Matthew Hayden has advised out-of-form Pakistan captain Babar Azam to produce “something very special” in the final stages of the T20 World Cup.
Babar averaged 7.8 in the Super 12 with 39 runs on 63 balls, but his side bounced back from losing their first two matches to win the next three and finish improbably in the top two of their group.
Between them and a place in the final is New Zealand and while concerns over Babar’s struggles persist, Hayden, the former Australian fly-half and now mentor to the Pakistan side, is relaxed about a player who averaged over 41 out of 97 T20Is with two hundred and 29 fifty. .
Hayden said, “In any given career, you have significant ups and downs, and the challenges and bumps along the way, they cement you and your greatness, how you succeed in adversity.
“There is no doubt that Babar has experienced some adversity. It will only make him an even bigger player. You can’t keep hitting hundreds and 50s and hit rates over 140.
“And as we all know about weather, once there’s a lull, there’s often a storm to follow. So watch out, rest of the world, because I think you’re about to see something very special from Babar.
Pakistan began their campaign losing a last-gasp thriller to rivals India in a thrilling MCG contest and their hopes of reaching the knockout stages were dashed after being thwarted by Zimbabwe.
They stayed in the chase winning their next two games before a shock victory for the Netherlands over South Africa left the door ajar and Pakistan beat Bangladesh to finish second in the group against India.
Their progress drew comparisons to Imran Khan’s ‘cornered Tigers’ of 30 years ago when they won the 50-year-old World Cup ahead of their last four match against the Black Caps in Sydney on Wednesday.
“It was memorable for Pakistani cricket,” added Hayden. “It was also a tournament that was plagued by the nuances of Pakistani cricket; that is, there is no dominant performance.
“There is a performance that is challenged and then Pakistan suddenly show up and they are dangerous and fearsome. And this tournament was exactly that.
“(It’s been a) amazing experience, it’s been a roller coaster ride, but one I wouldn’t have otherwise.”
New Zealand are in the semi-finals for the third consecutive time and the finalists beaten last year will have a chance to do better if they beat Pakistan, followed by England or India.
Kiwis captain Kane Williamson said: “The volatile nature of the T20 and the competitive nature of the tournament, with all the teams battling it out, means there is no dependency on one or two players.
“There were a number of players who got up a couple of times, and everyone definitely got their hands up. It’s really trying to play together as a team and focus on that.