Ailing Elena Rybakina withdraws from French Open

Ailing Elena Rybakina withdraws from French Open
Russian-born Elena Rybakina was seen as a potential champion having arrived at Roland Garros with the prestigious Italian Open clay court title under her belt. (AFP)
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Updated 03 June 2023

Ailing Elena Rybakina withdraws from French Open

Ailing Elena Rybakina withdraws from French Open
  • ‘I was not feeling good yesterday and the day before. I didn’t sleep last night’
  • World number four had been due to face Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain in the third round

PARIS: World number four Elena Rybakina withdrew from the French Open on Saturday due to illness, handing a significant and unexpected title boost to defending champion Iga Swiatek as Zhang Zhizhen chased history for China.
Rybakina had been due to face Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain in the third round in the opening match on Court Philippe Chatrier.
“I was not feeling good yesterday and the day before. I didn’t sleep last night,” said the 23-year-old Wimbledon champion.
“I had fever and a headache and it’s difficult to breathe. I tried to play in the warm-up but I feel it’s the right decision to withdraw.”
Rybakina had swept into the last 32 without dropping a set.
The Russian-born Kazakh was seen as a potential champion having arrived at Roland Garros with the prestigious Italian Open clay court title under her belt.
She had been seeded to face two-time champion Swiatek in the semifinals.
“I guess with my allergy that my immune system just went down and I picked up something,” said Rybakina. “The doctor said there’s a virus in Paris.”
Rybakina said she will focus on recovery ahead of defending her title at Wimbledon which gets underway on July 3.
“The plan was to play Berlin, Eastbourne, and Wimbledon. There are not many tournaments on grass, but the most important thing is to get healthy again.”
Sorribes Tormo, ranked 132 in the world, will be playing in the second week of a Grand Slam for the first time.
She will face either Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia or Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia for a place in the quarter-finals.
Later Saturday, world number one Swiatek takes on China’s 80th-ranked Wang Xinyu for a place in the last 16 as she continues her bid to become the first back-to-back champion since Justine Henin in 2007.
Zhang meets world number four and last year’s runner-up Casper Ruud hoping to become the first Chinese man since Kho Sin-Khie in 1936 to make the last 16 in Paris.
Zhang, ranked 71, had never won a Grand Slam main draw match until this French Open but he had announced himself as a capable clay-courter by reaching the quarter-finals of the Madrid Open last month.
“For me, it’s not pressure to be here,” said the 26-year-old.
“I’m trying to show my best self, show everything what I have and try to compete with these guys. That’s the reason I’m here. It’s no pressure for me.”
Russian 16-year-old Mirra Andreeva, the breakout star of Roland Garros, faces 2022 runner-up and sixth-ranked Coco Gauff for a place in the fourth round.
Andreeva came through qualifying and has made a mockery of her world ranking of 143 by dropping just six games in two rounds in the main draw.
The France-based Russian is the youngest player to make the last 32 since a 15-year-old Sesil Karatantcheva went to the 2005 quarter-finals.
She is just the seventh player under the age of 17 to make the third round in 30 years, a group that includes the likes of serial Slam champions Serena Williams and Martina Hingis.
“My dream? I know that Novak Djokovic did 22 Grand Slams so I want to go until 25,” said Andreeva who played the junior tournament in Paris last year.
Holger Rune, who reached the quarter-finals on his debut in 2022, takes on Argentina’s Genaro Alberto Olivieri.
The 231st-ranked Argentine has dedicated his run to the third round to his father who passed away during pandemic.
“He was my sidekick, the person who helped me in every way — psychologically, emotionally,” said the 24-year-old.
“I always remember him. I hope he is now watching everything that is happening to me this week and that he has an even bigger smile than I do.”

Newcastle United find Carabao Cup heroes in win over Man City

Newcastle United find Carabao Cup heroes in win over Man City
Updated 58 min 53 sec ago

Newcastle United find Carabao Cup heroes in win over Man City

Newcastle United find Carabao Cup heroes in win over Man City
  • Smiling Scouser Gordon sets tone of the tie as Isak’s solo St James’ Park strike sends Magpies through
  • In eight performances across three competitions, Gordon has gone from a low-key squad player to first name on the team sheet

NEWCASTLE: With one 40-yard sprint, Anthony Gordon epitomised everything it means to represent Newcastle United — and inspired his side, with the help of others, to cup glory.

