LONDON: Pakistan skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed on Thursday promised that his team will go all out in its mission impossible.
But the body language of the Pakistan captain, whose team needs to beat Bangladesh by a near impossible margin here at Lord’s on Friday to qualify for the World Cup semi-finals, suggested otherwise.
Time and again during his press conference here at Lord’s on Thursday, Sarfaraz tried to express his team’s will to take a shot at achieving the seemingly impossible target.
But each time he contradicted himself by conceding that the challenge facing his team was insurmountable.
“We will try our best tomorrow,” he said, without much conviction. “But we should be realistic. (To qualify for the World Cup semis) we will need to score something like 600 runs when realistically you see that the scores here are in the vicinity of 280-300 runs.
But a few minutes later, he commented, “it’s a tough target but anything is possible.”
You can’t blame Sarfaraz. Pakistan are alive in the World Cup but their campaign is on a ventilator. It’s so fragile that if Bangladesh win the toss and decide to bat on Friday, Pakistan will be out of the race for the semis.
In case, Pakistan do bat first, they will need to score 400 runs and then bowl Bangladesh out for 84. They need to win by such a margin (316 if they score 400) to overtake New Zealand and qualify for the last four with a superior run-rate.
Sarfaraz was well aware of the fact that even a normal win against Bangladesh, who have largely been impressive in this tournament, would be a good result for Pakistan.
That’s why his press conference seemed more like a post-match interaction than a pre-match one.
There were questions about how disappointed Pakistan were over their failure to qualify for the World Cup and where did they go wrong.
“We will be really disappointed if we didn’t play in the semis,” said Sarfaraz. “I mean we made a great recovery by winning three matches in a row. It was a great comeback and we could have qualified had there been a realistic target (against Bangladesh),” he added.
Pakistan didn’t really help their own cause as they made no effort to improve their net run-rate in wins against New Zealand and Afghanistan despite being fully aware that it could dent their title hopes.
But Sarfaraz doesn’t agree.
He believes Pakistan had no option but to play it safe against the Black Caps and Afghans on “difficult” wickets at Edgbaston and Headingley.
“The pitches (in the matches against New Zealand and Afghanistan) weren’t easy to bat on. We couldn’t bat freely in either of the two games. The ball was turning,” he said.
While Pakistan are facing a near certain exit, England and New Zealand – two teams that they defeated in the group stages – will be playing in the semis.
Is it fair?
Sarfaraz refused to criticise the qualification system, which perhaps gives net run-rate too much importance, stressing that it was decided in advance and was the same for all competing teams.
He, however, regrets the loss against Australia in Taunton. Pakistan were well-placed in their run-chase against the Aussies but a series of rash shots from well-set batsmen saw them crumbling.
“The defeat against West Indies was a blow but I believe the turning point for us was the loss against Australia. We were in a very good position to win that match. Had we won, we wouldn’t be facing this kind of target,” he said.
Sarfaraz refused to criticise misfiring players like opener Fakhar Zaman, Hasan Ali and Shoaib Malik.
“All the players tried to give their best. But sometimes things don’t work,” he said.
“We batted badly initially but did well in later games. There were contributions from almost everyone but yet there weren’t any hundreds. That was the difference. Other leading teams had their top three playing big knocks.”
Sarfaraz was of the view that the biggest positive for Pakistan was the performance of Babar Azam, the only Pakistani batsman to score a century in this World Cup. “Babar was really impressive. Shaheen Afridi did well. Wahab Riaz bowled well so did Shadab Khan.”