With the ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2021 ever closer, Pakistan captain Babar Azam expressed great confidence in his team's chances in the marquee event.
Azam is set to play his first ICC Men's T20 World Cup, and will make his debut as captain. Babar has, so far, led Pakistan in 28 matches, winning 15 of those encounters. "I am very happy and proud to go to the T20 World Cup as a captain," he said at Pakistan's pre-departure press conference.
"We know the pressure and the high intensity of each game, especially the first one. Hopefully, we can win the match and carry the momentum forward."
Pakistan begin their campaign in a blockbuster clash against India on 24 October. Pakistan are yet to defeat India in a World Cup match, across both ODIs and T20Is, but Azam was keen to move on from the past.
"Your belief and confidence as a group matter a lot before a tournament," he said. "As a team, our confidence and morale are really high. We are not thinking of the past but the future. We are preparing for that. I am fully confident that we are well prepared and will play good cricket on the day."
Indeed, Pakistan have a stellar record in T20Is at the Dubai Cricket Stadium, where their opener will take place. Since 2016, Pakistan have played six T20Is at the venue, and are undefeated.
"We've been playing cricket in UAE for the past 3-4 years and we know the conditions really well," said Azam. "We know how the wicket will behave and the adjustments batters will have to make. On the day who plays the better cricket, wins the match. If you ask me, we will win."
Pakistan are young side, but there is also a wealth of experience in their 15-man squad, with senior players like Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez included. The mix of youth and experience would be key, Azam said.
"All the players have entered the side after a good domestic performance. We have a lot to learn from the senior players in the side because they have so much experience, they have played the World Cup and leagues before. 7-8 players in our squad have also played the Champions Trophy before which brings out different confidence."
Adding another dimension to the Pakistan side this time around will be the presence in the dugout of former Australia star Matthew Hayden and the South Africa pacer Vernon Philander.
"Hayden and Philander bring a lot of experience. Our attempt will be to learn from them as much as we can and quickly," said Azam. "The boys have the ability to absorb quickly and mix with them.
"You can see Philander has already started working hard with the bowlers and you can see the past record, bowlers win you the tournament. Hasan Ali was our best bowler in the Champions Trophy. He will take the bowling line-up alongside him."
Pakistan will play their warm-up matches against West Indies on 18 October and South Africa on 20 October in Dubai and Abu Dhabi respectively.
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