‘Heartbroken’ Pakistan still hurting from India loss, says Iftikhar
Pakistan’s Iftikhar Ahmed admitted on Wednesday his side were “heartbroken” and still hurting from their agonising opening defeat to arch-rivals India at the Twenty20 World Cup.
An epic 82 not out from Virat Kohli powered India to a stunning last-ball win on Sunday in front of a frenzied crowd of more than 90,000 at Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Pakistan have little room left for further error when they play Zimbabwe in Perth on Thursday, in a game they will be expected to win.
“The hurt remains after losing such a big match. We were heartbroken,” said middle-order batsman Iftikhar, who hit 51 in Pakistan’s 159-8, but it turned out to be just not quite enough.
Iftikhar said that morale was high despite the lingering heartache and praised skipper Babar Azam for his handling of the team in the aftermath of the India loss.
A video of Azam’s pep talk to his broken side went viral.
“We have to learn from our mistakes. Don’t fall, the tournament has just begun. We have lost as a team and will win as a team,” Azam said in the widely watched video footage.
“The way Babar and the management supported the players, it was good. Babar and coaches told us that ‘it was not our last game, everybody put in the effort’,” Iftikhar said on Wednesday.
“So our morale is high.”
Pakistan will be strongly fancied to beat Zimbabwe — who are ranked 11 in the world to Pakistan’s three — and belatedly get their World Cup going.
Pakistan need a victory for their confidence too.
“Zimbabwe is an international team and we have to play strong against them like any other team,” said the 32-year-old Iftikhar.
“Important to play well and keep up the confidence. The players are hungry to perform.”
Pace bowler Haris Rauf bowled well at the MCG until he was hit for two successive sixes by Kohli in a game-changing moment at the end of the 19th over.
“The Australian pitches are fast and bouncy and we have prepared for that,” said Iftikhar.
“Haris is our main strike bowler and we expect him to bowl better here and win it for Pakistan. “