'Not focused on only one team' - Babar plays down Ahmedabad hype at the ODI World Cup

For upcoming Tests in SL, Babar wants mistakes from previous WTC cycle to not be repeated

Umar Farooq
Umar Farooq
File photo: The two men shall face off on October 15, Pakistan's third game  •  ACC

File photo: The two men shall face off on October 15, Pakistan's third game  •  ACC

Talking about the October 15 ODI World Cup fixture against India, Pakistan captain Babar Azam has said that the tournament doesn't revolve around only one game, and all nine fixtures will be important. Babar addressed the media in Karachi, where the team is undergoing a preparatory camp before the Sri Lanka Test series.
"We are going to play World Cup and not just going to play against India only," Babar said. "There are eight other teams and it's not only India and only if we beat them then we will make it into the final. We are not focused on only one team, we are focused on all other teams in the tournament. Our plan is that we have to play well against all of them and win against them."
Pakistan are scheduled to play their nine league matches in five cities, their first stop being Hyderabad. There they play Netherlands and Sri Lanka - the two qualifiers from Zimbabwe - on October 6 and 12 respectively. Their next fixture is the big one, travelling west to Ahmedabad for the India game on October 15. They then go down south to Bengaluru to play Australia on October 20, and onward to Chennai, where Afghanistan await on October 23 and South Africa too on October 27. Pakistan then shuttle between Kolkata (v Bangladesh) and Bengaluru (v New Zealand) on October 31 and November 4 respectively, before finishing their league-stage fixtures against England in Kolkata.
"In our thought, wherever the cricket will be played, wherever the matches are, we are going to play there. Because as professionals that is what we do, you have to be ready for everything. You prepare yourself for different conditions and in every environment and that is what we call a challenge and you take it to live up to it. Me, as a player and captain, I aspire to score runs in every country, dominate and win Pakistan games. So this is all we have in mind and not only that we're going to play against one team."
Pakistan's participation is subject to the government approval, though there is a tentative approval which will be reviewed closer to the event. There will be the usual security reconnaissance before the team flies out, but there is no other hindrance at this stage.
There was a letter sent out to the government by the PCB seeking advice on whether the Pakistan team is allowed to travel to India, and if so, if there are any reservations about any of the five venues for the Pakistan games, and if the Pakistani government wants to send a security delegation.

Babar wants faster runs from Test batters

Most Pakistan players are currently in Karachi, attending a conditioning camp before their two-match Test series in Sri Lanka. The series starts July 16 in Galle, with Pakistan playing their first Test after a gap of six months. The second Test is in Colombo from July 24.
In the last ICC World Test Championship cycle, Pakistan were derailed in their home series with scorelines of 0-1 against Australia, 0-3 against England, and a drawn series against New Zealand. The Sri Lanka Test series is the first away series for Pakistan in the 2023-2025 cycle, and also have away tours of Australia (three Tests) and South Africa (two) lined up. They will host England (three), West Indies (two), and Bangladesh (two) at home.
"When you reflect back on the championship, you look out for all the positives and mainly what we were lacking in," Babar said. "We did look back and plucked a few points. We'll try to start this cycle in a positive way and up our game by 5-10 percent. We talked about taking our partnerships longer and with the ball, we have to take wickets. With the bat, if we were going with 3.5 [run rate], so now we have to change our game to try and go with 4."
On a question about taking a leaf out of the book on how England and Australia play Test cricket, Babar insisted that his side has its own way of playing.
"As a captain, the approach is to win matches and always look to have a result," he said. "Every team has a mindset and they play in their way. We try to play our best game and apply ourselves. For example, we went on to chase 360 [342] in Galle last year with our game. It happens when you have to score at the rate of three or four but sometimes you have to be defensive so it's the need of the hour that dictates how you going to go into the situation. You learn every day and try to add new things to the system."

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent