Babar Azam walked into the press conference arena at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Wednesday night, sporting his trademark smile. Just a while ago, Pakistan had defeated New Zealand convincingly to storm into the final of the T20 World Cup, and in the ten-minute-long interaction with the media, Babar was asked at least thrice about his preferred opponent for Sunday’s summit clash.
With India and England featuring in the second semifinal at the Adelaide Oval on Thursday, Babar knew his answer would make headlines. But the Pakistan captain smiled and ducked the question every time with a straight bat: “ Jo bhi team hogi, koshish karenge ki aise hi cricket khelein…”
With fans across the globe hoping for an India vs Pakistan final, the pressure is already mounting on the players and the support staff, but the Pakistan captain does not want to think too far ahead and wait for Thursday’s second semifinal before going back to the drawing board.
“The way the team has performed in all the departments has been outstanding. We got momentum after the game against South Africa and I am glad that our boys could keep the momentum going. When you play in such a way, you feel very satisfied. But there’s still one more match to go and we will hope to focus on that as well with the same approach,” Babar said.
Pakistan has had a roller-coaster of a tournament so far. After going down to India in the opener and a shock defeat against Zimbabwe, its chances of making the playoffs looked grim. But with Netherlands stunning South Africa in the last group league match in Adelaide last Sunday, Pakistan got a fresh lease of life and went on to defeat Bangladesh to enter the knockout stage.
But ahead of the semifinals, where Babar and Mohammad Rizwan both scored half-centuries and forged a 105-run stand for the opening partnership, questions were raised about the opening pair. In the last few outings, Pakistan failed to fire with Babar struggling to find his rhythm, but the seasoned campaigner stepped up when it mattered the most.
“We were not thinking about anything and were just waiting for our time. In cricket, you try to perform in every game, but there are ups and downs,” Babar said, “Let’s enjoy this victory. All of us should enjoy…”
Chasing 152, Pakistan had its best Powerplay score of the tournament with 55-0, and Babar admitted that when they walked out to bat, the idea was to make the optimum use of the Powerplay. “We wanted to play attacking cricket to put the opponent on the back foot and we were successful in doing that. You have to take some sort of risk and go out there with a plan. Our partnership got momentum and we made sure that it was not broken… We wanted to finish it off, but then I got out…”
After Babar’s dismissal, Mohammad Haris stepped in with a 26-ball-30, earning praise from the captain. “It was a good innings, and he is making an impact in international cricket and it does not appear as if he is playing his first World Cup. The way he is showing his batting skills to the world, it is really good for us…” the captain added.
After a few forgettable innings, Babar spent quite a bit of time in the last group league match against Bangladesh, and on the eve of the semifinal, he batted alone in the nets for long.
“There was nothing missing. I believe in myself and my practice. I try to keep things simple and I want to achieve the goals that I have set for myself in the training. But somethings are not in my control, but I want to put in my 100 per cent…”
Over the last few weeks, Pakistan’s poor show would eventually draw personal attacks for captain Babar, but after guiding the team to the final, the captain admitted that such acts are certainly not welcoming, but he didn’t want to dwell on the past.
After being written off by the critics, the Pakistan team has bounced back in style. As it gears up for the final, Babar and his team want to stay grounded and cautious, but at the same time dream of clinching yet another ICC title after five long years.