The scene was St James’ Park in the Carabao Cup third round, the visitors treble-winning Manchester City. Both sides were weakened with 10 and eight changes apiece from the Premier League this weekend, but tensions were still high.

The atmosphere was electric, but dampened early on by City’s dominance. Toiling against their illustrious opponents, Eddie Howe’s men found a hero who riled up the crowd with effort and commitment.

On 49 minutes, as Manuel Akanji dropped the shoulder and swaggered away from a wrong-footed Gordon, there looked to be no danger for City. However, the rakish winger refused to give up the cause, chased Akanji’s ball across the pitch to Matteo Kovacic, and as the Croatian twisted to protect possession, the blonde-haired Scouser committed, slid in and threw ball and man high up into the Tyneside night.

The roar that greeted the challenge set the tone for the rest of the evening. For all City out-passed the Magpies, Gordon and his comrades showed they would not be out-fought on home turf.

Soon after, Swedish forward Alexander Isak turned in what proved to be the winner, sending United through and dumping out the winners of the competition in four of the last five campaigns.

Gordon did not have a direct hand in the goal, but it had his fingerprints all over it.

“I think he’s had an outstanding start to the season,” said Howe, whose side were rewarded for their City win with a trip to Manchester United in round four.

“What’s pleased me most is his fitness levels, his athleticism is really coming to the fore but he’s adding goals and end product. All attacking players will be judged by that. I always say when we sign players there needs to be patience.

“Players, as much as you want them to come in and be outstanding from minute one, that’s very rare. Sometimes there is a bedding in period, some players take longer than others,” Howe said.

“We had no doubt over Anthony’s quality but I think pre-season did him really good, but as did the six months he had with us before the break for the summer because he had a taste of what to expect and came back with a much greater understanding.”

It is fair to say Gordon had, up until the summer, been questioned. Many fans, pundits and journalists had wondered whether the former Everton man was the right fit for Howe’s Champions League qualifiers.

In eight performances across three competitions, Gordon has gone from a low-key squad player to first name on the team sheet.

The youngster with pace and talent has grown into a man with consistent quality in his locker. Four goal involvements this term — two goals and two assists — already prove his significant growth. But is there room for improvement? Howe thinks so.

“That’s the plan. For Anthony, he’s got such a high ability and so much potential where we really feel he can push on. There is so much more to work on and improve but the qualities are there for him to be an outstanding player at this level,” the head coach said.

Newcastle will hope to maintain their upturn in fortune Saturday, when the Magpies host Vincent Kompany’s Burnley, before the clash the Gulf region is waiting for in the Champions League against Paris Saint-Germain next week.

Saudi King’s Cup round-of-16 football matches drawn

Saudi King’s Cup round-of-16 football matches drawn
Updated 28 September 2023

Saudi King’s Cup round-of-16 football matches drawn

Saudi King’s Cup round-of-16 football matches drawn
  • Last edition’s winners Al-Hilal will face Al-Hazem in Riyadh
  • Round will be played in a single match, with losing teams eliminated from the tournament

RIYADH: The matches for the Saudi King’s Cup round of 16 were drawn on Wednesday night and will be played on Oct. 30 and 31, 2023.
The last edition’s winners Al-Hilal will face Al-Hazem in Riyadh, while Al-Nassr will play Al-Ettifaq at Alawal Park in Riyadh.
Al-Ittihad will play Al-Fayha at Al-Majma’ah, while Al-Ahli will host Abha.
The 16th round will be played in a single match, with losing teams eliminated from the tournament.
In the other matches, Al-Khaleej will host Damac, and Al-Shabab will be a guest at Al-Fateh.
Clubs Al-Najma and Al-Faisaly from the “Yellow League” will face each other in the city of Unaizah, while Al-Taawon will host Al-Wehda.
Earlier this week, Riyadh rivals Al-Nassr and Al-Hilal booked their spots in the round of 16 with away victories over lower-tier opposition.

