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‘Not Worth Risking Him Against India’: Ramiz Raja Advises Babar to Bench Pakistani Star for IND vs PAK Showdown

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Pakistan’s squad celebrates following the dismissal of Nepal’s Gulsan Jha (not pictured) during the Asia Cup 2023. (AFP)

In the opening clash of the Asia Cup 2023, Pakistan asserted their dominance over Nepal with an emphatic 238-run victory in Multan. Leading the charge were Babar Azam, the world’s highest-ranked batsman, and Iftikhar Ahmed, both delivering outstanding performances. Babar’s remarkable innings of 151 runs from 131 balls marked his 19th ODI century, while Iftikhar’s unbeaten 109 runs off 71 deliveries secured his maiden century in this format. These centuries propelled Pakistan to a formidable total of 342/6, and the bowlers capitalized by swiftly dismissing Nepal for a mere 104 in 23.4 overs.

Yet, Pakistan faced initial setbacks as openers Fakhar Zaman (14) and Imam-ul-Haq (9) departed early. Fakhar’s ongoing struggle for form remains a significant concern for the team. His recent ODI series against Afghanistan yielded scores of 2, 30, and 27 across three matches. With a match against India looming and critical fixtures in the Asia Cup and the ODI World Cup scheduled for October-November, having an out-of-form opener presents a far from ideal situation for Pakistan.

Former Pakistan captain Ramiz Raja suggests that Fakhar should be benched for an extended period to rediscover his focus.

“The primary issue lies with Fakhar Zaman. He’s an unconventional striker, but when such a player loses form, rectifying the situation takes time. His playing style, bottom-handed and oriented towards the leg side, makes it challenging. Despite that, he manages to adjust and score,” Ramiz shared on his official YouTube channel.

“His performance against Afghanistan across three matches was subpar as well. His body language reflects his struggle, and Pakistan truly requires an opener in good form. If Imam also falls early, it amplifies the pressure. Pakistan needs to evaluate Fakhar’s situation. In my opinion, they should give him a break, some time off. Resting him would be beneficial for both Fakhar and Pakistan. He’s undoubtedly talented, having been given opportunities by Pakistan. However, considering his current form, risking him against India wouldn’t be prudent.”

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