How do you plan for a game which you need to win by 287 runs? That is Pakistan’s task against England in Kolkata on Saturday, in order to qualify for the semi-finals of the World Cup: not just to win, but also win by the biggest margin in the history of their men’s ODI team.
“We can’t just go in and start firing blindly. We want that, but with proper planning – how we want to play the first ten overs, then the next 20; how we have to achieve that target. There are lots of things in this – like partnerships, [and] which players will stay on the pitch for how long.”
“I would say if Fakhar is [batting] in the match for 20 or 30 overs, we can achieve that,” he said. “Then follow up with [Mohammad] Rizwan, [and] Iftikhar [Ahmed]. We can do this, and we have planned for this.”
Pakistan will effectively be eliminated before a ball is bowled tomorrow, since boosting their NRR will be near impossible if they are asked to bowl first by England. Even if they bowled England out for 100, they would then have to hit 17 consecutive sixes – that is, complete the chase in 2.5 overs – in order to move above New Zealand’s NRR.
There was little else Babar could do other than talking up his side’s chances of qualification, but the prospect of winning by such a margin seems fanciful – even against an England side shot of confidence. In reality, Pakistan are highly likely to miss out on the semi-final for a third consecutive World Cup.
“It’s just because I have not performed the way I should have in the World Cup; that’s why people are saying that I am under pressure,” Babar said. “I am under no pressure. I have been doing this for the last two-and-a-half, [to] three years. I was the one who was performing, and I was the one who was the captain.
“Everyone is saying something different: he should be like this, or like that. If someone has to give me advice, everyone has my number… I don’t think I was under any pressure or felt any different because of this. I try to give my best in the field during fielding; [and] during batting, I think about how I should make runs and make the team win.”
He has had a respectable tournament with the bat, scoring 282 runs at 40.28 with four half-centuries, but has not hit the heights expected of him. “I wanted to give a good performance here. I had high expectations but I couldn’t perform as per expectations,” Babar said. “I accept that.”
As for his future in the role, Babar said that it was out of his control: “About the captaincy, as I said, once we go back to Pakistan – or after this match – we will see what happens. But right now, I am not focusing on this: my focus is on the next match.”
It might take a 287-run win to quieten the talk.
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98