Dew factor to make World Cup interesting – India coach

Dew factor to make World Cup interesting – India coach
Updated 28 September 2023

Dew factor to make World Cup interesting – India coach

Dew factor to make World Cup interesting – India coach
  • 50-over tournament kicks off in India next Thursday across 10 cities, all but six of 48 matches will be day-night contests
  • In India that usually means high moisture on the field after sunset, which makes the ball moist and difficult to grip

NEW DELHI: Excessive moisture on the field at the Cricket World Cup will make the top-flight ODI competition all the more interesting, India coach Rahul Dravid said.

The 50-over tournament kicks off next Thursday across 10 cities, and all but six of the 48 matches will be day-night contests.

In India that usually means high moisture on the field after sunset, which makes the ball moist and difficult to grip.

“India is a big country and there are many venues so it’s hard to say it (dew) is going to be the same everywhere,” Dravid said after India’s 66-run loss to Australia in their third and final ODI in Rajkot on Wednesday.

“Each venue and each day will be different. It’s one of the hardest things to predict with dew,” he said.

Dew mainly affects bowlers and fielders as day-night matches progress, with most captains opting to bowl first after winning the toss as a result.

But whether it will be a factor at all is in itself unpredictable.

Dravid, a former India captain, said he had played games on fields where the ground would be “soaked” the day before but bone-dry by match time.

“As the tournament goes on, at some venues it will be a factor and at some it may not. It’s going to make it more interesting,” the 50-year-old said.

India, the top-ranked team across all formats, begin their World Cup campaign against Australia on October 8 followed by their hotly anticipated clash against Pakistan.

They will also play two warm-up matches beginning with England in Guwahati on September 30.

A capsule look at the 12 previous Cricket World Cup tournaments in 50-over format

A capsule look at the 12 previous Cricket World Cup tournaments in 50-over format
Updated 28 September 2023

A capsule look at the 12 previous Cricket World Cup tournaments in 50-over format

A capsule look at the 12 previous Cricket World Cup tournaments in 50-over format
  • Cricket World Cup starts next week in India with a rematch of the 2019 final between England and New Zealand on Oct. 5
  • Pakistan lifted World Cup for first time in 1992 with 22-run win over England in front of a crowd of 87,182 in Melbourne

