NEW YORK: Pakistan team’s assistant coach Azhar Mahmood has denied a rift between skipper Babar Azam and fast bowler pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi, stating that former captain Wasim Akram’s recent assertion of the duo not being on talking terms is incorrect.

According to a Press Trust of India report, former all-rounder Azhar also took a dig at everyone who feels that the national team cricketers shouldn’t have a life outside cricket, particularly after a major defeat.

It is being speculated that the Pakistan squad is divided into two factions, one led by skipper Babar and the other by Shaheen.

“Wasim must have said that, but I don’t know. I didn’t see it.

“Shaheen and Babar are definitely talking, they are good friends. They are both part of the Pakistan team. We have not lost because of anyone, it is our mistake too,” Azhar told reporters, referring to the team’s six-run loss to India at New York where the green-shirts failed to chase down a moderate 120.

This was second consecutive loss at the mega event for Babar and company who in their Group A opening match received a seven-wicket jolt by co-hosts on Thursday at Dallas.

Asked why the Pakistan cricketers weren’t coming for news conferences to face the media, Azhar said the support staff took equal responsibility when it came to being answerable for the team’s defeats at the ongoing World Cup.

“We are not hiding any players, everyone is there. Everything is there.

“I said earlier that we are a team. Obviously, we’re sitting here, and it’s our responsibility. We’re not delivering. That’s why I’m sitting here,” the coach told reporters.

“Yesterday, [head coach] Gary [Kirsten] was sitting here. So definitely, it’s not like we’re hiding a player. They’re part of us.”

Azhar, chief selector Wahab Riaz and Babar were seen enjoying a dinner at a restaurant here after the loss to India, which led to angry reactions from fans.

“You were there. I’m telling you; you were there. I saw you there too,” Azhar told a Pakistani reporter, who asked this question.

“The thing is, we are a very emotional nation. I mean, it’s not possible that if you lose a match, your life will be over. Yes, how will you do it? If you lose a match and then you come to the room and bang the walls of the room, then you need a little time to relax your mind.

“Now, obviously, our players are not like that. I’ve been with English teams, too. If they go to a place like that, you can only go to eat, that’s our entertainment.”

Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2024

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