Pakistan take on US to start ICC T20 World Cup journey

By our correspondent
LAHORE: Babar Azam will be hoping it is third time lucky for him when he captains Pakistan in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, which started in the United States and Caribbean on 1 June. The 2009 champions will kick-start their journey in the 2024 event on Thursday against hosts United States at the Grand Prairie Cricket Stadium in Dallas, with the first ball to be bowled at 10:30am local time (8:30pm Pakistan time).
On 9 June in New York, Pakistan will go head-to-head with traditional rivals India before taking on Canada at the same venue on 11 June. Their final first-round match will be against Ireland on 16 June in Florida. If Pakistan qualifies for the Super-Eight stage, their three matches will be in Antigua and Barbados from 19 to 23 June.
Babar was the captain when Pakistan won five straight matches before narrowly losing to Australia in the second semi-final of the 2021 event in the United Arab Emirates after the eventual champions needed 50 runs in the last four overs.
Babar, the No. 4 batter in the world, was again at the helm when Pakistan lost to England in the 2022 final in Melbourne after Jos Buttler’s side had slipped to 45 for three, then 84 for four and finally 132 for five before achieving the 138-run target with six balls and five wickets to spare.
Apart from Babar, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Rauf, Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Rizwan, Naseem Shah, Shadab Khan, and Shaheen Shah Afridi were involved in the 2022 tournament. The side has been strengthened with the return of Mohammad Amir (also a member of the 2009 winning squad) and Imad Wasim, who last played in a T20 World Cup in 2016 and 2021, respectively. Abrar Ahmed, Azam Khan, Mohammad Abbas Afridi, Saim Ayub, and Usman Khan are the five players who will be appearing at this level for the first time.
However, Imad Wasim will not be available for selection for Thursday’s match as he has been advised rest by the PCB Medical Team. Ahead of the fourth T20I against England late last month, Imad had experienced discomfort in his right rib cage while batting in the nets and consequently missed the match. He is expected to be available for selection for the 9 June match against India in New York.
Coincidentally, Pakistan’s T20 World Cup success in 2009 at Lord’s under Younis Khan came after Pakistan had lost the previous T20 World Cup final to India by five runs in Johannesburg.
However, the shortest format of the game has evolved significantly in the past 15 years with T20 specialists taking over, strike-rates becoming the most talked about, totals of over 180 considered par scores, the introduction of batting and bowling innovations, data-driven strategies and even the non-Test playing nations consistently posing challenges to the more experienced and fancied opponents, as was the case last week when the USA defeated Bangladesh 2-1 in a three-match series.
Babar Azam was 14 years old and slowly making a name for himself in age-group cricket when Younis Khan lifted the silverware at the home of cricket in 2009. Eight years later, Babar Azam was a member of Sarfaraz Ahmed’s side that won the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 at The Oval, approximately 10 miles from Lord’s.
“I still remember Pakistan’s 2009 victory at Lord’s and Younis Khan lifting the trophy in front of the Pavilion. It was an event that further motivated and inspired me to follow in the footsteps of stars of the 2009 side and before. And then, to be a member of the side in 2017 and feel the same sense of achievement and pride is something I still relish,” Babar Azam said.
“It is now my career objective and target to win the T20 World Cup, relive those memories and present the title to the passionate people of Pakistan, who have always stood behind us like a rock in good and not so very good days,” Babar said.
“I, like all my teammates, am extremely confident going into the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024. It is time for the big one and I know each and every member of the side is anxiously waiting to start so that they can play their part and contribute to a strong and successful campaign.”
“We have and we will continue to work hard, try to give our absolute best each time we step onto the field and hope our preparations and commitments will support us in this journey,” he said.
“All 20 teams are here believing they can win the tournament. As such, it is going to be an exciting but extremely challenging and testing tournament, and that’s the beauty of world championships,” Babar said.
“We will follow the horses-for-courses policy in team selections as the conditions in the USA will be new and a couple of opponents we have not played before. In modern-day cricket, the concept and importance of floating players has become more critical than ever before and our players are aware of this as well as their roles and responsibilities,” he said.
“It will be a proud moment and a big occasion for the USA when they play a former champion on Thursday. After beating Bangladesh 2-1 and then Canada in the tournament opener, they have demonstrated they deserve to be here, which is excellent news for cricket promotion and development in the region. We will give them the respect they deserve without being complacent.”
Pakistan has one of the most impressive records in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup since its inception in 2007 in South Africa. Besides winning the 2009 event, it has reached the finals in 2007 and 2022, and featured in semifinals in 2010, 2012, and 2021.
In 47 matches Pakistan has played to date in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, it has won 28 with a success percentage of 60.63. Only India (63.95), South Africa (62.5), and Australia (62.5) have better success percentages than Pakistan among the Test-playing nations.
SQUAD: Babar Azam (captain), Abrar Ahmed, Azam Khan, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Rauf, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Abbas Afridi, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Rizwan, Naseem Shah, Saim Ayub, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi and Usman Khan
Pakistan’s schedule of matches:
6 June – vs USA, Grand Prairie Cricket Stadium, Dallas

9 June – vs India, Nassau County International Cricket Stadium, New York

11 June – vs Canada, Nassau County International Cricket Stadium, New York

16 June – vs Ireland, Central Broward Park & Broward County Stadium, Lauderhill, Florida

1st round Groups:
Group A – India (A1), Pakistan (A2), USA, Canada and Ireland

Group B – England (B1), Australia (B2), Namibia, Scotland and Oman

Group C – New Zealand (C1), West Indies (C2), Afghanistan, Uganda and Papua New Guinea (PNG)

Group D – South Africa (D1), Sri Lanka (D2), Bangladesh, Netherlands and Nepal
Super Eight (if Pakistan qualify):
19 June – vs D1, Antigua

21 June – vs C2, Barbados

23 June – vs B1, Barbados

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