The Cricket World Cup starts next week in India with a rematch of the 2019 final between England and New Zealand on Oct. 5. The Associated Press takes a look at the previous 12 editions of the tournament.
2019 in England
Final: England was awarded victory on a countback of boundaries against New Zealand after the teams finished tied after the regulation 100 overs and a Super Over.
England wicketkeeper Jos Buttler described it as ” the most ridiculous (fantastic) game of cricket to have ever been played.”
The final lasted longer than nine hours at Lord’s after New Zealand posted 241-8 and England, chasing 242 for victory, was dismissed for 241 on the last ball of its allocated 50 overs. A dramatic last over involved two run-outs and a throw that deflected to the boundary off Ben Stokes’ bat while he was running between wickets.
The Super Over also ended tied, with both teams scoring 15. England clinched its first World Cup title on an obscure and subsequently amended tiebreaker based on the higher number of fours and sixes its batters hit during the final.
The 2019 World Cup featured 10 teams, a reduction of four from the previous two editions, and a single round-robin format that finished with India on top with seven wins, one loss and a washout. Defending champion Australia was second with a 7-2 record, followed by England (6-3) and 2015 runner-up New Zealand (5-3 with one washout).
England, hosting the tournament for a fifth tournament, beat archrival Australia in the semifinals and New Zealand upstaged India.
New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson was voted player of the tournament, India’s Rohit Sharma was the leading scorer with 648 runs and Australia’s Mitchell Starc led the bowlers with 27 wickets.
2015 in Australia and New Zealand
Final: Australia defeated New Zealand by 7 wickets
After being involved in two classic World Cup contests to heighten expectations of a major upset, New Zealand faltered in a final that was an almost foregone conclusion from the first over.
Brendon McCullum’s blazing starts had been instrumental in New Zealand reaching the World Cup final for the first time, but it was his wicket — bowled by a Mitchell Starc yorker for a third-ball duck — that foreshadowed Australia’s victory at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
New Zealand labored for 183 from 45 overs and Australia raced to 186-3 in 33 overs with Steve Smith unbeaten on 56. After winning titles in India, England, South Africa and the Caribbean, it was Australia’s first World Cup triumph on home soil.
Starc and New Zealander Trent Boult took 22 wickets apiece to lead the tournament bowling charts. New Zealander Martin Guptill topped the run-scoring list with 547 runs in a tournament that featured two groups of seven teams and quarterfinals.
Boult edged Starc for the player of the match in their dramatic group-stage encounter which New Zealand won by a wicket in Auckland, taking 5-27 from 10 overs to help dismantle Australia for 151. The New Zealanders were in total control at 78-1 until McCullum was out for 50 and Starc tore through the lower order to return 6-28. With one wicket in the balance and six runs needed, No. 11 Boult hung on with Kane Williamson to get the Kiwis across the line.
As if that wasn’t close enough, it took Grant Elliott’s driven six off the penultimate ball of the semifinal from pace spearhead Dale Steyn to extend New Zealand’s run and inflict yet another painful World Cup blow to South Africa.
India’s title defense ended in a lopsided semifinal loss to Australia.
2011 in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh
Final: India defeated Sri Lanka by 6 wickets
Sachin Tendulkar finally picked up a World Cup trophy to add to his glittering list of personal cricket triumphs, and he said it was the highlight of his career.
Sri Lanka won the toss — in unusual circumstances after a second flip of the coin was required because the match referee couldn’t hear Kumar Sangakkara’s first call — and posted 274-6 after a brilliant 103 from Mahela Jayawardena at Wankhede Stadium.
India was in trouble after losing Virender Sehwag (0) and Tendulkar (18) but Gautam Gambhir (97) and Mahendra Singh Dhoni (91) shared a 109-run stand to guide the home team to victory.
Tendulkar missed out on scoring his 100th international century that day but was still hoisted onto the shoulders of his teammates as they did a victory lap.
“He carried the hopes of the nation for 21 years, so it’s time we carried him on our shoulders,” India batsman Virat Kohli said.
India was the first team to win the World Cup on home soil, starting a run of three for tournament hosts.
For Tendulkar, it was a first title in six World Cups.
India was an early favorite but had to take a hard route to the title. The group stage included a high-scoring tie with England — both teams scoring 338 — and a loss to South Africa.
Yuvraj Singh starred in a quarterfinal win at Ahmedabad that ended Australia’s run of World Cup titles at three, and contributed to his selection as player of the tournament.
2007 in the West Indies
Final: Australia defeated Sri Lanka by 53 runs
Australia clinched an unprecedented third consecutive World Cup title after a rain-reduced final that ended in farcical circumstances in Bridgetown, Barbados.
