• Monday, June 24, 2024

CRICKET

Pakistan target T20 World Cup glory after near misses

Pakistan drew a 2-2 T20 series at home against a weakened New Zealand in April and then won a series 2-1 in Ireland after losing the opener.

Pakistan’s cricket captain Babar Azam speaks at a press conference in Lahore on May 6. (Photo: Getty Images)

By: Vivek Mishra

Pakistan skipper Babar Azam hopes his side will be third time lucky at the T20 World Cup, having lost in the semi-finals in 2021 and as runners-up the following year.

The team’s preparation for the tournament in the West Indies and the USA has been tumultuous, with Azam replacing Shaheen Shah Afridi as captain three months before it begins.

Pakistan drew a 2-2 T20 series at home against a weakened New Zealand in April and then won a series 2-1 in Ireland after losing the opener.

Pakistan’s inconsistency remains evident, as they can be the best team one day and the worst the next. They are in Group A with India, co-hosts USA, Canada, and Ireland. The top two teams will progress to the Super Eight in the West Indies, with the final in Barbados on June 29.

A loss to India in New York on June 9 could make their final group game against Ireland in Florida a must-win.

Azam is optimistic about their chances. “Semi-final and then final, so it’s our turn to win the trophy this time,” he said before leaving for Ireland.

Since their exit from the 50-over World Cup last November, Pakistan cricket has seen several changes, including two coaching staff overhauls and captaincy shifts between Azam and Shaheen.

Mohsin Naqvi, a news channel owner and the country’s interior minister, now leads the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). He revamped the selection committee, held a training camp at an army base to improve fitness, and brought in former South African opener Gary Kirsten as white-ball coach.

Fast bowler Mohammad Amir and spinner Imad Wasim, both out of retirement, join the attack led by Shaheen and Naseem Shah.

“My mood is good and my fitness is good, and I am looking forward to winning the World Cup,” Shaheen said on a PCB podcast, despite the captaincy changes. “I have good partners, and when they do well, you are also motivated.”

Naqvi announced a bonus of around GBP 79,000 for each player if they win the World Cup.

Mystery spinner Abrar Ahmed and Shadab Khan supplement Wasim in the spin department.

“This is the best team with every base covered, so we can win and there should be no excuse,” said Shaheen, whose fitness will be crucial.

Pakistan’s batting approach and inconsistency remain issues. While other teams regularly score over 200, Pakistan hasn’t reached that total in 43 T20Is.

Pakistan relies heavily on Azam and Mohammad Rizwan, who have a world record 10 century partnerships. Left-hander Saim Ayub is set to break up the Azam-Rizwan opening partnership, which has been criticized for being too slow.

Star batter Fakhar Zaman, newcomer Usman Khan, Azam Khan, and Iftikhar Ahmed form a powerful middle-order but have struggled for consistency.

For Pakistan to “return with the trophy,” the batters will need to match their bowlers’ performance.

(AFP)

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