Srinagar: Pakistan Cricket Team captain Babar Azam interacted with the media in Lahore on Tuesday before teams departure for India for the participation in ICC Cricket World Cup 2023.
Babar that, “We are leaving for the World Cup tonight; the morale of the team is high and we are very confident. We will try to come back with a win, we request you all to back us and pray for us.”
He also spoke about Asia Cup performance, Team Unity, absence of Naseem Shah and performance of spinners.
Excerpts of Media Interaction
Q: Most of you are touring India for the first time. How is the team feeling about that?
BA: All of us are proud of travelling for the World Cup. Although we have not played in India before, we are not taking too much pressure. We have done our research and we have heard the conditions are similar to how they play out in other Asian countries. It is quite an honour for me to travel as the captain this time around, I hope we come back with a trophy this time.
Q: Asia Cup ended on a sour note for Pakistan. What will be the strategy moving forward?
BA: Before the last two games in the Asia Cup, we were doing really well with the same team. Although we could not deliver the way we could, but we have learnt from our mistakes, as individuals and as a team. We have discussed all our mistakes as a team with the support staff. Asia Cup was a different tournament, World Cup is entirely different, so we will plan accordingly. We cannot comment on combinations without assessing the conditions first. We will go with whatever works best for the Pakistan team.
Q: Are you envisioning Pakistan finishing the World Cup in the top-four?
BA: The top-four is a small goal for us. We want to come out as winners. We did not have enough time to put together a camp before the World Cup because we had been playing for too long continuously. We wanted to give the players a break so they come back refreshed and with the hunger to win. You play well when you have that hunger.
Q: Pakistan has made mistakes in the Asia Cup. How will you be dealing with them?
BA: It is a process, you can never be satisfied with your performance 100%. You recover as professionals, as a team. We know we have lapsed in fielding and in our wicket-taking abilities in the middle overs but we are going to work on it and hopefully will not be repeating them as we have made plans accordingly … The more you play cricket, the more you learn. When you are playing well and are in-form, you wish to keep playing. But when you are making mistakes, it is different. You assess that differently, you have to work on it especially if a key player is struggling. You need to back your struggling player more because they are being criticised from the outside. Giving them confidence in the dressing room becomes even more important because these are the same boys who have won you consistently. I believe in my 15 men more than I believe in myself. Whatever team you make, you should know what your core is. I know who my players are – the ones who would be willing to put a fight – and I believe in them blindly. They are capable of winning you matches singlehandedly … We don’t get results as individuals, we get results as a team. There are ups-and-downs always but making changes does not help the team unity. As a team, we play match-to-match and we are eying the World Cup. We have nine matches to win before we can win the World Cup.
Q: There have been a lot of distractions for Pakistan leading up to the World Cup, how has the team dealt with that?
BA: We try our best to block out the noise and play with our 100% attention. I try to make sure that the noise does not get to the team and I handle them all outside of the [dressing room]. The visas are here, as far as I know, so we should be good to go. As far as the contracts are concerned, they still being negotiated, but we are hopeful they will work out as the PCB always has our interests at heart.
Q: Can you comment on Naseem Shah missing out on the World Cup?
BA: Of course we will miss Naseem Shah as Shaheen [Afridi] and Naseem bowling together gave us a different edge. It was not easy to pick his replacement, but we all sat together and got input from [chief selector] Inzamam ul Haq. We went with Hasan Ali because he has experience. He has played the World Cup before. I cannot comment who will bowl the new ball or the old ball, as we cannot reveal our strategies right now. But we have not made any concrete plans right now, it will become more clear to us when we travel to India and assess the conditions.
Q: Can you comment on the dressing room environment?
BA: There is no ill will in the dressing room. There are discussions after every loss but they get twisted into something else entirely. The entire team is like a family and there is love and respect there.
Q: How much will the team miss Pakistan fans in the stadium?
BA: Unfortunately, we will be missing the fans. However, as far as I know, the games are all sold out so we will be playing in jam-packed stadiums. Although our fans will not be there, I know they will make sure their love is heard on social media. I have heard that the fans in India also show their love, although I have not experienced that as of yet but I am excited to play in India as well.
Q: Can you comment on the performances of spinners?
BA: There has been a lot of criticism on the spinners. They have had a few bad days but they are not ordinary players. It is not easy to play for the Pakistan team—they have gotten here on the back of their performances. I have full faith in them.
Q: What are your personal goals for the World Cup?
BA: I am excited to play in Ahmedabad as it will be jam-packed. I will try my best to perform up to my potential. I am not worried about my individual accolades, I want to make sure whatever I do helps the result for the team … Whenever there is a tour coming up, I spend some time planning for it. I prepare according to [the teams I have to face] and make goals for myself. I try to set targets for myself and then I give my 100% in the ground. The rest I leave up to God, as the results are in His hand … Whenever you are playing a big tournament, it is a very exciting opportunity. It is a chance to become a hero as every World Cup performance gives you a different kind of confidence. Everyone is at their best during the World Cup, so whenever you perform there, it is an altogether different feeling. Performances come when you do not take pressure so that is also important.