Asia Cup 2022 – Wasim Akram worried about Pakistan’s middle order, but feels India can be beaten ‘day-in and day-out’

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When Pakistan won their opening game of 2021 T20 World Cup in the UAE, it was their first win against India in five attempts at the T20 World Cup. It was also the first time Pakistan won a men’s World Cup fixture of any format against India, across 13 matches. It was a win that spurred their impressive run to the semi-finals, where they lost to eventual champions Australia.

As they look to finetune their prep for this year’s T20 World Cup in Australia, Pakistan will look to channel that spirit of 2021. This week, India and Pakistan will lock horns for the first time in a year when they meet in the Asia Cup in Dubai. In fact, over the next two weeks, they could potentially meet three times, ahead of their high-stakes World Cup fixture in Melbourne on October 24.

Wasim Akram, the former Pakistan captain, believes last year’s win has made Pakistan “believe they can beat India day-in and day-out.” He believes what was a one-sided rivalry, at World Cups, has suddenly come alive.

“Pakistan team is on the rise for the past couple of years,” Akram said during a media session organised by Star Sports. “They’ve been consistent, and I think the win against India, although that was a year ago during the World Cup, gave them a bit of confidence that they can compete against India day-in and day-out.”

Akram is optimistic but wants the team to be mindful of how their inherent strength – the top order – shouldn’t become a weakness. Since the start of last year’s T20 World Cup, Pakistan’s top three have scored 67.53% of all runs made by the team in T20Is. This has largely been down to Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan and Fakhar Zaman.
“The only thing I’m worried about is the middle order,” he said. “There is no experience apart from Iftikhar Ahmed coming in at No. 4, and then you’ll have probably Haider Ali, a young sensation who hasn’t been consistent. Babar Azam and Rizwan are the key as far as the T20 format is concerned.

“I think in general they’re confident, but it depends on how they feel or what sort of mindset they’re in when they arrive before the India-Pakistan game because that game can make to break the Asia Cup for either side.”

Akram also felt comparisons between Babar and Virat Kohli were inevitable, given the kind of impact they’ve had on their respective teams, but it wouldn’t be right to do so. To him, Babar is not yet there, but has all the makings of being a modern great.

“It’s only natural,” Akram said of the comparison. “When we played, people compared Inzamam-ul-Haq with Rahul Dravid or Sachin Tendulkar. Before that, it was Javed Miandad versus Sunny Gavaskar. Gundappa Viswanath and Zaheer Abbas, so [comparison] is only natural.

“Babar has been very consistent because he has the right technique. He enjoys his batting, is still very hungry, physically fit, still young and is captain across formats. He’s learning and learning very quickly. As far as comparisons go, he’s on the right track to be where Virat Kohli is. It’s a bit too early to compare him to Kohli at this stage. But he’s on track to be one of the modern greats.”

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