Captain Babar Azam told his rejuvenated Pakistan side on Saturday to ride the wave of four consecutive victories and win the ICC Men’s 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.
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.
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.
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.
Here are excerpts from the pre-match press conference:
Q. The crowd support in Australia has been quite colorful and quite energetic. How much energy have you guys taken from the support you’ve received everywhere, and how much do you think it’s going to make an impact tomorrow night when you’ve got a big crowd again?
BABAR AZAM: When we come to the ground and support our team, they give us confidence, and it’s good to see when we are going anywhere, to any stadium, when they are supporting the Pakistan team.
We will try to give our 100 per cent to give (them) a smile, to win the matches, and we are looking forward to tomorrow’s match.
Q. There has been a lot of comparisons to 1992 and the World Cup final; just wondering if you and the team have spoken about that, and that victory back then, does that mean anything to you?
BABAR AZAM: Of course the similarities are the same, but we will try to win the trophy as it is honour for me to lead this team, especially in this big ground. We will try to give our 100 per cent tomorrow’s match and let’s see.
Q. At one stage during the Super 12s it looked almost impossible for you to qualify. Did that free you up as a team and as a captain, or did you have a conversation, and had you almost given up hope at that stage?
BABAR AZAM: Of course we have our first two matches lost, and that cost us. But the way our team come back last four matches and they perform very well, and we are playing good cricket in the last four matches. Yes, we will try to continue that momentum in the final.
Q. You’ve played England a lot recently. What impact do you think that series win they had in Pakistan will have on this game and what areas do you think that you might have an advantage, having seen so much of them.
BABAR AZAM: England is a good team, they have a good bunch of players and they have quality fast bowlers and batsmen, so we will try our best to execute our plans and looking forward to the match.
Q: It’s been three days now that Pakistan has played their semi-final against New Zealand. How much excited and nervous is Pakistan camp after three days?
BABAR AZAM: I’m more excited than nervous since we’ve performed well in our last three matches. 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 impertinent that one must do so.
Q: How challenging it would be for England to face Pakistan’s pace attack?
BABAR AZAM: England is a competitive team, their win to reach the finals against India was a proof of that. Our strategy is to stick to our plan and using our pace attack as our strength to win the finals.
Q How confident are you to repeat the history which was made against England in WC 92, as you are just a match away to become Fatah e Azam (World Champion) from Babar Azam?
BABAR AZAM: Yes. I believe we couldn’t start off well but we came back with great momentum. In the previous 3-4 matches, Pakistani team has played very well on both individual and team level. We’ve been working really hard for this. It feels like a dream come true to reach the final.
Q: How important is the power play? What would be your strategy to deal with it?
BABAR AZAM: Utilizing power play to grab as many wickets will be essential for the match. Even when you bat, you want to set a great pace for the upcoming batsmen. We will try to maintain and continuously build our momentum hence ensuring better performance.
Q: How do you advise the team over effort and luck?
BABAR AZAM: We firmly believe that whatever happens is according to Allah’s will, but this never stops us from hard work. Providing an opportunity is indeed divine but making good use of it is when the ball is put in our court. I’m thankful for where I stand today and I’ll continue to work harder to achieve what lies ahead.
Q: Chairman PCB Ramiz Raja met Pakistan squad yesterday, how impactful was his visit?
BABAR AZAM: When the Chairman (PCB) came and shared his experience of the world cup, it put a massive boast in our confidence. He advised us to stay calm and focus on what goes well.
Q What would be your strategy if the weather conditions were dominant on Sunday?
BABAR AZAM: It is a part of our strategy but we would like to have a full fledge match curtailing the excitement of the entire world.
Q: How relax did you feel after your performance in the semi-final? Can you comment on (Mohammad) Haris’s impact in the team?
BABAR AZAM: Of course great pressure is built upon you when you are under a spell of not scoring well. But here I’d like to commend the middle order, they stepped up and took the responsibility to achieve what me and Rizwan couldn’t. Iftikhar, Shadab and Haris played extremely well. Although a youngster, but Haris proved himself to be an asset in this event. Although I couldn’t perform well but the rest of the team performance kept me motivated.
Q: How important is the toss for you and what would you like to say to the nation of Pakistan?
BABAR AZAM: Winning the toss isn’t a priority as it won’t matter much. But yes on the spot weather conditions may have an impact on the plan. Pakistani nation has always been out backbone. They uphold us through their enthusiasm. I would again request them to support us and keep praying.
Q: How much pressure do you feel when your Prime Minister tweet or comment on cricket?
BABAR AZAM: I don’t think this imposes any pressure. I haven’t seen the tweet myself so dont know the context of it. .
Watch the entire press conference here.
With inputs from AFP. Transcript courtesy: ICC Business Corporation FZ LLC 2020 via Online Media Zone.