Pakistan must ride wave of confidence in T20 World Cup final: Babar Azam

Published November 12, 2022
<p>Captain Babar Azam attends a press conference at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) in Melbourne on November 12, 2022, ahead of the ICC men’s Twenty20 World Cup 2022 cricket final match between Pakistan and England. — AFP</p>

Captain Babar Azam attends a press conference at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) in Melbourne on November 12, 2022, ahead of the ICC men’s Twenty20 World Cup 2022 cricket final match between Pakistan and England. — AFP

Captain Babar Azam told his rejuvenated Pakistan side on Saturday to ride the wave of four consecutive victories and win the Twenty20 World Cup final.

The 2009 champions suffered last-ball losses to India and Zimbabwe to start their tournament but bounced back to surge into Sunday’s final against England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

“We have lost the first two matches, [but] the way we came back the last four matches, we’ve performed very well,” Azam said at his pre-match press conference.

“I’m more excited than nervous … it is no doubt that pressure exists, but it can only be suppressed with confidence and belief in ourselves. And for good results, it is important that one must do so.”

Pakistan are slight underdogs against Jos Buttler’s England, but Azam is banking on the strength of his fast bowlers to give them an edge, particularly in the six-over powerplay.

“England is a competitive team, their [10-wicket] win to reach the finals against India was a proof of that,” he said.

“Our strategy is to stick to our plan and use our pace attack as our strength to win the finals.

“Utilising the powerplay to grab as many wickets will be essential for the match,” he added.

Notwithstanding any late injuries, Pakistan are set to name the same team with Shaheen Shah Afridi spearheading a dangerous attack and Azam and Mohammad Rizwan headlining the batting.

1992 parallels

Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ramiz Raja met the squad on Friday and gave them a pep talk, reflecting on how the Pakistan team he was part of beat England to win the 1992 one-day World Cup.

In pictures: Against all odds, Pakistan lifted the World Cup trophy in 1992. Will history repeat itself?

“When the chairman came and shared his experience of the World Cup, it put a massive boost in our confidence,” said Azam. “He advised us to stay calm and focus on what goes well.”

He added: “Of course, the similarities are [there with the 1992 final]. But we will try to win the trophy as it is an honour for me to lead this team, especially in this big ground.”

Pakistan are likely to be unchanged but England could opt to bring back express paceman Mark Wood and number three batsman Dawid Malan if the pair are fit. The final has been billed as a battle between Pakistan’s vaunted pace attack and England’s top order, but both sides boast other weapons.

England’s Sam Curran has been a fearless death bowler while legspinner Adil Rashid proved an unlikely hero against India.

Pakistan all-rounder Shadab Khan has captured 10 wickets at the tournament and their maligned middle order carried the team while Babar and Rizwan struggled.

The crowd and the weather

On Sunday, the crowd will be dominated by an army of green-clad Pakistan fans but it may have little impact on England, who delighted in silencing the massive crowd of India supporters at Adelaide Oval.

More than 90,000 fans packed the MCG when Pakistan played India early in the tournament and they have enjoyed solid support wherever they have played in Australia.

“They give us confidence and [it’s] good to see when we go anywhere, any stadium, they come and support the Pakistan team,” he said.

Meanwhile, heavy rain could disrupt the Melbourne Cricket Ground showdown on Sunday and even see the teams crowned joint champions if unable to complete a match of at least 10 overs per side by the end of the reserve day on Monday.

However, conditions should hold up long enough to deliver a contest between the two nations who played for the 50-overs World Cup 30 years ago at the MCG.

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