‘Lionel Messi is not on the bench’: Ramiz Raja defends Pakistan squad for T20 World Cup

Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chief Ramiz Raja has defended team selection for the T20 World Cup, saying the selection committee has very limited options and there is no “Lionel Messi sitting on the bench”.

Responding to criticism of team selection followed by the continued failure of the team’s mid-tier, Raja said in an interview with Geo TV: “We experimented with the older players at the last T20 World Cup. I do not have a problem. But my cricket philosophy is: we need consistency in selection and secondly we need to strengthen the skipper. Humare Bank Main Koi Lionel Messi nahi baitha huya hain, aur humne ekdum koi raddi player ko le Liya ho (We didn’t bench Lionel Messi and brought in a worthless player instead). We have limited options.”

Pakistan’s middle order was a major concern for team management as no other batsman could hit big runs in the middle order. From the Asian Cup defeat to a 4-3 defeat in the 7-T20I match series against England, only opening duo Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan were responsible for goals. With the failure of the middle order, Pakistan’s ‘poor selection’ is under attack. Many veteran cricketers felt that Shoaib Malik or probably Mohammad Hafeez should have been in the middle order to strengthen both batting and bowling, but neither were considered for the T20 World Cup.

However, Raja is hoping for a better performance from the team as he further added: “We don’t need to hit the panic button. I believe Pakistan can win the World Cup. Shaheen Afridi is fit. Fakhar Zaman is also gaining match practice. Hopefully things will go better later in the tournament (T20 World Cup).”

Pakistan will start their 2022 T20 World Cup campaign against India on October 23 at Melbourne Cricket Ground.

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