- Pakistan to play against Nepal in opening match tomorrow.
- Babar Azam says Pakistan will not take rival teams lightly.
- Pakistan to fly to Sri Lanka on August 31 to play India in second Group-A match.
Pakistan have announced their playing XI for the opening of Asia Cup match against Nepal which is set to take place tomorrow (Wednesday) at Multan Cricket Stadium in the Group-A clash.
Taking to X, formerly known as Twitter, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said: “Our playing XI for the first match of #AsiaCup2023.”
The playing XI includes Babar Azam (captain), Shadab Khan (vice-captain), Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Salman Ali Agha, Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Mohammad Nawaz, Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi and Haris Rauf.
‘We won’t take rival teams lightly’
Pakistan skipper Babar Azam said that the Green Shirts will not take rival teams lightly in the Asia Cup.
“We will maintain the winning momentum as we did in the series against Afghanistan in Sri Lanka,” said Babar while speaking during a press conference ahead of the opening Asia Cup match against Nepal.
The star batter said that the Pakistan team — which has reclaimed the number one spot of the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) one-day international (ODI) rankings — was criticised as well as praised but the team kept its focus on cricket.
“When I got the captaincy, I tried to change the mindset of the team. People’s expectations have increased and we have to meet them. My goal is to benefit the team and I have stopped thinking at an individual level,” said the skipper.
Babar said that the current team is in its best form, however, there is still time to make changes in case needed before the World Cup.
The skipper further said it would have been better if the entire event had taken place in Pakistan, adding that the match between Pakistan and India is always important.
The contest marks many firsts as Nepal, as a team, and Multan, as a venue, make their debut in the continental tournament. It is also a maiden contest between Pakistan and Nepal at the top level.
The atmosphere in the picturesque Multan Cricket Stadium promises to be electrifying for the Wednesday clash. Both teams will receive tremendous support from the cricket-loving Multan fans. The fans will be treated to an absorbing opening ceremony before the match, which begins at 2:30pm.
Pakistan entered the Asia Cup with momentum on their side as they are currently the number one ODI team. This is the second instance of the team surmounting the chart since April. Pakistan also boast the best win/loss ratio of 2.750 with 22 wins in 31 matches since this World Cup cycle.
Reflecting on whether there is an added pressure for being the top-ranked side, Babar said: “I would not say that there is a pressure. Rather, we enter this tournament with more confidence. This team has put in a lot of hard work and effort over the last few years and achieving the top spot is a testimony of it. The job, however, is not done as we want to win the Asia Cup and the World Cup. We have some competitive and exciting next few months lined up and we are eager to do well for our country.”
“Every player in this side wants to win matches for his country and raises their hand. They are always ready to put in the hard yards and never shy away from tough and difficult situations. We have had some amazing last few months and now it is time to build on the momentum.”
Pakistan will fly to Sri Lanka on August 31 to play India in the second Group-A match on September 2 at Kandy. The venue will also host the third and final match of the group between India and Nepal on September 4.