Babar confident as Pakistan open title bid

Captain Babar Azam on Wednesday said Pakistan held an edge over other teams in unfamiliar conditions in the United States for the ongoing ICC T20 World Cup, underlining that some of the current team members had already played cricket in the US. “[All-rounders] Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan and [fast bowler] Haris Rauf have featured in [league] cricket in the US which will benefit Pakistan [in the World Cup],” Babar said during a media interaction after the team’s practice session at the Grand Prairie Stadium in Dallas. “The team will show positive intent during the World Cup.” Pakistan, who are placed in group ‘A’ alongside arch-rivals India, Ireland and the US, launch their campaign against the US on Thursday. On the conditions in the World Cup, which is being co-hosted by the US and West Indies from June 1-29, Babar refrained from any remarks, saying that most of the games have been low-scoring fixtures with fast bowlers ruling the roost. Babar insisted that Pakistan had the services of the world’s best fast bowlers who would give their best in the event. “[However] nothing can be said about the [playing] conditions, and a decision [to bat or bowl first] can only be taken after inspecting the pitch,” the 29-year-old added. Babar reiterated his stance of a flexible batting order during the World Cup. “The batsmen may be asked to bat up or down the order as per the match situation,” he said adding that young opener Saim Ayub was a game-changer but currently was not finding the knock. On Shadab’s dip in form, Babar said as captain he had full faith in Shadab adding that the leg-spinning all-rounder needed one good game to regain touch. “Shadab has given excellent performance as an all-rounder for the team,” the skipper said adding that the team must support the player on his bad day. On Thursday’s opener at the Grand Prairie Stadium, Babar said the hosts were playing at their home ground and were familiar with the conditions. “They play their whole cricket at this very ground. [On the other hand] we have the best players in the team and I have full confidence in them,” he said. While underscoring that the playing conditions had helped the fast bowlers in the World Cup so far, Babar said “Pakistan have the best battery of fast bowlers”. However, he urged his players not to repeat mistakes. The right-handed batter called upon the senior players in the team to step up and take responsibility. Terming his personal targets as secondary to the team goals, batting star Babar who is fourth in ICC T20 batters rankings insisted that he wanted to contribute towards the team’s success as batsman, fielder and captain. “I don’t focus on my personal goals, team goals are my priority,” Babar, with more than 4,000 runs in 119 T20 Internationals at an impressive average of 41, said. Imad to miss today’s game In a major setback for Pakistan, Imad will miss today’s match due to an injury. “Imad is suffering from a side strain [injury], which means he won’t be able to play in our opening match [against the US],” Babar confirmed in his media interaction. The Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) medical team has advised Imad to rest, who was experiencing discomfort in his right rib cage while batting in the nets before last month’s fourth T20 against England, which compelled him to miss that match as well. “Although Imad won’t play the first game, we hope that he will be available for the rest of the matches,” Babar added. The Pakistan camp expects Imad to return to action for the June 9 blockbuster against India in New York.