DUBAI: Skipper Babar Azam vowed his team will not think about Pakistan’s poor record against arch-rivals India when they meet in the high-octane Twenty20 World Cup clash in Dubai on Sunday.
Pakistan have lost all seven World Cup (50 over) clashes against India as well as five games in the Twenty20 World Cup and start as ‘underdogs’.
Exuding confidence, Babar stressed that the past is irrelevant to his players.
“To be honest, what has passed is beyond us,” Babar told a virtual media conference on Saturday, as both nations buzzed in anticipation of a thrilling match. “We want to use our ability and confidence on the day of the match so that we can get a better result. Records are meant to be broken.”
The tickets for the match were sold out within hours of going on sale after the United Arab Emirate government allowed a 70 percent crowd for the Twenty20 World Cup matches in a relaxation of the Covid-19 restrictions.
The South Asian rivals have only played in multi-national events like the World Cups and the Champions Trophy as strained relations have stalled bilateral cricket since 2007.
Pakistan did tour India in 2012 for five limited over matches but ties were not fully resumed as the two nations continued to be at loggerheads over multiple issues, with the disputed region of Kashmir and terrorism heading the list.
Babar admitted it will be a match full of intensity.
“The matches between Pakistan and India are always full of intensity so we need to perform well in all three departments of the game,” said Babar.
Babar announced 12 for the match with hard-hitters Haider Ali and Asif Ali competing to make the final eleven.
“The boys are excited to play the World Cup and we have a crucial match on Sunday,” said Babar, who will be leading Pakistan for the first time in a senior World Cup match. “A winning impact is necessary and then we will go match by match.”
Babar said the Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan — who led the country to victory in the 1992 World Cup — had shared his experiences with the team.
“The Prime Minister met us before our departure and shared his experiences of the 1992 win and told us to play aggressive and fearless cricket against India.”
India captain Virat Kohli, meanwhile, observed his side’s impeccable tournament record against Pakistan will count for nothing and they will need to be at their very best to overcome Babar Azam’s side.
Kohli, who will relinquish Twenty20 captaincy after the showpiece event, knows the importance of beginning well and said he is not thinking about his side’s record against Pakistan which brings its own pressure.
“We never discussed it within the team — what our record is, or what we achieved in the past,” the 32-year-old told a news conference on Saturday. “They distract you. What matters is how you prepare and how you perform on that given day regardless of opposition. These things are added pressure.”
The match is a repeat of the 2007 final when India pipped Pakistan to the inaugural title after a heart-stopping match.
Kohli said teams would underestimate the 2009 champions at their own peril.
“The current Pakistan team is very strong, they always have been so. They are very talented, with several players who can change the game anytime,” Kohli said. “Against a team like that, you need to arrive with your best plans, and make sure you execute it well. We definitely have to bring our A game tomorrow.”
There is lot of hype sub-continent’s feuding neighbours around the mouth-watering clash between the neighbours but Kohli said he treated it like just another game. “For me, it’s never been different to any other game of cricket that we play.
“Yes, the atmosphere in the stadium is different but our mindset is no different, our preparations are no different, and our approach to the game is certainly no different.”
India’s two-time World Cup-winning skipper M.S. Dhoni is with the team as mentor and Kohli said the icon’s presence in the dressing room will further ‘boost’ their morale.
Dhoni led India to the inaugural T20 World Cup crown in 2007, beating Pakistan in the final, and hold a 7-1 advantage in the shortest format.
Pakistan’s only win came in a bilateral series which ended 1-1.
Pakistan will depend on the experience of Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik while Babar, Mohammad Rizwan and Fakhar Zaman hold the key at the top of the order.
The bowling, led by Shaheen Shah Afridi and Hasan Ali, looks potent to trouble any opposition in the Super 12 stage.
Earlier this week, India won both their warm-up matches, beating England and Australia while Pakistan beat the West Indies but lost to South Africa.
INDIA: Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma, K.L. Rahul, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami.
PAKISTAN: Babar Azam (captain), Mohammad Rizwan, Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Haider Ali/Asif Ali, Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf.
Umpires: Marais Erasmus (South Africa) and Chris Gaffaney (New Zealand).
TV umpire: Richard Illingworth (England).
Match referee: David Boon (Australia).
Published in Dawn, October 24th, 2021