T20 World Cup: Babar-Rizwan pair to open for Pakistan in semifinal, says Hayden

SYDNEY — Pakistan coach Matthew Hayden has asserted he will go with the same opening pair of Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan in the ICC T20 World Cup semifinal against New Zealand at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Wednesday, despite the duo not quite giving the side a promising start expected from them.

While Azam and Rizwan are Pakistan’s number one opening pair, their below-par showing here has prompted experts to ask the team management to push the captain down the batting order, but Hayden said their experience of soaking up the pressure in big-match situations makes them the ideal candidates to open the innings.

“Babar and Rizwan rightly are a number one combination. If I can take your minds way back to a different World Cup, that was the 2007 World Cup and Adam Gilchrist had a lean World Cup healed of that undefeated campaign for Australia,” said Hayden.

“If you remember that last match against Sri Lanka, he went on to score an incredible hundred and realised his potential in that tournament and awakened the world once again to the fact that he was such a premium batsman in that format of the game.

“It’s always nice to have two players that have felt the pressure, and we all feel the pressure at any given times in our career. No different for the number one combination, no different for the number four ranked T20 player in Babar,” added Hayden.

Expressing his confidence in the batting abilities of the two top-order batters, Hayden, himself a legendary Australian opener, said “special players don’t often stay down for long”. “And don’t be surprised whatsoever if you don’t see some fireworks because very special players,” he said.

Describing his team’s roller-coaster journey into the semifinals, Hayden said it was an incredible experience, adding South Africa’s shock loss to the Netherlands just before Pakistan’s game against Bangladesh gave his side an “uplifting tempo”.

“Shadab (Khan) actually said something very significant in the dugout the other day when we were playing our last match (against Bangladesh), and he said, ‘Welcome to Pakistan cricket’. Meaning that on any given day, anything can happen. And on that particular day, when Netherlands beat South Africa, it was a significant moment for us in the tournament and a very, very significant moment for the team in general around the potential in reaching that potential.

“Lots of prayers as Pakistan woke up to see that result (Netherlands beating South Africa). 232 million people can’t be wrong. And as a result of that, I feel that there was very much an uplifting tempo in our group, which made that match against Bangladesh almost a certainty for Pakistan.

“Incredible experience, as you say rightly, it’s been a roller coaster ride, but a ride that I wouldn’t have it any other way because the last World Cup that we went into were undefeated and Australia pipped us in the semifinal. So, really significant for Pakistan,” he added. — (IANS)