Bold, unflinching Pakistan at its marauding best in the T20 World Cup

One has to sacrifice the cold objectivity of stats to better understand what Pakistan has achieved in the T20 World Cup so far. It isn’t the emergence of a special sporting talent; it is a team working as one.

Pakistan’s Shaheen Afridi (left) and Babar Azam celebrate the dismissal of K. L. Rahul during the Super 12 contest against India. Babar asked his troops not to get overexcited after the win, and his team has now won three on the trot.   -  AFP

Pakistan’s hat-trick of wins in the ongoing ICC Twenty20 World Cup means it is close to sealing its spot in the semifinals. Babar Azam’s men began by ending their India hoodoo at World Cups with a record 10-wicket win in Dubai. It has set the tone for a tournament where Pakistan’s uncharacteristic consistency and enviable chutzpah have become the hallmarks.

The world’s No. 2 T20I team has a highlights reel of mesmerising bowling spells and whirling moments of brilliance with the bat, including Shaheen Shah Afridi’s fiery new-ball assault against India in which he claimed both openers and Asif Ali’s unbeaten 25 off seven during which he hit four sixes in an over to down Afghanistan.

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Pakistan has played 14 T20Is in the UAE since 2016, winning each of them. But one has to sacrifice the cold objectivity of stats to better understand what Pakistan has achieved in this World Cup so far. It isn’t the emergence of a special sporting talent; it is a team working as one. Any fan of cricket will tell you that Pakistan has always been good before finding a way to collapse.

Overexcited na hona, yeh humari aadat hai. Yeh change karni hai humein (Don’t get overexcited, it’s our habit. We need to change it)’ - Babar Azam

But implosion is one thing it has steered clear of this time - there were moments against New Zealand and Afghanistan when things could have gone awry, but they commanded the chase. There is a steeliness to this Pakistan side, but more importantly, there is a well-executed plan.

In 2021, Babar and Mohammad Rizwan have put on 713 runs as a T20I opening pair, at an average of 59.41. Both have an understanding that if one gets out early, the other will look to bat through. After the India win, Rizwan had revealed as much.

Then there’s the mercurial finisher Asif, who has proved he has the temperament, power and above all the self-belief to shine under pressure. Against Afghanistan, he sent Shadab Khan back to stay on strike for the 19th over and backed himself to seal the chase, and he did. That coupled with Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik’s experience makes this a formidable batting line-up.

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Pakistan’s success has also been built on its bowling line-up. Afridi and Haris Rauf offer swing and pace. Hasan Ali and Imad Wasim are the middle-over enforcers. And Shadab Khan brings the wily leg-spin. Buoyed by a togetherness forged in pre-tournament distractions — England and New Zealand’s last-minute pullouts — Pakistan is ready to dream and conquer.

Overexcited na hona, yeh humari aadat hai. Yeh change karni hai humein (Don’t get overexcited, it’s our habit. We need to change it),” was Babar’s address to his team-mates after beating India. His troops have answered the war cry emphatically.

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