Image courtesy of: Zimbio
There will be a lot of talented players featuring in this year’s Asia Cup, including India’s Rohit Sharma, Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan and Shakib Al Hasan of Bangladesh. However, the player that I see stealing all the spotlight is Pakistan opener Fakhar Zaman.
Many former Pakistan cricketers, including Zaheer Abbas and Aamer Sohail, have backed Zaman to excel in the tournament. But, why is it that they and I are placing our support in Zaman’s corner when the Asia Cup will be chock-full of exceptional players capable of razzling and dazzling?
Firstly, Zaman will come be coming into the tournament on a high as he was outstanding during the recent five-match ODI series against Zimbabwe, and even broke a couple of records along the way.
He amassed 515 runs in five ODIs, which included two centuries and two fifties, at a jaw-dropping average of 257.50.
No doubt the runs he accumulated are truly breathtaking, but that only tells half the story as in the fourth ODI in Bulawayo, he did what no other Pakistani batsman has ever done before – score a double century in an ODI.
Zaman powered his way to an unbeaten 210, which came off 156 balls and included 24 boundaries and five sixes.
With that knock, Zaman etched his name in the record books as he not only made the highest score by a Pakistani batsman in an ODI, but also became the sixth player to score a double hundred in the format. In addition to all this, his knock was the fifth-highest in ODI history.
The 28-year-old’s performance in Zimbabwe was truly memorable, but he has not stopped there as his red-hot form has persisted ahead of the Asia Cup.
In a 50-over practice match between the Sarfraz Ahmed XI and Shoaib Malik XI in Lahore, Zaman, who was playing for the Sarfraz Ahmed XI, struck an unbeaten 114 before retiring.
His magnificent innings came off 68 deliveries and included 13 boundaries and four sixes.
Given how he has maintained his sublime form, Zaman will definitely be feeling in a good frame of mind going into the Asia Cup.
Pakistan will be eager to win the tournament and continue taking steps in the right direction in ODI cricket in the lead-up to the 2019 World Cup.
This is where Zaman will hope to thrive again as he will be aiming to replicate all the success he had in the Champions Trophy in England last year, where he starred with the bat and led his side to glory in the competition.
In the Champions Trophy, Zaman only featured in four matches, but made every one of his appearances count as he scored 262 runs, which included a century and two fifties, at an average of 63.
The hundred he scored, which was his first in ODI cricket, came in the final against India. It proved to be a crucial knock as it helped Pakistan crush their arch-rivals by 180 runs and waltz their way to their first-ever Champions Trophy title.
Having had a major impact in that tournament and come a long way in the 15 months that have passed, Zaman will no doubt be eager to rise to the occasion and shine for Pakistan in another important competition.
With all that he has accomplished as of late, I am brimming with confidence that Zaman will not only be Pakistan’s star performer, but also the most successful player in the Asia Cup.
Feature written by Bimal Mirwani