Saqlain defends Pakistan’s T20 style, backs Babar and Rizwan after Asia Cup final defeat
Pakistan coach Saqlain Mushtaq defended the team’s Twenty20 playing style after losing Sunday’s Asia Cup final, dismissed concerns about captain Babar Azam’s form and found nothing wrong with opener Mohammad Rizwan’s batting approach.
The Green Shirts failed to chase 171 to beat Sri Lanka, their 23-run defeat bucking the trend of teams winning while batting second in Dubai.
Rizwan made 55 in 49 balls for Pakistan and finished as the tournament’s leading scorer with 281 runs in six innings.
But Saqlain was not worried about Rizwan’s sluggish strike rate of 117.57 runs per hundred balls in the high-octane format. By comparison, Virat Kohli scored 276 runs for India at a more rapid 147.59 across his five innings.
“Everyone has their own style of playing cricket,” Saqlain said.
“We made the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup (last year) and now the final of the Asia Cup, so evidence suggests we are doing something right.
“We did so with our style of play, and the things that are left to be done will be worked upon, rather than following the style of the rest of the cricket-playing nations.”
Babar, a prolific scorer for the team before the tournament, managed just 68 runs in six matches with a highest of 30, but Saqlain played down the opener’s loss of form.
“As I said before, anybody with a deep eye of cricket will realise that he is unlucky with the way he is getting out,” said Saqlain.
“The way he plays and his work ethic needs no further discussion. He is a world-class player and God save him from the evil eye.”
“It’s just a patch. If you look at the rankings, he’s (among the) top in T20 International and in ODIs. It’s just been bad luck. The way he’s training and playing it’s amazing. His work ethic is top notch,” he said.
The 27-year-old Babar, who has scored 2,754 runs in 80 Twenty20 internationals at an average of over 42, recently lost his number one T20 world ranking to fellow opener Rizwan.
Babar’s final dismissal in the tournament came with a loose flick down the leg side to be caught at short-fine leg off fast bowler Pramod Madushan, who claimed four wickets.
Saqlain also dismissed suggestions of a left-right opening combination of Fakhar Zaman with either Babar or Rizwan.
“If you keep shuffling, it sends a message that you don’t trust them,” he said. “You need to give them time. It’s not good to shuffle a lot. It sends a wrong message.”
Saqlain praised champions Sri Lanka, who previously beat Pakistan, India and Afghanistan in the Super Four stage, for their complete showing in the final.
“Sri Lanka batted second and then batted first against us and became champions. Well-deserved,” said Saqlain.
“We just played first nine overs of really good cricket and after that they played almost 31 overs and dominated us in all aspects — in batting, bowling and fielding.”