Pakistan head coach Matthew Hayden backed his captain under fire Babar Azam to produce ‘something very special’ in the knockout stages of T20 Globalism Glass.
The fourth top scorer in the T20Is since the last World Cup, Babar failed to shoot in the current match, with 33 balls 25 against Bangladesh having been his best in the last five matches.
“…don’t be surprised at all if you don’t see some fireworks because very often the very special players don’t stay for long,” Hayden said during the press conference ahead of Wednesday’s semi-final against New Zealand.
“There is no doubt that Babar has been through some tribulations. This will make him not only a greater player… You can’t keep hitting hundreds and fifties and hitting rates over 140.
“There must be moments in time where there is calm. And as we all know about the weather, once there is a calm, a storm often follows. So watch out, rest of the world, because I think you are about to see something very special from Babar.” Pakistan was staring at a way out after losing to India and Zimbabwe, but the Netherlands’ shock victory over South Africa opened the door and they beat Bangladesh in the last Super 12 match to seal their qualification to the semi-finals.
“It was a roller coaster ride but I wouldn’t have taken it any other way, because the last World Cup we went to the semi-finals unbeaten, and Australia beat us,” Hayden said.
“So, yes, there are ups and downs in this tournament, but I really think with our best match, which is a huge threat to our competition.
“The way the quarterback has moved up the board has been excellent and these fast guys, man, there are four of them and they’re coming off at a fantastic pace.” Babar and opening partner Mohamed Radwan both struggled at the top, but Hayden was impressed with how the mediocre ranking contributed to the team’s cause.
The previous Australian opener featured the contribution of Mohamed Haris, who made 59 runs in two rounds.
“While (the beating) was not planned at all, it meant our mid-level players had to step up, and the youngster’s guard was one of those.
“A great story, a really important story for any World Cup. Not even in the team and performing now as it should have been there from the start.” Hayden feels that Harris’ network sessions against pacers have helped.
“It’s no surprise to see how he came in and played beautifully. He has very good technique on the fast bouncy wicket. He’s got freshness,” he said.
“One of the things as an outside player coming into this tournament is that pretty much the entire cricket community with the amount of program is somewhat stressful.
“So having a young, fresh face without losing anything, nothing to really gain but just playing so freely was a great expression for him personally but also for the Pakistan team.” Speaking of their semi-final opponents, Hayden said New Zealand would pose multiple threats to Pakistan.
“I think New Zealand has some really devastating players, you can get pressure with the bats… They also have a great bowling attack, a well-balanced bowling attack. It’s a good mix of experience,” the 51-year-old said.
“I even played against Tim Southee, and that shows you how much experience this team has… Lockie Ferguson has a great pace, a lot of experience in T20 cricket as well, so he makes good threats. And they have good bowling too.
“I think like New Zealand sport, in general, they really weigh in. They think they can win this tournament and they have the ability to do that. There are a lot of threats to our camp, no doubt.” Meanwhile, New Zealand captain Ken Williamson spoke of the SCG trajectory who behaved differently in the previous two games, describing Pakistan’s quick attack as “fantastic”.
“It’s an interesting game, the first game we played here, the wicket was very good,” said Williamson on the eve of the semi-final match.
“Then the second time we played here, the situation changed. Sometimes you can take what you were expecting on the wicket in the first match and think it will act the same, which it didn’t.” As far as Pakistan bowling is concerned, he said, “They got a quick attack. Like I mentioned, they were playing cricket really well. They have very experienced players on their side, who win the match. So, that’s a real strength for them.” In pursuit of their first World Cup title, New Zealand reached the T20 World Cup final last year, winning the inaugural World Trials Championship, and also played the 2019 World Cup Final (over 50) where they suffered a heartbreaking loss to them. England, the score is determined on the rule of countdown to the frontier.
“I come to these tournaments, and as we’ve seen, all teams can beat each other, and that’s definitely a very exciting event,” Williamson said.
“I think you go through it trying to adapt to the circumstances as quickly as you can, make those changes to the different opponent and really go out and try to express yourselves.
“It was good that we were able to see that throughout this competition. And for sure, I want to do it again tomorrow.”