Pakistan all-rounder Shadab Khan believes he has the ability to bounce back from his poor form and contribute to his side’s success in the upcoming 2023 ODI World Cup. A full-strength Pakistan team arrived at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium for a practice session ahead of its second warm-up game against Australia on Tuesday.
In the last 10 matches, Shadab, the Pakistan vice-captain, has scored just 121 runs, registering five single-digit numbers and picked just 11 wickets - the only bright performance being a four-wicket haul against Nepal during the Asia Cup.
“I do understand that my recent form is not good, but I have the skills. Just that when you are not performing, you are mentally a bit down, but skill-wise, there is no issue. From the mental aspect, things have changed after I got the rest, and hopefully, we will give a good performance in the upcoming World Cup,” Shadab said during the team’s first press conference ever since landing in the city for the marquee event.
“From a cricketing point of view, the Asia Cup didn’t go well, but that’s the beauty of cricket: you learn from your mistakes, and there is always an opportunity to learn and play good cricket. After we lost the Asia Cup, we got a good rest, and I believe it’s no more a skill game but a mental game, and it’s the World Cup. You can make good decisions when you are relaxed mentally,” he added.
The Babar Azam-led side will clash against the Netherlands on October 6 in Hyderabad and then take on Sri Lanka at the same venue on October 10. The team will then fly to Ahmedabad to take on India, a match that has always attracted the largest eyeballs and is billed as the mother of all battles. However, the vice-captain said that they are not yet thinking about the mega clash.
“Ahmedabad is a bit far now and we are not thinking about that currently as the warm-up matches are there and then the main matches. This is my feeling: the team that bowls well will win the World Cup. Given the conditions, it will be difficult to contain the batsmen and pick wickets, given the nature of flat tracks and small boundaries. So I feel the team that bowls well will win the tournament, and we have world-class bowlers, and as a bowling unit, if we perform well we will become champions,” he said.
-Fitness, a key component-
Hasan Ali was included late in the squad after premier bowler Naseem Shah was ruled out of the tournament due to a shoulder injury. And Shadab opined that the fitness of the players, especially the bowlers, will be tested given the nature of flat tracks.
“Conditions will change as we will be playing in different venues, and we have to adapt to conditions very quickly, fitness-wise as it’s a long tournament and the Asia Cup saw some fast bowlers getting injured. So fitness will be a concern for all teams but hopefully not for us as we lost one of the key players and we don’t want any other fitness issues.”
Pakistan started its World Cup preparations on a losing note as New Zealand gunned down a massive total of 346 in the first warm-up game, and Shadab expects the pitches to be slightly better and also assist the bowlers in the upcoming games.
“The conditions are mostly similar to that of Pakistan and in the last warm-up match, the pitch was like Rawalpindi with short boundaries. We expect that the pitch will be slightly different in the next game and we will get an idea of how exactly the other pitches will behave in this ground. Hopefully they will be a bit different.”
-Pakistan backs Fakhar Zaman-
The vice-captain threw his weight behind explosive batsman Fakhar Zaman whose recent dwindling form has been a concern for the team. Fakhar did not bat during the first warm-up and that decision raised eyebrows, but Shadab said he has the backing of the team.
“There is nothing like that (Fakhar not batting), and he is a big player for us, an impactful player, and whenever he performs, the team wins. His three centuries this year have come in winning causes and every team wants this kind of players to play for their side. We have no doubt about his ability, and we back him as he is a world-class player.”
India is one of the strong contenders to win the World Cup, and Shadab feels it will be difficult to stop skipper Rohit Sharma once he gets going.
“I admire Rohit Sharma a lot and I think among the batsmen in the world, it’s difficult to bowl to him once he gets set and becomes very dangerous. Among the bowlers, being a leg-spinner, it’s Kuldeep Yadav.” he said.
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