In his column for PCB website, the southpaw reflects on what it means for him to be featuring in his first-ever World Cup, provides insights about the team’s batting and bowling combinations and shares the wanderings of the ‘breakfast club’ in New Zealand.
The World Cup journey is finally starting after what has probably been one of the longest build-ups to an ICC event for us. Before hopping into Australia from New Zealand’s South Island, we have already played 12 games – of which we have won seven – in less than a month and have two warm-ups to go before our tournament opener against India at the mighty MCG on 23 October.
We have experienced a historical series against England – which, unfortunately, we could not close out in terms of the result – but the three-nation series in New Zealand provided us with the ideal preparation in the conditions that we are expected to encounter in Australia. We now have an ideal picture of what is required to bring the coveted trophy home.
As a group, we have been together since the start of the home series against England and if we make the final, it will be around two months of being together. The tri-series in Christchurch could not have come at a better time as we enjoyed each other’s company by going out together as a group and it helped us to switch off from cricket duties when off the field.
Some of us managed to form the breakfast club, which set out to have breakfast at different cafes around the beautiful city of Christchurch. The boys always want to go out for the food, especially our skipper, Babar Azam, is fond of exploring new things. That is how he switches off. My responsibility was to identify spots with good food. The most memorable breakfast we had was on our first day in Christchurch. It was too cold because of a surprise snowfall a night before, but we still went out for the breakfast, shivering on our way to the café, and enjoyed a lot.
Things like these are important as it builds camaraderie amongst the group. Our conversations ranged from cricket to different parts of each other’s lives. We also regularly went out for evening meals, odd shopping sprees - we came unprepared in terms of the cold, and every member of the travelling contingent had to buy some warm clothes.
Spending time together is an important aspect of the game. It adds to the team chemistry on the field and infuses a healthy team culture that makes one to go an extra yard for his teammate. Everyone is dealing with things professionally and personally and having the support of each other is extremely important.
World Cup is a time when results and momentum matter. As a side who strives to win the World Cup, our focus and talk has been about how to keep improving all three facets of our game. Even after defeating New Zealand in the tri-series final on Friday, we discussed the areas of improvement from that game. We are constantly looking at the bigger picture and this is a sign of a team that wants to keep growing.
This will be my first-ever World Cup and it is the kind of stuff that dreams are made of. To be able to participate and help your country compete and win at the word stage is what every cricketer dreams about. I have been very fortunate to get a good taste of T20I cricket leading up to this mega event.
As of now, I am not satisfied with my performances. I would like to contribute more and make more of an impact. My focus has and will solely be on playing the role required and learning from the mistakes I have made. There is no substitute to playing time and playing international cricket as it provides you with the most accurate feedback. My aim is to grow as a day-by-day and contribute to the team and the result.
Over these 12 games, the most important thing I feel has been fielding the consistent combination that we feel will help us compete at the World Cup on all fronts. Each team has their own unique blueprint and, though, there are demands of modern day cricket, you have to mix it with your own strengths to come up with your own unique blueprint.
Our openers – Babar Azam and Mohammad Riznwan – have been the backbone of our team and are amongst the top three players in the world. The rest of the batting order revolves around them. There will be times where they get out early and someone will have to step up and do their job but then there will be times when they will set platform for us we will have to get going.
This is, after all, a team sport and you play for each other, you complement each other and cover for each other. That is what make a good team.
Our batting order will continue to revolve around each other; be it Babar and Rizwan batting from start to finish; Mohammad Nawaz and Shadab Khan coming up the order and winning us games; Asif Ali showing his hard-hitting abilities; or the significant contributions of Haider Ali and Iftikhar Ahmed, as in the final.
Our bowling unit has grown in stature on this tour. Haris Rauf has taken the baton from Shaheen Afridi as a spearhead while he has been away, and boy what an exciting prospect will it be when we pair them together along with Naseem Shah, Mohammad Wasim Jnr and Mohammad Hasnain.
The most heartening thing was how we bowled in the last five overs in the last two matches as it those crucial phases that you want to win. The spin twins, Shadab and Nawaz, even in these conditions kept a lid on the opposition’s scoring rate and picked important wickets. They have also been extraordinary with the bat of late and are the type of all-rounders that every side desires to have.
The real part of the journey, however, begins now, and we are aware that teams are judged upon how they go about at World Cups. Although challenging, this event provides us an opportunity to win another World Cup for our nation.
We want to bring smiles on the faces of our brothers and sisters affected by the great devastation caused by the floods. I hope and pray that they come out of these tough and trying times soon and want to assure them that we think of them and pray for them no matter wherever in the world we go.
Before I sign off, I want to thank the ever-loving fans of Pakistan cricket and every Pakistani for their unconditional support. You support is vital for us and it keeps us going. We look forward to your never-dying love and support this tournament.