DUBAI: Pakistan batting consultant Matthew Hayden has said his side was fully prepared and ready to face Australia who are chasing their maiden ICC Men’s T20 World Cup title. The two sides have previously met six times, including the 2010 semi-final where Australia won by three wickets. However, they are 3-3 on a head to head
Speaking to the media ahead of the match in Dubai, Hayden said: “This is an extremely important tournament for Pakistan. Lots of hard work has gone in over the past month and we’re extremely excited to be coming into the playoffs with terrific momentum, fantastic energy and great optimism.
“We face Australia tomorrow (Thursday), a country which has been incredibly proud to set high standards in terms of delivery on trophies for its country in World Cups, and this is one trophy that it’s never got in the cabinet, so lots of high-stake matches ahead of us now.”
“I think this side has got the potential as it has shown so far in the five matches.
“The highlight was the first game that we played here in Dubai against India and how under immense pressure this side delivered. I never really understood the enormity of the pressure until I was inside the dressing room.
“I think that game really set us up for what has been a really lovely four weeks of solid work, great commitment to training, great purpose in general, and also a wonderful heart connect to Islam and how spirituality has played its role within the Pakistan team as a great guide and tool for everyone to come together.”
Hayden was unconcerned about the lack of form of Fakhar Zaman, saying he was a natural fighter.
“The fact that he was in the Navy for seven years gives you a pretty strong indication of his ability to be able to fight and fight hard.
“Not only just from a batting perspective but the contributions within a T20 setup is that you have to be, as a general policy, a two-dimensional player. Fakhar literally saves five to 10 runs every game, and five to 10 runs within a T20 concept and batting lineup, include your own runs, maybe 20s and 30s here and there, means that overall he’s just been such an important part of the side.
“Don’t be surprised if you see something incredibly special from him on Thursday because he is smashing the ball in the nets. In particular, if you look at a potential matchup against Adam Zampa, who’s been the leading wicket-taker in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, I think that is a fantastic target, an opportunity for Fakhar to really dominate and position Pakistan in a strong competitive state.”
Hayden, himself an explosive and destructive opener, also shared his views on Babar Azam and termed him as stable batter with a wonderful temperament.
“Babar and his personality is what you see is what you get,” Hayden said, adding: “He’s very consistent and stable. He is not overly flamboyant and I would go as far as to say he is almost the opposite personality to someone like Virat Kohli, who is very animated, very passionate and very boisterous on the field. Babar has great control and a wonderful temperament.
“Babar Azam is highly talented and just to give you an insight into that talent, his ability to be able to consistently react to the ball is really second to none that I’ve seen. He picks up the line and the length of the ball quicker than the average cricketer and that’s the mark of someone that’s a very fine player.
“He doesn’t have to necessarily be stroking with any kind of increase or decrease in his temperament. He can remain pretty neutral. And then when he gets into the middle stages of the match, he also has the ability through just good cricket shots to find his natural tempo, which is a strike-rate of around 140, 150 and beyond.
“It’s a great testimony to not only his game but how he can consistently scale his performances through greater and increased strike-rate over time.”
Hayden took time to pay tribute to Dean Jones, who spent a lot of time in Pakistan for the HBL Pakistan Super League.
“I want to make special mention here of a former teammate and colleague, and that is Dean Jones. He gave a lot of himself to Cricket Australia but also to Pakistan cricket.
“His closing words to me, which I can hear in my ears, were: ‘These are my boys. This is something I’m so passionate about.’
“He was just beautifully connected to Pakistan cricket. May he rest in peace now, knowing the fact that he has left a legacy within this team, which will last not only this generation but also generations to come. If I can add any value to those closing comments from Deano that would be my greatest honour.”
Hayden welcomed Cricket Australia’s announcement to tour Pakistan for three Tests, three ODIs and one T20I in March-April 2022, and admitted one of his biggest regrets was not to play in Pakistan.
“A wonderful announcement in the last few days about Australia touring Pakistan in February, something has not been done for 24 years now. I think from an Australian cricket point of view, that is also a really significant moment, not only for Australian cricket but also for Pakistan cricket.
“It’s incredibly important that the country now embraces Pakistan and allows and supports its incredible fan-base to similar sort of passion and commitment to the great game of cricket.
“Certainly, the one regret that I have in my career is not being able to travel to Pakistan as an international cricketer, in spite of having such great and unique challenges. As an opening batsman, you want to try and face wonderful bowlers like Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhtar, Saqlain Mushtaq and a myriad of other spin bowlers. To not have the opportunity to do that in Pakistan is a regret of mine.
“Embrace it, be a part of the future of Pakistan cricket as it’s a hugely important part of the cricket community. I’m sure they (Australia cricketers) are looking forward to traveling to Pakistan,” Hayden concluded.