Despite not being the favored team for the 2023 World Cup, especially after losing Naseem Shah and delivering lackluster performances against India in the 2023 Asia Cup, Captain Babar Azam has boldly declared that reaching the semi-finals is just a “modest objective” for his squad. He expressed Pakistan’s aspiration to clinch the entire tournament, raising the coveted World Cup trophy at Ahmedabad’s Narendra Modi Stadium on November 19.
Pakistan faced several setbacks leading up to the World Cup. They finished at the bottom in the Super 4 round of the Asia Cup, lost Naseem due to a shoulder injury, surrendered their number 1 ODI ranking, encountered visa issuance delays for their India trip, had to cancel their team-bonding trip to Dubai, and even Babar Azam’s top-ranking ODI batsman status was in jeopardy. Moreover, there were calls from fans and former cricketers to remove their vice-captain, leg-spinner Shadab Khan. Pakistan has failed to reach the semi-finals in the past two ODI World Cups.
Babar Azam shared, “Securing a spot in the top four is a modest objective for us. Our ultimate aim is to emerge as champions.” He explained that due to their continuous play, they couldn’t organize a camp before the World Cup, opting instead to give the players a break to rekindle their hunger for victory. He emphasized that hunger is a driving force for exceptional performance.
Reflecting on their Asia Cup performance, Babar Azam noted, “Despite our struggles, we were performing well with the same team before the last two Asia Cup matches. While we couldn’t meet our potential, we’ve learned from our mistakes, both individually and as a team. We’ve thoroughly discussed our errors with the support staff and moved past them. The Asia Cup was a different tournament, and the World Cup is an entirely different challenge.”
Addressing the distractions and outside noise, Babar Azam asserted, “We do our utmost to block out the distractions and play with unwavering focus. I make it a point to shield the team from external issues, handling them outside the dressing room.”
Pakistan’s initial World Cup matches will be against the Netherlands and Sri Lanka, setting the stage for an eagerly anticipated showdown with India on October 14 in Ahmedabad.