Adam Gilchrist smashed 149 — posting the fastest century and highest score in a World Cup final — as Australia scored 281-4 from 38 overs.
Sri Lanka was 206-7 with three overs to go when its two batsmen left the field amid dark and overcast conditions, prompting celebrations among the Australians and the crowd, who thought the game was over.
After some confusion on the field, the batsmen returned and the game resumed in near darkness.
Lasith Malinga was subsequently run out and the final few balls were played out in surreal circumstances as Sri Lanka had no hope of victory.
“It’s a bit dark, but I’m loving every minute of it,” said veteran Australia paceman Glenn McGrath, who then retired from international cricket.
The tournament was overshadowed by the death of Pakistan’s England-born coach Bob Woolmer. He was found unconscious in his hotel room the day after Pakistan’s shocking loss to Ireland in the group stage, sparking a homicide investigation in Jamaica.
Police later said experts concluded Woolmer died of natural causes.
The group-stage exits of Pakistan and India also detracted from the tournament, while some individual performances left marks that will take a long time to beat.
Herschelle Gibbs became the first batter to hit six sixes in an over in international cricket when he repeatedly hit Dutch legspinner Daan van Bunge out of the ground in a group match at St. Kitts.
South Africa was on the receiving end of a notable individual record when Sri Lanka’s Malinga took four wickets with four consecutive deliveries — also a first.
2003 in South Africa
Final: Australia defeated India by 125 runs
After cruising through the tournament unbeaten, Australia became only the second team to retain the World Cup.
Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden shared an opening partnership of 105 before captain Ricky Ponting smashed 140 from 121 balls in a man-of-the-match performance to steer Australia to 359-2 from 50 overs at Johannesburg.
Glenn McGrath had Sachin Tendulkar out caught-and-bowled in the first over of India’s reply. McGrath finished with 3-52 as India was dismissed for 234.
The success was also notable for the absence of star spinner Shane Warne, who was sent home the day before Australia’s opening match after testing positive for a banned diuretic.
The first World Cup in Africa was co-hosted by South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya. The Kenyans provided the surprise of the tournament by beating Sri Lanka on the way to an appearance in the semifinals.
But the success of Kenya and Zimbabwe in an interminable tournament that required 42 games to narrow the field from 14 teams to six owed much to the refusal of England and New Zealand to play in those countries because of security concerns.
1999 in England and Wales
Final: Australia defeated Pakistan by 8 wickets
Shane Warne was the star with four wickets in the final as Australia bowled out Pakistan for 132 at Lord’s and eased to 133-2 from 20 overs thanks to Adam Gilchrist’s 54 from 36 balls.
Australia’s first World Cup title since 1987 confirmed its status as cricket’s premier limited-overs lineup but it was its two matches against South Africa that went down in cricketing folklore.
Australia won the first of those in the inaugural Super Sixes stage by five wickets, with Steve Waugh scoring a match-winning 120. The Australia captain was dropped by a prematurely celebrating Herschelle Gibbs when he was on 56 and was said to have told the South African, “You’ve just dropped the World Cup.”
Waugh denied saying it, but the comment rang true after the teams met in the semifinals.
With victory in sight, South Africa’s Allan Donald was run out with two balls left following a miscommunication with allrounder Lance Klusener. The match ended in a tie, with both teams on 213 all out, allowing Australia to advance by virtue of its win in the earlier head-to-head match.
After two losses in its first three matches, Australia simply hit form at the right time.
Host England and the fading West Indies were knocked out in the first round of the 12-team tournament.
1996 in Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka
Final: Sri Lanka defeated Australia by 7 wickets
Aravinda da Silva’s all-round brilliance inspired Sri Lanka’s first World Cup title.
Da Silva claimed three wickets, including Mark Taylor and Ricky Ponting, and two catches as Australia struggled to 241-7 in the final at Lahore, Pakistan.
He then sealed his third man-of-the-match award of the tournament with an unbeaten 107 as Sri Lanka reached its victory target with ease.
Sri Lanka’s surprising and emotional win ensured the event at least ended on a high note.
The sixth Cricket World Cup exasperated fans with a three-week group stage that took in 29 matches before eliminating only Zimbabwe, Kenya, United Arab Emirates and the Netherlands.
Australia and West Indies forfeited their group games in Colombo following a terrorist bombing in the city three weeks earlier.
The tournament reached another low in the semifinal at Calcutta when India’s fans, angered by their team’s slide to 120-8 in reply to Sri Lanka’s 251-8, began throwing bottles onto the pitch and lighting fires in the stands. The game was abandoned.
