Pakistan must ride winning momentum in T20 World Cup final: Babar Azam
Breaks silence on PM Shehbaz's tweet about India team: Says you have to utilise powerplay, be it in bowling or in batting
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Captain Babar Azam told his rejuvenated Pakistan side on Saturday to ride the wave of four consecutive victories and win the Twenty20 World Cup final.
The 2009 champions suffered last-ball losses to India and Zimbabwe to start their tournament but bounced back to surge into Sunday's final against England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
"We have lost the first two matches, (but) the way we came back the last four matches, we've performed very well," Azam said at his pre-match press conference.
"I'm more excited than nervous... it is no doubt that pressure exists, but it can only be suppressed with confidence and belief in ourselves. And for good results it is important that one must do so."
Pakistan are slight underdogs against Jos Buttler's England, but Azam is banking on the strength of his fast bowlers to give them an edge, particularly in the six-over powerplay.
"England is a competitive team, their (10-wicket) win to reach the finals against India was a proof of that," he said.
"Our strategy is to stick to our plan and use our pace attack as our strength to win the finals.
"Utilising the powerplay to grab as many wickets will be essential for the match."
Notwithstanding any late injuries, Pakistan are set to name the same team with Shaheen Shah Afridi spearheading a dangerous attack and Azam and Mohammad Rizwan headlining the batting.
Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ramiz Raja met the squad on Friday and gave them a pep talk, reflecting on how the Pakistan team he was part of beat England to win the 1992 one-day World Cup.
"When the chairman came and shared his experience of the World Cup, it put a massive boost in our confidence," said Azam. "He advised us to stay calm and focus on what goes well."
More than 90,000 fans packed the MCG when Pakistan played India early in the tournament and they have enjoyed solid support wherever they have played in Australia.
"They give us confidence and (it's) good to see when we go anywhere, any stadium, they come and support the Pakistan team," he said.
PM Shehbaz's tweet
Babar Azam also broke his silence on Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif's viral tweet ahead of the team's blockbuster final against England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had taken a brutal dig at Team India moments after Rohit Sharma and his men lost the T20 World Cup semi-final against England in Adelaide on Thursday.
India had lost by 10 wickets in the match where the England opening pair of Alex Hales and Jos Buttler showed no mercy to the Indian bowling attack.
Shehbaz Sharif’s tweet immediately went viral and was criticised by Indian cricket fans.
The loss on Thursday was only the second instance that India were defeated by a margin of 10 wickets in a T20 World Cup game. The previous was against Pakistan in Dubai last year when Babar and Mohammad Rizwan had recorded a match-winning 152-run opening stand.
Shehbaz Sharif had reminded Indian fans of that very same as he tweeted, “So, this Sunday, it’s: 152/0 vs 170/0 #T20WorldCup.”
Speaking to the media ahead of the big MCG final, Babar Azam was asked about the tweet and whether such social-media posts tend to put extra pressure on the side.
Babar replied saying, “There is no pressure as such. But sorry to say, I didn't see this tweet so I have no knowledge of it. But yes, we just try to give our best against the opposition.”
Both Pakistan and England have reached their third T20 World Cup final, their last instance being in the previous decade, and both have a 1-1 record. Pakistan won the trophy in 2009 after losing to India in 2007 final while England lifted the trophy a year later.
Road to final
Pakistan’s road to the final has been nothing short of a miracle, as they looked ‘dead and buried’ after losing their first two Super 12 matches to India and Zimbabwe. But a stunning Netherlands win over South Africa and Pakistan’s triumph over Bangladesh ensured that Babar Azam’s side stormed into the semis.
In the last-four stage match, Pakistan hammered Kane Williamson’s New Zealand by five wickets with ease to enter the final.
Babar Azam is however wary of England's dynamic line-up ahead of the T20 World Cup 2022 final.
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Azam heaped praise on Jos Buttler and Alex Hales for their stellar showing against India in the semi-final, but backed his bowling attack to do well in the decider.
In the pre-match press conference, Babar Azam recalled the recent T20 series on home soil with England and how competitive it had been. However, he reflected on Pakistan's remarkable comeback in the ongoing tournament and backed them to produce something special in the semi-final.
Babar Azam said: "England is one of the best teams. We had a series with them and it was competitive cricket. Jos and Alex Hales played outstandingly in the semi-final but we will try to give our best in the final.
"We have one of the best pace attacks and we will try to stick to our strength and execute our plans.
"We lost the first two matches but the way the team made a comeback in the last four matches and performed very well. We have been playing good cricket in the last four matches. We will try to continue that momentum in the final."
Babar Azam also underlined the importance of the powerplay in both innings, stating that it has played a critical role in this tournament. He said: "You have to utilise the powerplay, be it in bowling or in batting. In bowling, you try to execute your plans and try to take wickets early on and put the other team under pressure. And when you are batting, you try to set the tone so that it becomes easy for the incoming batters.
"Here, powerplay matters a lot. We have the momentum and we will try to execute our plans in the final."