Next up for Pakistan are New Zealand, a team that has always punched above its weight and done well in ICC tournaments of the past. The Black Caps are also the current World Test champions.
Previously, in World tournaments, Pakistan have often shown their mercurial side, blowing hot one day and cold the other. That’s why Babar wants his team to not take things easy after getting the “ultimate high” of beating arch-rivals India. He is hoping Pakistan show the same intensity, the same zeal, the same verve against the Kiwis when they step on to the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Tuesday.
Like beating India is often an incentivised affair, Pakistan this time will also be motivated for a win against the Black Caps. New Zealand had recently pulled out of a scheduled series against Pakistan after landing in the country and spending a week there. The Kiwis cited a security threat and didn’t play a single match in Pakistan, despite the home team stating the opposite. This led to a public outcry in Pakistan – among the common people, administrators and cricketers alike.
Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ramiz Raja was “deeply hurt” by New Zealand’s withdrawal and urged the national team to exact “revenge” on the cricket field. “Channel your frustration and anger into your performance,” Raja had stated.
Later, England also withdrew from their scheduled tour of Pakistan, in which they had to play a two-match T20I series. The two pullouts hampered Pakistan’s T20 World Cup preparations and the PCB had to conduct the National T20 Cup on an emergency basis to keep the players match-ready.
Pakistan’s cricket community has been harping on “revenge at the T20 World Cup” since the day New Zealand went back without playing.
“I request my team to not get over-excited. In the past, whenever we got excited, we haven’t been able to perform to our potential and we need to be mindful of that. The clinical and professional way we played against India, we need to repeat the same. In this mood and spirit of elation, we shouldn’t look lost in the match versus New Zealand,” Babar said.
“In the past, we have had this knack of losing it out after a great performance, but I can see this bunch is different and we will bring our change.”
A calm precision in their game will help Team Pakistan go a long way – even against the New Zealanders.
The Sharjah pitch will suit the slow bowlers and busy batters like Mohammad Rizwan and Babar are likely to thrive again. One-drop Fakhar Zaman also looked in good form in the practice games. But beyond the top-3, Pakistan’s middle-order hasn’t had much batting time out in the middle. That is a cause for concern.
The Black Caps are a well-oiled, consistent unit. It will be their first match of the tournament, and at the outset there isn’t much of a weakness in either their batting or bowling departments. There is a fitness concern though. Skipper Kane Williamson is battling a nagging elbow pain for a while now, and did not bat in the practice match against England.