1992 in Australia and New Zealand
Final: Pakistan defeated England by 22 runs
Pakistan lifted the World Cup for the first time with a 22-run win over England in front of a crowd of 87,182 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Imran Khan (72) and Javed Miandad (58) helped Pakistan set a target of 250, and Wasim Akram took crucial wickets in the reply as England fell short, sparking jubilant scenes on the streets of Pakistan.
“It was one of the biggest days in Pakistan cricket history,” Khan said later.
This World Cup was the first to feature colored clothing, a white ball, and matches under floodlights.
Defending champion Australia missed out on the semifinals. South Africa’s return to international competition after 21 years of isolation was a success as Kepler Wessels’ squad opened with a dominant win over the Aussies on its way to the semifinals.
But its campaign ended in bizarre fashion when, needing 22 from 13 balls to beat England, a heavy shower in Sydney delayed play. The rules at the time to recalculate targets in rain-affected matches left South Africa needing 21 from one ball. The ensuing controversy eventually led to the introduction of the Duckworth/Lewis Method of revising targets.
1987 in India and Pakistan
Final: Australia defeated England by 7 runs
Australia captain Allan Border was carried on the shoulders of his teammates at Calcutta’s Eden Gardens after leading the team to its first World Cup title.
The first World Cup outside England was also the first to be reduced from 60 to 50 overs for each innings.
Chetan Sharma recorded the first hat-trick in a World Cup in India’s nine-wicket win over New Zealand in a group stage which delivered several thrilling encounters.
Pakistan’s 15-run win over Sri Lanka set the tone; Australia beat India by one run; England scored 35 runs in the last three overs to beat West Indies; New Zealand avoided an almighty upset by edging rookie Zimbabwe by three runs.
England, with a win over India, and Australia, which beat Pakistan, put paid to the co-hosts’ hopes in the semifinals before Border’s lineup, propelled by David Boon’s 75, prevailed in a hotly contested final.
1983 in England
Final: India defeated West Indies by 43 runs
India caused a major upset by lifting the trophy at Lord’s against a West Indies squad that had won the two previous editions and featured Viv Richards and Clive Lloyd.
Having successfully negotiated the group stage, in which teams played each other twice, India beat England by six wickets in the semifinals.
The West Indies were even more impressive, though, in limiting Pakistan to 184 before cruising past the victory target for the loss of just two wickets at The Oval.
West Indies started the final as a hot favorite, with odds shortening after India was dismissed for 183.
However, things started to go wrong for the West Indies after Haynes’ dismissal left his team on 50-2. Two catches by Kapil Dev removed Richards and Lloyd, as Mohinder Amarnath (3-12) and Madan Lal (3-31) ripped through the West Indies batting order.
The West Indies were all out for 140 in what became a defining moment for Indian cricket.
1979 in England
Final: West Indies defeated England by 92 runs
The West Indies were worthy winners, helped in the final by the brilliance of Viv Richards and Collis King and an England batting collapse.
In a promising start, England bowlers Mike Hendrick and Chris Old appeared to have the reigning champions in some trouble at 99-4. But King’s 86 off 66 balls and a 138 from Richards helped the Caribbean team regain control.
Set a victory target of 287, Mike Brearley and Geoff Boycott put runs on the board — but did so too slowly.
England needed 38 overs to reach 129 for the first wicket. From 183-2, England’s batsmen added just 11 runs for the next eight wickets as the West Indies retained their title.
There was no room in the semifinals for a below-strength team from Australia, whose best players were all absent due to their contracts with Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket.
1975 in England
Final: West Indies defeated Australia by 17 runs
The inaugural two-week tournament was considered a major innovation for the sport. Eight teams were divided into two groups, with the top two in each advancing to the semifinals before a showcase final at Lord’s.
Attacking teams like West Indies and Australia flourished in the 60-over format, while other test nations struggled to grasp the need for quick runs.
India’s Sunil Gavaskar batted through all 60 overs against England, scoring just 36 runs in a heavy group-stage defeat.
Australia beat England in the semifinals after a superb display by Gary Gilmour, whose bowling figures of 6-14 remain a World Cup record and whose 28 runs in as many balls helped seal a four-wicket victory.
The West Indies went one better, beating New Zealand by five wickets in the other semifinal, to line up a decider in which Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards dominated the pace attack of Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson.
Lloyd’s 102 in an innings total of 291 had Australia under pressure right from the start, while Richards’ three runouts — among a remarkable total of five — decided an entertaining contest.

