Ahead of his side’s ICC Cricket World Cup match against Afghanistan, Pakistan batter Imam-ul-Haq defended his team’s disappointing performances in the bowling department, saying that though there is no room for excuses, the conditions have been batting friendly and there have been many high-scoring matches in the tournament so far. Pakistan will lock horns against Afghanistan in Chennai. Afghanistan is a the bottom of the table with one win and three losses, but Pakistan is also in a rough shape with only two wins but two big losses to India and Australia. They are in the fifth spot in the points table.
At the pre-match press conference, Imam said about his team’s bowling, “See if you see here all matches are very high scoring. It is not that it is only against our team. If you look at the other teams also, they are scoring 350 – 360, like yesterday there was a score of 400 (between England and South Africa – so it is not that only our bowlers are being beaten.”
“The grounds here are small, the wickets are good, and when the batsmen are set, the margin for the bowlers is very low.”
“This is not an excuse, but the conditions are such. And it is true that sometimes, there are ups and downs for the bowlers but Shaheen, like in the last match, I thought they would score 420 or 430, but our spinners and end bowlers performed very well and controlled them at 360. So, in patches, our bowlers have done very well, and Shaheen did very well. So, these are a few positives and during the day you only look at the positives, we try to ignore the negatives because it is very important – we have back-to-back matches in this tournament. On the day we are bowling well – we have to back this,” the batter concluded his point.
Imam admitted that indeed, after two big defeats, the morale of the team is down, but ups and downs are a part of the sport.
“We always have a feeling of positivity in our camp, and we have backed everyone. Our players know that we have the ability to win the match on the day,” he added.
On his scores, Imam said that he has been talking to his batting coach about how he is not able to go past 70 and hopes to get a century soon.
In four matches in CWC 2023 so far, Imam has scored 133 runs at an average of 33.25, with one half-century. His best score is 70.
On playing in Chennai, where Pakistan has some fond memories such as former batter Saeed Anwar’s 194 against India in 1997 and a Test match win over arch-rivals in 1999, Imam said, “To be honest, I have no memories (about these two events) because I do not remember, but the thing is, it is a great venue to be part of and really excited. And coming here to Chennai and…you just mentioned Saeed Anwar’s 194. It is a great thing that we came here and we are playing against Afghanistan. So really excited and looking forward to it.”
Pakistan enjoys a 100 per cent win rate in ODIs at Chennai. On strategies and playing XI changes for the next match, Imam said that skipper Babar will decide on changes but their good record in this state will give the team motivation.
“And it is just that, yes, we lost two matches. But as a team, this is how it is. We are professional cricketers. And we know that, you know, Pakistan is a team, who always comes back and we have the ability. We know that it is just a giving on the day how you perform and we are really looking forward to it for tomorrow,” he added.
Questioned about the team not hitting any sixes at all during the powerplay, Imam said that the question of whether they are winning matches for their team is more important to them.
“Maybe we want to eat more proteins and not that much carbs, but it is just that there is nothing we want to talk about. It is just we really do not feel it if we are not hitting six or not four, it is just that what are we doing for the team? And if we are winning matches – unfortunately last two matches we did not play well and we accept it, but it is just that we have still five matches then we will go to the semi-final but it is just how you play how you prepare and that is really matters,” said the batter.
On how they will face Afghanistan spinners, Imam said that they won a series against Afghanistan in Sri Lanka 3-0 in spin-friendly conditions and the team will back itself to deliver.
“In the end, you have to play the ball. You do not have to play the bowler. So, it is just that you have to back your ability,” concluded Imam.
Pakistan squad: Babar Azam (c), Shadab Khan, Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Abdullah Shafique, Mohammad Rizwan, Saud Shakeel, Iftikhar Ahmed, Salman Ali Agha, Mohammad Nawaz, Usama Mir, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Wasim.
Afghanistan squad: Hashmatullah Shahidi (c), Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Ibrahim Zadran, Riaz Hassan, Rahmat Shah, Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Nabi, Ikram Alikhil, Azmatullah Omarzai, Rashid Khan, Mujeeb ur Rahman, Noor Ahmad, Fazalhaq Farooqi, Abdul Rahman, Naveen ul Haq.
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