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Pakistan ‘in good position’ for World Cup, assures Babar Azam

KARACHI: Amid worries about Pakistan’s World Cup participation, skipper Babar Azam believes that the “dominant” one-day series win over New Zealand has prepared Pakistan well for the mega tournament.

The Shaheens won the five-match series 4-1 against a depleted New Zealand, temporarily rising to the top of the one-day rankings.

In the second match, Pakistan scored 337 runs, their second-highest successful chase in one-day internationals, and Babar became the fastest player to 5,000 ODI runs en route to his 18th century in the format.

Meanwhile, opener Fakhar Zaman has smashed hundreds in three consecutive ODIs, solidifying his status in Pakistan’s top three, which also includes opener Imam-ul-Haq.

Because of difficulties with the hosts, Pakistan’s participation in the World Cup in October-November is in doubt.

Despite this, and his defeat in the last match on Sunday, Babar seemed upbeat.

“Winning the series is fantastic, as is achieving number one ranking, which has put us in a strong position for the World Cup,” added the captain.

When asked if the ambiguity was a source of concern for the Pakistan team, Babar responded, “We can’t say anything about that, but wherever we get a chance to play, we will play.”

Last year, India stated that it will not send a squad to Pakistan for the Asia Cup in September, a month before the World Cup.

As a result, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has threatened to withdraw from the World Cup.

However, there are hints of thawing. Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari paid his first visit to India in years last week to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Goa.

No easy victory

Babar refused to acknowledge that New Zealand was easy to beat despite missing eight of their finest players, most of whom were on Indian Premier League duty.

“You don’t play an international team thinking they’re a junior team,” Babar explained.

“You have to give 100% to win against an international team, so we played better and dominated.”

Pakistan won the first two matches at Rawalpindi by five and seven wickets, respectively, before winning the next two in Karachi by 26 and 102 runs.

New Zealand won the last game, also in Karachi, by 47 runs.

Despite the results, stand-in New Zealand captain Tom Latham believed the series was beneficial.

“We wanted to expose the players to different roles, and I think it was a great opportunity for all of them to experience these conditions,” he explained.

New Zealand is concerned about the condition of regular captain Kane Williamson, who damaged his knee during the IPL and is expected to miss the World Cup.

New Zealand finished second in the last two World Cups, in 2015 and 2019.

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