Every time a Pakistani XI takes the field, you can't predict what's going to happen next. They can be as poor as Zimbabwe in a second and as good as India next. There's nothing in between and that's what was expected from them too. There were mixed reviews of their chances in the tournament because not many people can predict what they might do on a given day however 19 crore Pakistani fans expected them to make it to the semifinals at least.
Where they finished?
They finished fifth after winning 5 out of their 9 games. Their game against Sri Lanka was washed out and hence they finished the league phase with 11 points matching the points of New Zealand.
What went wrong?
Pakistan found their rhythm only when it was too late for them. In the first phase of the tournament, they still did not have an idea about their best playing XI and hence kept changing the team after every game. Four different pairs opened the bowling for them in the first five games and they made seven changes to the XI in this period. By the time they found their best playing XI, they were in a race against time (or you can say race against net run rate). They must be cursing themselves for not putting up a fight against West Indies in their first game which pulled their run rate too far in negative numbers. Their fielding remained average throughout the tournament and they missed out on some crucial opportunities in the field. Whether it was the missed run out of Rohit Sharma or the dropped catches of Aaron Finch and David Warner, their fielders spilt everything at crucial times.
Player who disappointed the most
Shoaib Malik entered the tournament as the only active International cricketer who made his debut in the 20th century. Pakistan had massive expectations from the most experienced player of their team but he disappointed big time. He was dropped after the debacle against India and he finished the world cup with just 8 runs at 2.66. With the ball, he could manage only 1 wicket at 47. The other player who disappointed is Fakhar Zaman. Malik did not get a chance to reprieve himself but Fakhar did. The champions trophy hero of Pakistan could manage only one fifty at the world cup while opening the inning 8 times. 186 of his runs came at an average of 23.25 which starved Pakistan of great starts throughout the tournament.
Shaheen Afridi collected 16 wickets in just 6 games at an average of 14.62 and a strike rate of 17.6. Those are fantastic numbers for a kid who played the U-19 world cup just a year ago. He also became the youngest bowler to grab a fiver at the world cup when he finished with the figures of 6/35 against Bangladesh. It was not just Shaheen, but Pakistan had another youngster who lit the world cup with his performance and it was Babar Azam. Babar finished the tournament 474 runs at an average of 67.71 and a strike rate of 87.77. He was among top five run-scorers at the end of the league phase of the tournament.
What's next for them?
Pakistan never had any dearth of cricketing talent in their country but unfortunately, they are being starved off home games since past 9 years now. Pakistani government have to ensure the rest of the world that Pakistan is safe enough to play cricket so that PCB could generate revenue good enough to run the game. They have a squad full of young and talented players like Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi, Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman and Imam-Ul-Haq. With the kind of talent they have in their squad and first-class cricket, they can be the Pakistani cricket team of yesteryears but all this is possible only if their government is keen on working with them. They need home games and plenty of them.
Pakistan's journey in the WC 2019 started with a big disappointment. They lost to WI with a big margin which later haunted them badly. They lost the first stage of WC and regained form when it was most difficult for them to return in the WC campaign. But they deserve full credit for regaining their touch after first few blows by WI, AUS and a match against Srilanka that was washed off.
Pakistan played great cricket against England, New Zealand and South Africa; and won all three important matches to keep their semifinal hopes alive. Net run rate dashed their hopes of entering into semi-finals and New Zealand with more net run rate qualified as the fourth team for semifinals.
But there were some impressive performances by Pakistani cricketers like Baber Azam with the bat and Shaheen Shah Afridi with the ball was phenomenal and won hearts of millions of people. Imam ul Haq was also good. A big disappointment in the tournament was Shoib Malik, who could not regain his form and struggled throughout the tournament. Fakher Zaman also didn't play as per expectation which affected Pakistan badly. Wahab Riaz and Amir were also amazing performers in the WC 2019.
Frankly speaking, in the Pakistani team which played in the ICC World Cup 2019, only two players have some abilities. These two are Babar Azam and Mohammad Amir. Besides these two, all others are pretty mediocre and some like Shoaib Malik and Wahab Riaz are well past their prime. The bowling department, which was once a threat to the entire cricketing world, has become pathetic. The wicketkeeper-captain, Sarafraz Ahmed looked pathetically unfit. The team lost to India without giving any fight.
After the defeat against India, the performance of the Pakistani team improved marginally, but I believe that the team never played with gusto to reach the semi-final. The players didn't have self-belief. As simple as that.
I congratulate the author for this analytical review, although I don't fully agree with him.