LAHORE: Pakistan’s top batsmen are looking forward to the big challenge.
Two days before departing from England where they face the hosts ahead of the World Cup, Mohammad Hafeez, Babar Azam and Abid Ali seem quietly confident about Pakistan’s chances and their performances.
Pakistan leave for England on Tuesday where they will play five One-day Internationals and a Twenty20 before kicking off their World Cup campaign against the West Indies on May 31.
And Hafeez, one of the most seasoned campaigners in the Pakistan squad, is ready to take on any required role to serve the team in what can be his last World Cup.
“I believe I can play every kind of innings, under pressure or in any other situation.” the right-hander said during a mixed zone session at the Gaddafi Stadium on Sunday.
“I have played as opener but as our young openers are doing well. Therefore I am satisfied batting at number four.”
Hafeez also offers utility to the side with his right-arm off-break but has recently recovered from a hand injury he suffered during this year’s Pakistan Super League.
“I am recovering from the surgery and thankfully have received sufficient time to get well before the start of the series against England,” he said.
Hafeez also expressed his desire to help Pakistan end their winless record against India at the World Cup.
Less experienced than Hafeez, but arguably the most reliable batsman in the Pakistan line-up, Babar is willing to take more responsibility during the upcoming campaigns.
Babar, 25, said he counts himself as a senior member of the national squad now and will have to perform with the consistency which is expected from a seasoned player.
The right-hander, who boasts an impressive ODI average of 51.29, said he will try to make history at the World Cup.
”Setting all past performances aside I will go to perform outstandingly well to make it a memorable one for me and the country by winning it,” said Babar.
Babar responded to criticism he faces frequently for not being a hard-hitter of the ball. The Lahore-born player said as far as he is piling runs he does not need to change his approach to batting.
“If my current batting style has elevated me as one of the top batsmen in the world, what’s wrong with it,” he said.
“But I also hit the ball hard when there is a need.”
Haris Sohail, who, like Babar, is known for his classy strokes, said he would want to carry on with his blistering form.
The left-hander scored two centuries against Australia in Pakistan’s last series. He said the England series is a good opportunity for Pakistan to boost their confidence before the World Cup.
“If we win against England, the No.1 in the world, it will give a boost to Pakistan for the World Cup,” he said.
ABID HOPES TO MEET TENDULKAR
Opener Abid also scored a century against Australia, that too on his debut. The right-hander made it to the national side after piling heaps of runs in the domestic circuit and scored another ton in the Pakistan Cup last week before being named in the World Cup squad.
Having his ticket to England confirmed now, the 31-year-old is eager to meet Indian legend Sachin Tendulkar at the mega event.
Abid said he has idolised the batting maestro since childhood and loves following his batting style.
“Actually I have followed Sachin’s technique from day one of my career and after watching him I tried to play like him. He was a great player, just like our own Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mohammad Yousuf,” Abid said.
Abid is almost the same height as Tendulkar and bats in a similar style, but has a long way to match the Indian maestro’s phenomenal record of most Test runs (15,921), most one-day runs (18,426), most Test hundreds (51) and most one-day centuries (49) to name a few.
“It’s my wish and hope that I meet Sachin Tendulkar,” Abid said.
“Definitely, I would like to hug him and I am sure that just like all great players meet youngsters I am sure that he will not turn me down.
“I am sure that if I want to get any information on cricket from Sachin, he will give a positive reply.”
Abid said it will be a memorable day when he meets his idol.
“It will be the best day in my life when I meet him (Tendulkar) because he was one of the best batsmen.”
Just like the batsmen, Pakistan’s bowlers are also looking forward to the England series and the World Cup.
Left-arm pacer Junaid Khan was named in the squad for the event ahead of Mohammad Amir. the latter however is in the Pakistan squad for the England games and Junaid understands the competition to become the side’s leading attacking bowler is tough.
Junaid, to a question, disagreed that Pakistan’s pace attack lacked the bite it had in the past.
“If you analyse, you will find that Pakistan have claimed 10 wickets in ODI matches by containing rivals to around 250 total,” he said.
Right-armer Hasan Ali said, like him, the other Pakistani pacers also had the abilities to seam the old and new balls. Hasan said as a senior bowler he wanted to claim maximum wickets to play a leading role.
Published in Dawn, April 22nd, 2019