Bradburn reposes faith in top order despite 'not clicking' in powerplay

"We're open and honest to say that we're not getting what we would like out of the powerplay as yet, but we're certainly very happy with other phases of our game"

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
Fakhar Zaman continued his woeful form, falling cheaply against Netherlands  •  ICC/Getty Images

Fakhar Zaman continued his woeful form, falling cheaply against Netherlands  •  ICC/Getty Images

Grant Bradburn, the Pakistan head coach, acknowledged their powerplay batting hasn't clicked yet in India, but it's something the team isn't losing sleep over just yet.
Much of those top order questions stem from Fakhar Zaman's indifferent form. He has a highest of 33 in 11 innings since the unbeaten 180 he made against New Zealand in April. The team management insists they're keeping all options open for the Sri Lanka match without giving away much.
At training, Abdullah Shafique was among the first to stride out to the nets with Babar Azam a few kilometres down the road from Rajiv Gandhi Stadium. Whether that's a hint of them already looking at a change, only time will tell.
"We're well aware that the first phase of our batting is not clicking as yet, which we think is a good thing, in a way, because we have full trust in all of the guys who are capable at batting within the powerplay," Bradburn said. "And they've done it before. Over perhaps the last period between World Cups, the top three have scored the majority of our runs, which maybe is detrimental to other parts of our game.
"So, look, we've got full faith in our top order. They will click at some stage. And we're open and honest to say that we're not getting what we would like out of the powerplay as yet. But we're certainly very happy with other phases of our game which have kicked into gear and did enough the other night to get over the line and create a W, create two points for us coming out of that dressing room which was the ultimate goal."
Bradburn is big on team culture. Having already been a part of this group as a fielding coach under Mickey Arthur until June 2020, he's had a bird's eye view of the dynamics within the team. It also helped that he worked with a lot of the younger players during his short stint as head of at PCB's High-Performance Coaching until 2021.
One of the areas Bradburn touched upon was giving players what they want at training instead of laying down a set of rules for the group to follow. It's perhaps a sign of them putting this into practice that a few key players like Imam-ul-Haq, Shaheen Afridi and Mohammad Rizwan opted to rest at the hotel instead of pushing themselves at training on match eve.
"Our full trust is with our players in terms of understanding exactly what they need," Bradburn said. "Especially the day before a game, to top off their training, to top up their training rather, and just prepare themselves mentally and physically to put in what we want on the park, which is commanding performances.
"We want our players to produce impact performances. It's not about them individually anymore. It's about us as a team. It's about us extracting another two points. And that's our sole mission. We put full faith in the players to know exactly what they need to do to prepare. And some have chosen to prepare in other ways other than taking more energy out of their bodies today. From a coaching point of view, I'm very, very happy with that."
That said, Bradburn also emphasised on the need to move away from "comfort training" - essentially long net sessions involving bowling or hitting balls as against working on specific areas. Like Saud Shakeel did prior to their opening game, of working on shortening his backswing to give himself a split-second more against fast bowling (LINK Saud Shakeel post-match piece).
"Early on, from our training point of view there was lots of energy and excitement to get the pads on, to get into the nets and to get into action on Indian soil," Bradburn said. "The facilities here are excellent so everyone's been wanting to train. But as a coaching group of course we've got to balance that because number one - we want our tanks full of energy for game day. And we're trying to wean our players off from comfort training and we want them really to have all aspects of their training to be done with purpose in relation to their clear individual roles and our clear game roles."
On the strategy front, Bradburn talked up team director Mickey Arthur's intel on the Sri Lankan team, having worked with them until as recently as November 2021. Bradburn was all about the markers they'd taken from their most-recent experience of having lost an agonisingly tight game off the last ball that cost them a berth in the Asia Cup final.
There was no talk of revenge; just simple acknowledgement of what they needed to do better. "Yeah, look, we're really looking forward to playing Sri Lanka," he said. "They're a team that we've become familiar with over recent times, obviously with the Asia Cup, and we know well that they have had the upper hand on us over the last year in white-ball cricket.
"But we know their players very, very well. We have a secret weapon, if you like, in Mickey Arthur, who has coached them before. So, in our scouting meetings this morning and our video meetings this morning, Mickey was a very, very handy addition to those meetings to be able to add in some intricate points around their batters and bowlers.
"We've worked hard on gaining some absolute crystal clarity around what we're trying to do as a unit to win games of cricket, what the process of that is, what the little battles are along the way to win. And together with that, we've also worked very, very hard on giving each of our players absolute clarity of their individual roles within that. So, it's now not about individuals, it's now about the group and I'm really excited just sensing that this group is starting to come together really nicely, not only on the park, not only in training, but just as a group."

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo