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ICC World Cup 2023: Babar Azam says Pakistan going to India with ‘high morale’

ICC World Cup 2023

Pakistan skipper Babar Azam said Tuesday the Green Shirts were filled with confidence ahead of their departure to India for the ICC Men’s World Cup, with an eye on the coveted trophy.

“As a team, our morale is very high, we have confidence. We will try to play our best. I request all of you to pray for the team,” the skipper said during a pre-departure press conference in Lahore.

The team heads to the 50-over tournament after their setback in the recently concluded Asia Cup, where they came fourth and their ICC ODI ranking fell to second, but the skipper believes the debacle helped the team learn.

“We could not deliver up to the mark, but we learned from it. We just don’t point out our errors, but we also talk about how to improve those sides,” the captain noted.

Babar said the team’s planning for the Asia Cup was different, and another plan for the upcoming event would be different.

“The conditions are different from Asia Cup. We will monitor the conditions, and whatever is best for Pakistan, we will go into the match with that planning,” the stylish batter noted.

‘I trust my players more than I trust myself’

The team has been under criticism due to its lacklustre performance in the Asia Cup, with several pundits agreeing that the Green Shirts were lacking in middle-over bowling.

“I spoke to Shadab Khan and we gave confidence to each other. I and Shadab know that we aren’t bowling well in the middle overs, but I trust my players more than I trust myself,” he said.

The captain noted that this was the same squad that made Pakistan the number 1 ODI team and that he was well aware of the players who fought for the team.

Due to Naseem Shah’s injury, the team has included Hasan Ali in the squad despite him not representing Pakistan in the 50-over format for more than a year.

The captain, in response to a question, said Ali was picked due to his experience. Babar said that he and seven to nine other players were playing together since 2019, noting that he prefers keeping those in the squad he trusts.

“I make very few changes; when we are together, we produce good results. A player should be supported when he is not doing well,” he said, noting that the team would miss Shah.

Playing for first time in India

The captain, who will be playing in India for the first time in his years-long career, said he was excited and not worried about the conditions in the neighbouring nation.

Only two players from Pakistan’s current squad have travelled to India for cricket before — Mohammad Nawaz, who was part of Pakistan’s 2016 T20 World Cup squad and Agha Salman, who was in the Lahore Lions’ squad for the Champions League T20.

“I’m very excited to play in Ahmedabad. It is the biggest stadium in the world and will be jam-packed for the India-Pakistan clash,” he said.

“I have spoken to former cricketers about the condition and they are not that different,” he said.

“I will try to perform to the best of my ability. I can’t exactly tell you how I will do since I’m not an astrologer.”

“I’m not worried about my performance. I always try to perform in a manner that suits the team,” he added. 

‘Rift’ with Shaheen?

The Pakistan skipper also rejected reports of a “war of words” with pacer Shaheen Afridi, saying the players “love each other like a family”.

“Since when you became captain, the team has given you respect and everyone honours you a lot, even Iftikhar Ahmed considers you elder brother,” a journalist asked Babar.

He was then asked about rumours of differences within the team.

“There were reports regarding Shaheen Afridi after the Asia Cup debacle so the fans want to know how good your bonding is with Shaheen Afridi and how much he respects you?”

In response, Babar said: “Everyone gives me respect…. and see when you lose close matches then certain [diagreements] do take place in team meetings but this was taken out of context that there was a duel between us.”

“There’s nothing like this. We have the same respect for each other and will remain the same. We love each other like a family.”

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