PCB: Pakistan ready for Australia challenge

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Photo Credit: Pakistan Cricket Board

It is Bengaluru’s turn to get the limelight as Pakistan take on Australia at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium tomorrow. It is the maiden contest of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 at the venue and the battle of the two cricket powerhouses promises to deliver thrill and excitement to the fans in the stands and around the world.

This is the Babar Azam-led side’s fourth match in the tournament and they are placed fourth on the 10-team points table with two wins from three matches. They have had five days to rejuvenate since their arrival in the city. Over the last two days, the team has practiced under lights and in the afternoon, in their bid to acclimatise to the conditions.

“I think the first impressions from everyone was cool, it is a pretty small venue. Boundaries are short here and the conditions for the game look very good,” Grant Bradburn, the Pakistan head coach, told PCB Digital in the lead-up to the game. “We have done our homework on the venue – it is quite a high scoring venue that probably relates more to the boundary size, which is 63-64 meters. The batters really enjoyed the opportunity to get on some true surfaces and the bowlers enjoyed it too as there is a fair bit of bounce.

“It is going to be a venue where the batters are going to really enjoy getting in on and the bowlers are also going to be really asked some serious questions. I do not think there is going to be a lot of margin for error on this wicket … As a bowling attack, you know, we haven’t been quite as accurate as we would like to be in recent times and this venue is going to demand some discipline and accuracy.”

Though the match against India at Ahmedabad did not produce favourable results, Bradburn believes that it provided some crucial learnings from which the team will benefit in the tournament.

He said, “There is always pressure on the team to win. When we do not, we critique our performances very, very closely and we’ve done that over the last couple of days, too. I think the experiences from Ahmedabad were fantastic.

“It was a great opportunity to learn and grow from the whole experience of playing in front of a very large, hostile crowd. It is unusual to play in front of a crowd, which is pretty much, you know, solely there for the opposition. However, it was nice to hear some silence as well at times when we were batting well.

“We had some really good honest conversations yesterday as a group talking about how we wanted to take the game on more and we did have an opportunity to be a little bit more assertive with the bat earlier on.

“As a result, we put ourselves under a little bit of pressure and then you know, we just didn’t get enough to really put pressure on in the second innings. That, however, doesn’t take away from the fact that as a group, we’ve also acknowledged that we didn’t put enough balls in good areas.

“We have also had some wonderful insights about the venues too – the ball is scuffing up quite quickly and looks like it is dog chewed after about 20 overs. It obviously means the ball becomes a little bit softer, which makes it difficult to score in the later stages.

“That also brings in more reverse [swing] which plays into our hands. So all of those elements are a good learning for us that we are taking on-board.”

Australia have had an uncharacteristic start to their World Cup campaign, going down against India and South Africa before bouncing back with a five-wicket win over Sri Lanka. They have had an upper hand over Pakistan in the 50-over World Cup, winning six out of 10 matches. But, the most recent outing in the format between the two sides saw Pakistan come on top with a 2-1 win in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Super League series.

Undaunted by the past record, Pakistan, Bradburn said, are all set for the Australia challenge and are eager to make it 3-1 before they move to Chennai for their back-to-back contests against Afghanistan and South Africa.

“It is a collection of the 150 best cricketers on the planet and there’s 10 worthy teams here,” he said. “So, and as we are seeing in the last week, anyone can beat anyone. We have done our homework on Australia. We know what they can contain, we know their style of play, we know what their strengths are and we know where we might be able to exploit them.

“But, most of all, we are looking into the mirror and making sure that we’re true to ourselves by  making sure that we are challenging each other in the right way. We are a tight unit and we back everyone in this group, but we are certainly becoming more comfortable to challenge the performances and roles in the different phases of the game. We acknowledge as a group that we haven’t put together the true performance across all three disciplines yet but we know when we do that, it’s a beautiful thing.”

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