ICC World Cup 2023 – Babar Azam – ‘Our spinners didn’t bowl the way we wanted them to’

Babar said he was particularly disappointed by his bowlers’ inability to pick up wickets in the middle overs, and his fielders not being focused and proactive.

Batting first, Pakistan posted 282 for 7 – a total Afghanistan chased down with ease, with an over to spare. Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran gave them a positive start of 130, before Rahmat Shah and Hashmatullah Shahidi took Afghanistan home with an unbroken 96-run stand. It was the first time Pakistan failed to defend a 275-plus target at the World Cup.

“Yes, the defeat has hurt us a lot,” Babar said after the game. “We wanted to put up a total of around 280-290. After we achieved that, we were not up to the mark with our bowling and fielding. The spinners didn’t bowl the way we wanted them to in the middle overs.

“We started well in the middle overs, but we needed wickets. The pitch was helping the spinners even in the second innings. But we, especially our spinners, didn’t hit our lengths. Every over we conceded a boundary, so there was no pressure on their batsmen.”

On a Chennai pitch where the Afghanistan spin quartet of Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Mohammad Nabi and Noor Ahmad picked up 4 for 176 from their combined 38 overs, Pakistan’s spinners – Shadab Khan, Usama Mir and Iftikhar Ahmed – returned none for 131 from 21.

According to Babar, the Pakistan bowlers had their plans in place but failed in execution and, therefore, could not create pressure. He also said the team was lacking in the fielding department.

“We are not able to click in all departments at the same time,” Babar said. “When we do well in bowling, we don’t do well in batting. When we do well in batting, we don’t do as well in fielding.

“Fielding is all about attitude. And I don’t see any attitude from the team. You need to put in extra effort and be fit. You should focus on the ball, not on other thoughts and when the ball comes to you, you have to be proactive as a fielder. I think we are lacking that a little bit as a fielding unit.

Babar admitted that his bowlers have not been able to execute their plans properly•ICC/Getty Images

“In the bowling, we have not been able to execute our plans. When you are not able to hit the length you want to and end up conceding boundaries, your focus shifts to stopping runs. In that, you keep making mistakes, and that puts you under pressure.

“Here, the margin of error for bowlers is very low. If you bowl a little bit away from the stumps, you get hit. So, we are lacking there a little bit. We are not able to bowl within the stumps.

“The same goes for the spinners. We bowl four good balls and then there are two balls that go for boundaries or runs, because the margin is very small. If you bowl consistently at one place, then there will be pressure. So that thing is missing.”

Even though Babar scored 74 on Monday, his form with the bat in the World Cup hasn’t been great. In five innings, he has 157 runs at an average of 31.40, which pales in comparison to his career average of 56.79. When asked if captaincy was affecting his batting, Babar said that wasn’t the case.

“As far as captaincy is concerned, there is not much pressure on me or on my batting. I always try to give my best, my 100% during batting. During fielding, I think about captaincy and during batting I just think about the batting. How I should score runs for the team.”

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