fast bowler, Shaheen Afridi, may just have sunk Pakistan’s chances of toppling big brother India.

Shaheen Afridi Suffers Knee Injury a Week Out from Asia Cup 2022

Over the weekend, news broke that Shaheen Afridi would not be taking part in the Asia Cup 2022.

The Pakistan Cricket Board’s medical advisory committee has stated that the star bowler will not be available for four to six weeks, requiring rest over that period to recover.

Not only does this rule him out of the Asia Cup 2022, but it also sees him sit out the upcoming T20I series against England, and throws the 22-year-old’s T20 World Cup 2022 hopes into doubt as well.

Speaking to the media about Afridi’s injury, vice-captain of Pakistan, Shadab Khan, has said, “Shaheen’s our best bowler, so of course we’ll miss him. It’s unfortunate that he won’t be available for the Asia Cup.”

The replacement brought into Pakistan’s squad to cover for Afridi is Mohammad Hasnain, another 22-year-old fast bowler.

The Impact of Shaheen Afridi

There’s no denying that Shaheen Afridi is an integral part of Pakistan’s bowling line up, and will be sorely missed.

One only needs to look as recently as last year’s T20 World Cup, to see the devastation the young fast bowler can wreak on sides.

In the opening game of Pakistan’s T20 World Cup 2022 campaign, they faced up against a dangerous India team. With firepower such as Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Virat Kohli in their batting line up, punters were expecting India to post a big score.

Enter: Shaheen Afridi. In his first two overs, Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul were both removed for next to nothing. Returning in the death overs, Afridi also dispatched Virat Kohli after he was set, finishing the game with figures of 31/3 and the Man of the Match Award.

For context, Sharma and Rahul went on to post opening partnerships worth 296 runs across the next three times they opened together for India, virtually winning each match single-handedly. That’s the impact that Shaheen Afridi has.

How Will Pakistan Fare Without Afridi in the Asia Cup 2022?

Pakistan’s tournament hopes have taken a serious dent with the news of Afridi’s injury.

Ranked No.13 in the world, Afridi is not easily replaced. In fact, his replacement, Mohammad Hasnain, does not even feature in the ICC’s Top 100 Men’s T20I bowlers. Having accrued 47 wickets in 40 T20Is for Pakistan over the last four years, Afridi has been a mainstay of the side’s starting XI. The past season has seen him rack up 15 wickets with an economy of 6.65—stunning numbers for T20 cricket.

Shaheen Afridi’s specialty as a new-ball and death-over bowler, as he showed against India, will be sorely missed.

Unfortunately, his replacement, Mohammad Hasnain, does not possess the same ability to put pressure on batsmen. While he did take 10 T20I wickets in 2021, this was at an average of 30.7 and an economy of 7.9—despite the fact that many of his games were played against weaker nations such as Zimbabwe.

Add this to the fact that Hasnain has not played for Pakistan yet in 2022, and it’s clear that Pakistan’s bowling line up will be much weaker in the Asia Cup 2022.

How the Asia Cup 2022 Odds Have Shifted

This weakness in Pakistan’s bowling line up has been reflected by a shift in the outright odds ahead of the Asia Cup 2022.

While at one stage India and Pakistan were close leaders to win the tournament, India has now pulled away as the favorite. With a moneyline of -175, India are greater than 60% favorites to take down the title, compared to Pakistan’s odds of +333, about a 20% chance at success.

In saying this, both sides are still significantly ahead of the rest of the pack. Closest rivals Sri Lanka are at +800, while Bangladesh have odds of +1100.

The opening game of the tournament for Pakistan should show how they’ve responded to the loss of Shaheen Afridi, as they take on arch-rivals India. If Mohammad Hasnain can rise to the challenge and plug the gap, then perhaps they still have a chance at competing with India for the Asia Cup 2022 trophy.

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