Injured Naseem’s absence could hamper Pakistan’s title bid at Cricket World Cup

Injured Naseem’s absence could hamper Pakistan’s title bid at Cricket World Cup
Updated 28 September 2023

Injured Naseem’s absence could hamper Pakistan’s title bid at Cricket World Cup

Injured Naseem’s absence could hamper Pakistan’s title bid at Cricket World Cup
  • Fast bowler Naseem Shah was believed to be key weapon in Babar’s pace armory to conquer batters in India 
  • Pakistan have seen seven unsuccessful attempts over three decades since 1992 victory against England 

It’s been 31 years since Imran Khan’s ‘cornered tigers’ — without injured Waqar Younis — roared at the right moment and Pakistan won the Cricket World Cup in Australia.

After seven unsuccessful attempts over three decades since that famous 1992 victory in the final against England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the script is quite similar for Pakistan skipper Babar Azam for the Oct. 5-Nov. 19 tournament in India.

Young fast bowler Naseem Shah was believed to be the key weapon in Babar’s pace armory to conquer the batters on cricket pitches across the border in company with pace duo of Shaheen Shah Afridi and Haris Rauf.

But too much workload over the last year — that included playing in the Lanka Premier League just before the Asia Cup — finally took its toll on the 20-year-old Naseem.

Naseem injured his right shoulder during the Super 4 stage game against archrival India in the Asia Cup which now requires surgery and could delay his return to international cricket for three to four months.

Energetic Hasan Ali, who hasn’t been part of Pakistan’s white-ball cricket for over a year, got a surprise recall to fill in for Naseem after several other in contention like tall fast bowler Ihsanullah and Mohammad Hasnain were also ruled out because of various injuries and the selectors preferred to keep another young pacer Zaman Khan on the list of traveling reserves.

“We have been struggling to pick fast bowlers because of injuries, it was not just Naseem’s injury,” said chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq. “We focused on choosing experienced players as we wanted someone familiar with the conditions and could take the pressure of a big event like the World Cup. That is why we picked Hasan Ali.”

While Babar continues to blossom at the top of ICC batting rankings by scoring plenty of runs in white-ball cricket, there are several cracks in his bowling department which could hurt Pakistan’s chances to qualify for the semifinals.

Naseem has showed his ability to choke runs not only in the batting powerplay and in the middle-overs, but also conceded less than run-a-ball during the final overs when the batters normally push the scoring pedal with their big hitting.

However, neither the fast bowlers nor the spinners could make any impact during the Asia Cup which saw Pakistan losing to India by a hefty margin of 228 runs and then Sri Lanka’s inexperienced side overhauled the target of 252 runs which knocked out Pakistan from the final spot.

The form of Babar’s deputy — allrounder Shadab Khan — is also not impressive this year with the leg-spinner picking up only 13 wickets in 11 ODIs and scoring 138 runs at an average of 19.71.

The silver lining for Babar’s Team Pakistan is that Afridi and Rauf could dismantle any top order in the World Cup as they showed during the abandoned group game against India in the Asia Cup.

But it is the lack of spinners’ ability to pick up wickets in the middle overs which is worrying Inzamam.

“The three spinners (Shadab Khan, Usama Mir and Mohammad Nawaz) have been with the team and are good players,” Inzamam said when he announced the squad. “They need to work harder to be effective in the middle overs because it is very important for the spinners to play their role.”

Left-handed opener Imam-ul-Haq is among the top four ODI batters in the world, but the form of Fakhar Zaman has raised many questions about the left-handed batter’s ability in the top-order. Since his three successive ODI hundreds at home against New Zealand,

Fakhar hasn’t scored a half century in the subsequent 11 games. He seemed to be fatigued by long travels during the Asia Cup, scoring only 65 runs in four matches.

But Babar’s brilliance with the bat could see Pakistan post imposing totals against more challenging sides such as India, England and Australia with players like Salman Ali Agha, Mohammad Rizwan and Iftikhar Ahmed giving the skipper support in the middle-order.

Pakistan has two relatively easier opponents before its marquee match against India at Ahmedabad on Oct. 14. It will be taking on first-timer the Netherlands in the opening match before meeting Sri Lanka.