The Pakistan cricket team which is part of the T20 World Cup 2021 in the United Arab Emirates is slightly different from the sides that competed in the event over the years.
After many years, the men in green have found a superstar in Babar Azam who is leading the side. The inclusion of Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik – the top two T20I run-scorers from the nation – further bolsters the combination.
Ahead of Pakistan’s opener against India in Dubai on Sunday, former batsman Basit Ali — who has been the coach of the provincial teams across the border, and selector in recent times — feels Babar’s side will reach the semifinal, along with Virat Kohli’s India.
“Back in the day, India’s batting used to be good, and Pakistan’s bowlers were known for their world-class skills. But it will be different this time as both the teams have good batters and bowlers. This will be a great game provided the players get to play on a wicket that will suit their skills. Pakistan and India will definitely reach the semifinal,” he told Sportstar in a telephonic interaction from Karachi on Friday.
Ali, a veteran of 50 ODIs and 19 Tests for Pakistan between 1993 and 1996, reasoned why an India-Pakistan game is a solid platform to lift careers. “We used to enjoy playing India because this is one game in international cricket where you can become a hero in one day. Every player wanted to perform in an India-Pakistan game, and I am sure the current players feel that way.”
“The world remembers Javed Miandad’s last ball six, how Ajay Jadeja had smashed Waqar Younis in the 1996 World Cup, and Fakhar Zaman hundred in the Champions Trophy final. This is the best opportunity for the players from both countries.”
Ali has worked with several junior cricketers in Pakistan. He knows the struggle of every player, including current wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Rizwan who has already scored over 1,000 runs in 43 T20Is. He is hopeful that more international teams will tour Pakistan in 2022, and that cricketing activities with India will resume.
“There was tension even when we were playing, but it was mostly between the governments and not among the players. It never affected us. People talk about the Ashes, but I don’t know if there is anything bigger than an India-Pakistan game,” he added.
India and Pakistan are at loggerheads on the political front, but on the cricket field, the love for the players is paramount in both countries. “During our growing up years, Kapil Dev and Sunil Gavaskar were loved in Pakistan. Now, Virat is equally loved. Similarly, India loves Babar.”
India and Pakistan are placed in Group 2 along with New Zealand and Afghanistan.