After back-to-back losses, Pakistan will aim to bring their World Cup 2023 campaign back on track when they take on Afghanistan today at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai. The team suffered defeats against arch-rivals India and resurgent Australia, triggering massive criticism from fans and former cricketers who have questioned Babar Azam’s leadership skills. Pakistan have good memories of the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium where in 1997, flamboyant left-handed opener Saeed Anwar hit a monumental 194 against India.
Under-fire Pakistan play Afghanistan today at ICC World Cup 2023
At the time it was the highest individual ODI score while Anwar’s heroics also gave Pakistan a 35-run win over Men in Blue. Pakistan maintained their two-game undefeated run at the stadium with a six-wicket win over India in 2012.
“We have a great record at this venue, so I am sure that will be a motivation,” opener Imam-ul-Haq said at a press briefing ahead of the clash.
Haq was only two when Anwar blitzed the India team which featured the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid in 1997.
“Although I don’t have any memory of Saeed Anwar’s record, that too will be a motivation.”
Pakistan started the World Cup with wins over the Netherlands and Sri Lanka but the 1992 champions then lost two matches consecutively. They have slipped to fifth in the 10-nation table with the top four going through to the semi-finals.
“We have to admit we did not play well in those games,” said Haq on Sunday.
“We were not up to the mark, did not get the execution right and defeat always lowers morale.”
Haq scored 36 against India in Ahmedabad but Pakistan collapsed from 155-2 to 191 all out, losing by seven wickets. The 27-year-old then scored 70 against Australia in a daunting chase of a 368-run target in Bengaluru where Pakistan slipped to a 62-run defeat.
“We dropped crucial catches and that hurt,” said Haq.
David Warner was on 10 when Usama Mir dropped him off Shaheen Shah Afridi — he went on to make 163 and share a record Australian World Cup opening stand of 259 with Mitchell Marsh who compiled 121.
“You will see a new thing tomorrow. We want to go to Kolkata with four wins in six games,” said Haq, whose team will also face South Africa in Chennai on Friday.
Haq also played down the threat posed by Afghanistan’s spin trio of Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi at a venue renowned as a slow bowlers paradise.
“We know this ground favours spinners and they have quality spin bowlers but we have beaten them 3-0 recently in a one-day series in Sri Lanka under the same conditions,” said Haq.
“We all know Afghanistan is a good team and in these conditions, they will be tough but we are ready for that and will execute our plans.”