ICC T20 World Cup 2022: Hayden believes Pakistan's Babar Azam will deliver 'something very special' against NZ
Pakistan team mentor Matthew Hayden has backed his under-fire skipper Babar Azam to produce "something special" in the semifinals of the ICC T20 World Cup 2022 against New Zealand.
Backing Pakistan's under-fire skipper Babar Azam, team mentor Matthew Hayden has backed the batter to produce 'something very special' in the upcoming ICC T20 World Cup 2022 semifinal clash against New Zealand in Sydney. Babar, the fourth-highest run-scorer in T20Is since the last World Cup, has struggled in the current tournament; his best performance in the previous five games was a 33-ball 25 against Bangladesh.
"...don't be surprised whatsoever if you don't see some fireworks because very special players don't often stay down for long," Hayden said during the pre-match press conference ahead of Wednesday's clash.
"There's no question that Babar has been under some adversity. That will make him not only an even greater player...You can't continue to keep on punching out hundreds and 50s and strike rates of 140-plus. There's got to be moments in time where there's a lull. And as we all know about the weather, once there's a lull, there's often a storm that follows. So look out, rest of the world, because I think you're about to see something very special from Babar," the legendary Australian batter said.
After losing to India and Zimbabwe, Pakistan was on the verge of being eliminated, but the Netherlands' unexpected victory over South Africa opened a door, and they overcame Bangladesh in their final Super 12 game to secure the semifinal position.
"It has been a rollercoaster ride, but I wouldn't have it any other way, because the last World Cup we went into the semifinal undefeated, and Australia pipped us," Hayden said.
"So, yeah, there's ups and downs in this tournament, but I really believe yet with our best game, which is a huge threat to our opposition. The way the middle order has stepped up to the plate has been excellent and those fast bowlers, man, there's four of them and they come at great pace," he added.
Despite Babar and Mohammad Rizwan's struggles at the top, Hayden was impressed with the middle order's contribution to the team's success. The former Australian starting pitcher picked out Mohammad Haris, who scored 59 runs in just two innings, for praise.
"Whilst it (batting) hasn't gone absolutely to plan, it's meant that our middle order players have had to step up, and young Haris has been one of those. Great story, really significant story of any World Cup. Not even in the squad and now performing like he should have been there from the start," he said.
Hayden feels Haris' net sessions against the pacers helped. "It's no surprise to see how he came in and played so beautifully. He's got a very good technique on our fast bouncy wickets. He's got a freshness," he said.
"One of the things as an outsider coming into this tournament is pretty much the entire cricketing community with the amount of programme is fatigued to some degree. So to have a young, fresh face with nothing to lose, nothing really to gain, but just play with great freedom has been a wonderful expression for him personally but also for team Pakistan," the Aussie added.
Hayden said New Zealand will pose multiple threats to Pakistan when talking about their semifinal opponents. "I think New Zealand had some really destructive players, you can be put under pressure with the bat...They've also got a terrific bowling attack, a well-balanced bowling attack. Good mixture of experience," the 51-year-old said.
"I even played against Tim Southee, that goes to show you how much experience that team has got... Lockie Ferguson has great pace, lots of experience in T20 cricket as well, so poses good threats. And they've got good off-pace bowling as well. I think like New Zealand sport, in general, they really punch above their weight. They believe they can win this tournament and they've got the potential to do that. So lots of threats to our camp, no question," Hayden concluded.
(With inputs from PTI)