'No pressure' Azam blasts critics as World Cup dream slips away

KOLKATA: Pakistan skipper Babar Azam blasted his critics today, telling them "it's easy to give advice on TV" as he refused to surrender his World Cup dreams.

Pakistan have to defeat defending champions England by at least 287 runs tomorrow to oust New Zealand as the fourth and last semi-finalist on net run rate.

Failure to do so will spark more questions over Azam's captaincy, a position he has held for three years.

"I have not performed the way I should have in the World Cup, that's why people are saying that I am under pressure. I am under no pressure," insisted the 29-year-old.

"Everyone has their own point of view, their own way of thinking. Everyone is saying something different. He should be like this, or like that.

"If someone has to give me advice, everyone has my number. It is easy to give advice on TV. If you want to give me some advice, you can message me."

Azam has made 282 runs at the tournament with an average of just over 40 and four fifties.

However, as captain, he has overseen four defeats in eight games including a shock loss to Afghanistan and a shattering one-wicket defeat to South Africa.

They stayed alive in the tournament last weekend when Fakhar Zaman's unbeaten 81-ball 126 not out inspired a rain-hit win over New Zealand despite the Black Caps having piled up 401-6.

Azam insisted his team has not given up hope of pulling off victory over England despite the huge margin required.

"It's not like this matter is not in the back of the mind. It's in our mind and we will try to do it," said Azam.

"But we can't just go in and start firing blindly - we want that but with proper planning, how we want to play the first 10 overs, then the next 20 — how we have to achieve that target.

"There are a lot of things in this, like partnerships, which player will stay in the pitch for how long. I would say if Fakhar is in the match for 20 or 30 overs, we can achieve that. We can do this and we have planned for this."

Pakistan have never scored more than 361 against England, which they achieved at Southampton in 2019. Their biggest victory over the English is 108 runs 22 years ago.

Pakistan, the 1992 champions, started the World Cup with wins over the Netherlands and Sri Lanka but then suffered back-to-back losses to India and Australia.

Defeats to Afghanistan and the Proteas followed before victories over Bangladesh and New Zealand revived their slim semi-final hopes.

Azam, however, pointed to the defeat against South Africa in Chennai as a crucial setback.

"We were hurt by the defeat in the South Africa match We should have won the Afghanistan game as well and it's because of those defeats that we are at this stage."

He added: "My goal was to finish matches and win them with my performance and there were expectations from me and I accept that I have not done what was expected of me."

Despite likely elimination tomorrow, Azam said that Pakistan should not be written off.

"Do you think we have lost all World Cups since 1999?" Azam asked.

"If you look in the T20 World Cup, we were in the Asia Cup (2022 final), we played in the final in Australia (T20 World Cup 2022).

"It's not that we are not playing well in the World Cups, we are not able to finish well.

"You can't say that we haven't done well since 99, we have dominated and we were number one." --AFP

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