Pakistan believe they can compete with India ‘day in, day out’: Wasim Akram

Pakistan believe they can compete with India ‘day in, day out’: Wasim Akram

DUBAI: With Pakistan set to embark on their Asia Cup campaign on Sunday against India, legendary fast bowler Wasim Akram says Babar Azam’s men believe they can compete with their arch-rivals “day in, day out” after their victory over Virat Kohli’s side at last year’s Twenty20 World Cup.

That victory in the United Arab Emirates came in Pakistan’s opening match of the tournament and ended their long-running jinx of never having won a World Cup tie against their fierce rivals. And Wasim believes Pakistan would head into the Group ‘A’ match in Dubai riding high on back of that win.

“The Pakistan team is on the rise for the past couple of years. They’ve been consistent, and I think the win against India, although that was a year ago during the World Cup, gave them a bit of confidence that they can compete with India day in, day out,” Wasim said during a virtual media session alongside former India head coach Ravi Shastri organised by the six-team tournament’s official broadcaster on Tuesday.

Pakistan will start training for the match from Wednesday at the ICC Academy with the majority of the squad arriving from the Netherlands on Tuesday morning after winning their ODI series against the Dutch 3-0.

Four players, including the hard-hitting Asif Ali, have also reached Dubai from Lahore while pacer Mohammad Hasnain, drafted in as a replacement for injured pace spearhead Shaheen Shah Afridi, is due to arrive from England on Wednesday.

Wasim wanted Pakistan players to be mindful that their inherent strength — the top order — should not become a weakness.

“Since the start of last year’s T20 World Cup, Pakistan’s top three have scored 67.53% of all runs made by the team in T20Is. This has largely been down to Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan and Fakhar Zaman,” he noted.

“The only thing I’m worried about is the middle order. There is no experience apart from Iftikhar Ahmed coming in at No. 4, and then you’ll have probably Haider Ali, a young sensation who has not been consistent. Babar Azam and Rizwan are the key as far as the T20 format is concerned.

“I think in general they are confident, but it depends on how they feel or what sort of mindset they are in when they arrive before the India-Pakistan game because that game can make to break the Asia Cup for either side,” he added.

The erstwhile bowling great said comparisons between Pakistan captain Babar and Kohli were inevitable, given the kind of impact they have had on their respective teams.

“It’s only natural,” said Wasim. “When we played, people compared Inzamam-ul-Haq with Rahul Dravid or Sachin Tendulkar. Before that, it was Javed Miandad versus Sunny Gavaskar. Gundappa Viswanath and Zaheer Abbas, so it is[comparison] only natural.

“Babar has been very consistent because he has the right technique. He enjoys his batting, is still very hungry, physically fit, still young and is captain across formats. He is learning and learning very quickly.

“As far as comparisons go, he is on the right track to be where Virat Kohli is. It is a bit too early to compare him to Kohli at this stage. But he is on track to be one of the modern greats.”


Kohli, who was removed as India’s captain following the T20 World Cup, has been away from cricket and was rested by the Indian team management for their series against the West Indies and Zimbabwe.

But he is back for the Asia Cup and Shastri reckons Kohli, who hasn’t managed a century in any format of the game since November 2019, needs just one big innings to get back to form.

“I haven’t spoken to him, but it’s not rocket science. Big players wake up in due course,” said Shastri. “They need a break; mental fatigue can creep into the best in the world. There is not a single player in world cricket who has not gone through a bad patch, and I am sure this downtime is not just for the body; it’s time to reflect. He would have reflected on what things he could have done better.”

While Kohli’s T20 numbers in 2022 have also seen a dip, as his average dropped to 22.2 in 20 matches, he will be hoping to turn things around when he makes his 100th appearance in the T20I format against Pakistan.

“All these things come into play and you get an opportunity to then decide what is the best course of action when you get on to the path again. Whether it is shot selection, whether it is how you plan, when you shift gears in a T20 game… all that will have come into play and now it’s to execute those plans with a calmer mind,” Shastri added.

“He gets a fifty in the first game, mouths will be shut for the rest of the tournament. What’s happened in the past is history. His opportunity here is to take the calmness and take it one day at a time,” he said.

Shastri also said that India needed to keep up their ferociously aggressive batting style in the shortest format after previously being a little “timid.” India’s early exit from the T20 World Cup last year was a result of their cautious approach at the beginning of the innings and the tournament served as Shastri’s final job as head coach of India.

“They should not change the approach [they have shown of late]. Even when I was a coach we discussed we were a bit timid at the top considering the players we had down the order,” he said. It is the right approach. You will lose a few games in between but if you start winning with this approach you can take that confidence in big games and use the same tactics.”

Shastri touched on this edition of the Asia Cup as the “strongest”, stating that the competing teams would be looking to kick off their campaign with a win under their belts in order to gather momentum. He also mentioned that teams like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka could cause trouble and may force an upset for the tournament favourites.

“This will be the strongest Asia Cup. The difference between the sides has closed, and that would make it interesting. A good start would be important for teams,” he said.

Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2022

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