T20 World Cup: Calm and composed Babar Azam aims to do what Imran, Akram couldn't against India

On the eve of their biggest match of the tournament, against their arch-rivals, who they have never beaten in World Cup events, skipper Babar Azam didn't make it sound like a do-or-die fixture

Express News Service

There are no chaotic scenes in the Pakistan camp. At least for now. There isn’t any open friction among players. There is still time for this to change. Former players haven’t called out their coach yet. Perhaps they are still waiting for at least one match to get over. On the eve of their biggest match of the tournament, against their arch-rivals, who they have never beaten in World Cup events, skipper Babar Azam didn’t make it sound like a do-or-die fixture. Nor did he look charged up, emotionally.  

They look to be in their elements, the sort of space you don’t generally associate with Pakistan teams. Under Azam, they look more Team Pakistan. Ones who can use the tournament to show the rest of the world that they can’t be ignored. For the first time since 1992, one can almost say with certainty that they are the cornered and wounded tigers. The sort the cricketing world has almost stopped caring for. In 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, when most countries were hesitant to tour, undergo strict quarantine and play in bubbles, they toured England and New Zealand. Only for the two to abandon their tours of Pakistan. It would have been the perfect preparation for the T20 World Cup. As the Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ramiz Raja said, they were ‘used and binned’.

If these weren’t enough, weeks before the T20 World Cup, their head coach Misbah-ul-Haq and bowling coach Waqar Younis resigned. So the chaos and confusion may already be out of the way. In charge of the side now are Australian great Matthew Hayden for batting and former South Africa seamer Vernon Philander for bowling. The onus is now on Babar to do what Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Shoaib Malik, Mohammed Hafeez and Shahid Afridi have failed to do: beat India in a World Cup.

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As Babar met the media for the pre-match interaction, he looked calm and composed, two traits that usually go missing in the Pakistan side when they play India. And why wouldn’t he? It is something even Hayden spoke about. Just days after joining the Pakistan camp, Hayden set the stall out, asking the team to show composure so that they don’t eclipse all the talent they have at their disposal. That clarion call was echoed by Azam.

“It is important to keep things simple and stick to the basics. We will try to play good cricket and try to produce better results,” he said. “The more we keep it simple, the better it will be. It’s about sticking to the basics and staying calm and relaxed. Our preparation is in our hands and we have given our 100 per cent. We hope to play good cricket on the day.”

Good cricket is not beyond them. In Shaheen Shah Afridi, they have a tall, left-arm pacer, who arguably has the best yorker in cricket now. Then there is Hasan Ali and Haris Rauf to complement him in the pace department and if they need spinners, there is Imad Wasim and Shadab Khan. For experience, they still have Malik and Hafeez.

In the years since teams stopped touring Pakistan because of security reasons, the UAE has been their second home. In the 80s and 90s, the region, more specifically Sharjah, was the home to storied success of past Pakistan sides. Even two decades later, the legend lives on fresh in memory. And Babar & Co have it in them to write their own and there is no better time to do it.

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