Babar looks to regain form in England T20s ahead of World Cup

Published September 20, 2022
PREPARING THE TRACK: Curators and ground staff inspect the pitch at the National Stadium in Karachi on the eve of the opening game of the seven-match T20 series between Pakistan and England.—Tahir Jamal/White Star
PREPARING THE TRACK: Curators and ground staff inspect the pitch at the National Stadium in Karachi on the eve of the opening game of the seven-match T20 series between Pakistan and England.—Tahir Jamal/White Star

KARACHI: Pakistan’s build-up towards next month’s ICC T20 World Cup in Australia is set to get underway.

For the national side, it doesn’t get better than hosting England for the first time in 17 years ahead of the showpiece. The tour tees off with the first of the seven Twenty20 Internationals here at the National Stadium on Tuesday.

The series will establish how Pakistan will shape up for the World Cup after an anticlimactic conclusion to their Asia Cup campaign, which saw them beaten by underdogs Sri Lanka in the final.

Pakistan skipper Babar Azam was unexpectedly one of the worst performers for the side during the tournament, scoring 68 runs in six outings as opener. The England series at home may well get Babar going just in time and the right-hander is looking forward to regaining his usual form.

“The series is important for me personally and I’ll try to bring my form back [in it],” Babar told reporters on Monday.

“It’s important to avoid overthinking during a bad patch and it’s important to keep things simple and to keep believing.”

ENGLAND captain Jos Buttler (L) and his Pakistan counterpart Babar Azam pose with the series trophy on Monday.—White Star
ENGLAND captain Jos Buttler (L) and his Pakistan counterpart Babar Azam pose with the series trophy on Monday.—White Star

The number of matches in the series is mouthwatering prospect, not just for Babar, but for the whole Pakistan squad and the skipper said it was important to make the most of the opportunity.

“England have come after 17 years, it’s going to be a big series,” said the 26-year-old. “We are quite excited as a team, seven matches before the World Cup is a big deal and we’ll try to utilise this opportunity.”

The series also gives Pakistan’s opening pair — Babar and Mohammad Rizwan — the perfect stage to shrug off the criticism they were subjected to during the Asia Cup regarding their inability to score big during the six powerplay overs.

Babar believes he and Rizwan do not rely on a single-dimensional approach when they are on the crease and said their pairing had helped Pakistan win numerous matches.

“Our opening partnership has been quite successful over the last two years,” he said. “The momentum that we create, it helps the middle-order. Different scenarios, the conditions, the opponents, the requirement of the match come into play when we bat.

“The partnership has given Pakistan a lot of wins. When one of us gets out, the other tries to go till the end.”

The Pakistan captain sprang to the defence of the middle-order, which came under fire, when a nearly run-a-ball 32 by Iftikhar Ahmed cost the national side the Asia Cup final.

Babar preferred to look at the positives, pointing towards middle-order performances by Mohammad Nawaz and Shadab Khan against India and Afghanistan during the tournament’s Super Four stage.

“While I was worried about my own form I was really happy that our middle order performed well,” he said. “It won us big matches in different situations.”

PERFECT T20 WICKET

With England series marking the start of Pakistan’s packed international season at home, fresh pitches have been prepared at the National Stadium.

Both teams’ players were seen effortlessly practicing attacking shots in the nets during all three training days. Babar is expecting them to provide a good show for the fans. “The wickets are new and I think it will be a good one, the perfect T20 wicket and there will be good competition,” he said.

The first T20’s gate money is set to be donated to the people affected by the recent floods which have cause devastation across a third of the country. While England have announced their players and cricket board will raise funds for the victims, Babar said Pakistan players have also decided to donate the match fees from their Asia Cup opener.

“Humanity should prevail and it has, with people having stepped up to help like they have always whenever Pakistan has faced such times,” said Babar as Pakistan will don a brand new jersey design in the series, which has been launched ahead of the World Cup.

Published in Dawn, September 20th, 2022

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