Former Indian cricketer Sanjay Manjrekar has voiced his concerns about Pakistan’s choice of opening batters, specifically the pairing of Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan, for the ICC T20 World Cup 2024. Despite being among the finest batters in the Pakistani roster, the Babar-Rizwan duo has come under scrutiny, with Manjrekar questioning their suitability as openers for the tournament. Babar and Rizwan have opened for Pakistan in two World Cup games, but their performances have not entirely convinced critics.

The former president of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), Ramiz Raja, has endorsed Babar and Rizwan as the top-order choices, drawing parallels with Indian batting icons Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma. While Raja acknowledged that Babar and Rizwan’s strike rates do not match those of Kohli and Rohit, he emphasized their reliability in providing a solid start during the powerplay. However, it is noteworthy that Pakistan’s only win in the tournament came when Babar was demoted to the No.3 position.

Manjrekar has supported Pakistan’s move to experiment with Babar at No.3, a decision implemented in their game against Canada. He believes that Babar and Rizwan opening together might not be the best strategy for Pakistan in the current tournament. This view gains weight considering Babar’s performance of 44 off 43 balls and Rizwan’s 9 off 8 balls against the USA in Pakistan’s T20 World Cup opener. Additionally, their partnership yielded only 26 runs for the first wicket in a close six-run defeat against India in New York.

“I’m glad they have made a change in the batting order. Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan can’t be opening together. Both of them were not really keen to strike early, so they put somebody else in at the top. Left-hand, right-hand combination is not such a bad thing. So some good things happening there,” Manjrekar informed.

Pakistan’s campaign has been rocky, with two losses in Group A putting them in a precarious position. The upcoming match against Ireland is crucial for Babar and his team, as it is a must-win clash to keep their hopes alive in the tournament. The performance of Babar and Rizwan, whether opening or in different positions, will be pivotal in determining Pakistan’s fate in this critical encounter.

“Batting is still a bit of a concern. Mohammad Amir is coming into his own. So I see them just being better than Ireland to win the game. But once they get into the Super Eight, that is going, to be another sort of acid test for them because they are not looking as good as some of the other teams that have gone through,” Manjrekar attached.

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