Pakistan have named a 12-man squad for their first group game of the T20 World Cup against India in Dubai on Sunday. Sarfaraz Ahmed, Mohammad Wasim and Mohammad Nawaz sit out, meaning Pakistan will go into the game with three fast bowlers in Shaheen Afridi, Haris Rauf and Hasan Ali. The spinners are Imad Wasim and Shadab Khan.
The batting order has been all but set, with Pakistan fielding the same top five in each of their warm-up games. The only question that remains unanswered is whether Haider Ali finds a slot in a middle that still lacks and out-and-out power-hitter. One of Mohammad Hafeez or Shoaib Malik are the likeliest candidates to be benched, should the 21-year old get his chance.
"Preparations have been good and the camp and the matches gave a lot of confidence," Babar Azam, the Pakistan captain said. "The effort that the boys have been putting in motivates me as captain. On the day we will try to play good cricket and give our best. We have decided our 12 and going forward on match day we will pick our playing XI."
The selection means young fast bowler Mohammad Wasim - lauded for his ability at the death in the Pakistan Super League in the UAE - will not get his chance in the first game. By omitting Nawaz from the final 12, Pakistan have also opted to eschew the option of a second left-arm spinner against an Indian batting line-up dominated by right-handers.
As ever, talk before the game focused on Pakistan's poor record in ICC events against India. They've lost eight of their last 10 fixtures across the Champions Trophy, World Cup and T20 World Cup; they've lost four, and tied once - which they then lost in a bowl-out - across T20 World Cups.
"I don't want to think about the past or future," Babar said. "Records are made to be broken and you never know what happens on any given day. We will try to give our 100 percent and stick to our strengths and stay confident."
Pakistan had a mixed warm-up campaign, comfortably thrashing a lacklustre West Indies before poor death bowling cost them victory against South Africa. India played against England and Australia, winning both warm-ups. Pakistan will follow up the game against India on Sunday with fixtures against New Zealand, Afghanistan, Namibia and Scotland.
"It's a World Cup so we can't be relaxed at any stage. It's not just about the first game. The entire event is tough. We are prepared for back-to-back games and we are ready."
The squad met with Pakistan Prime Minister and former captain, Imran Khan before they left Pakistan. "Before coming, we had a meeting and in that he (Imran) had shared his experience, about what was his mindset in the 1992 World Cup, what was his and the team's body language."
Pakistan 12: Babar Azam (capt), Mohammad Rizwan (vice-capt), Fakhar Zaman, Haider Ali, Asif Ali, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Hafeez, Shadab Khan, Shoaib Malik, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi.