When the World Cup fixtures were first released, England-Pakistan at the Eden Gardens had a halo around it. A marquee tie between two world champions and potential semifinalists on the penultimate day of the league stage was a mouth-watering prospect.
Come match-day, England is out of contention and Pakistan all but. Friday’s pre-match briefing with Babar Azam was thus mostly about sombre reflection and the future course of action.
“I think the South Africa match cost us,” said the Pakistan skipper. “We should have won that [and] because of that we are in this stage. There is one match left. You never know. It’s cricket; we will try to finish on a good note and then see.”
At one point, it was suggested that Babar may consider quitting captaincy to solely focus on his batting, like Virat Kohli for India. The 29-year-old, however, dead-batted it and also brushed aside the critics, albeit in his own understated manner.
“I have been captaining my team for the last three years and I have never felt [burdened],” he said. “Just because I have not performed the way I should have, people are saying that I am under pressure. Everyone has their own point of view.
“Par kisi ko mashwara dena bhi hai, toh number sabke paas hai. It is easy to give advice on TV. But you can also message me,” Babar added with a smile.
Pakistan’s situation is a mirror image of its travails from the 2019 World Cup where it had to defeat Bangladesh in its last league match by over 300 runs to pip New Zealand on net run rate and sneak into the semifinals. It couldn’t back then, and this time, it needs a 287-run victory but Babar insisted that the team would not consider it a lost cause.
“It’s in our mind and we will try to do it. We can’t just go and start firing blindly. There are a lot of things, like partnership, which player will stay for how long. If Fakhar [Zaman] is in for 20 or 30 overs, we can achieve that. Then follow up with [Mohammad] Rizwan, Iftikhar [Ahmed]. We can do this.”