Pakistan eye two wins before ‘unbelievable India spectacle’

Published October 5, 2023
Pakistan skipper Babar Azam speaks a day before the national team’s opening match in World Cup 2023. — PCB
Pakistan skipper Babar Azam speaks a day before the national team’s opening match in World Cup 2023. — PCB

Coach Mickey Arthur hopes his team will have two wins under their belts before they face old rivals India in the eagerly-awaited World Cup blockbuster.

The 1992 champions face the Netherlands first up in Hyderabad on Friday followed by Sri Lanka at the same venue four days later.

Pakistan will then lock horns against India in Ahmedabad on October 14 in front of 132,000 fans in the world’s biggest cricket arena.

“It’s going to be an unbelievable spectacle,” said Arthur on Thursday.

“I can’t wait for it, personally. Hopefully, we’ve got two wins under the belt before we get to Ahmedabad.”

Arthur praised the world’s number one ODI team India.

“India are playing some fantastic cricket, but so are we,” said Arthur. “I just think it’s going to be a great game. I can’t wait for it, personally.”

Pakistan will hope to overcome a poor show in the recent Asia Cup where they suffered a 228-run rout at the hands of India and lost by two wickets against Sri Lanka.

They also went down in both World Cup warm-up games against New Zealand and Australia, also in Hyderabad.

Arthur said his team will, however, be focused on the Netherlands rather than India.

“We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves,” said Arthur. “First of all, the boys love being in India, which is fantastic.

“The pressure of a World Cup is always massive. But I think our boys are in a really good place.”

The Pakistan Cricket Board appointed Arthur in April this year for a second stint, doubling up on his job with Derbyshire in the English county championship.

He vowed to complete the unfinished business of winning a second World Cup to add to Pakistan’s 1992 triumph.

“I felt in 2019 we were very, very close,” said Arthur despite Pakistan failing to reach the semi-finals.

“These young boys have now become men and have another four years’ experience.

“Look, they’re a very close group because they’ve played together for so long. They know each other backwards. They’re not only teammates, but they’re generally friends as well.”

The pitch at Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Hyderabad is known for high scores with New Zealand chasing 346 and Pakistan compiling 337 in a chase of 352 against Australia in the warm-ups.

“It looks an incredibly good wicket,” said Arthur. “The wickets we had for the warm-up games were brilliant and this pitch looks no different. It looks like a very, very good one.”

Arthur also played down concerns over the lack of form of opener Fakhar Zaman and spinning allrounder Shadab Khan.

“I think form comes and goes,” said Arthur. “The quality of these players that we have in those positions is undoubted. It’s about making sure they are in a good space mentally, and then just hoping that they click tomorrow. “

‘We will give our best,’ says Babar

Separately, in a video posted by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on the social media platform X today, skipper Babar Azam said Pakistan would give their best in the 50-over spectacle.

He recalled that the team received an “unexpected” reception upon their arrival in India.

The skipper also talked about the absence of the home crowd element, saying: “If we had Pakistani supporters here, we would have received even more support.”

Regarding the team’s preparations for their opening match, the skipper said the national team spent a week in Hyderabad and experimented with various batting and bowling combinations in warm-up matches.

“As you’re aware, our strength primarily lies in our fast bowlers. Since our arrival in India, our spinners have also performed admirably in the middle overs, consistently taking wickets.

“This is certainly a positive sign for the team,” he said.

Azam stated that each player in the middle and lower-middle order was stepping up to fulfill their respective roles, which he said was encouraging.

He also expressed his satisfaction with the quality of pitches in the host country, describing them as “very good,” and was hopeful that the matches would be “high scoring”.

He also noted that the boundary distances appeared to be “normal”.

Furthermore, Azam shared his perspective on Pakistan’s bowling strategy, saying that bowlers were expected to employ variations and focus on bowling “wicket to wicket”.

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