Babar Azam
Pakistan's cricket team captain Babar Azam speaks during a press conference at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore on September 26, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

Islamabad: Reaching the semifinals of the upcoming Cricket World Cup won't be good enough for Babar Azam. He's aiming to win the 50-over trophy with Pakistan.

“The top-four is a small goal for us, we want to come out as winners,” the Pakistan captain told reporters in Lahore on Tuesday. The Pakistan team is preparing to fly out to India early Wednesday via Dubai after finally getting their visas late Monday night.

“We have not played in India before, but we are not taking too much pressure,” Babar said. “We have done our research. We have heard from our former players that the conditions are similar to what we get in other Asian countries, except for Chennai where the wickets suit the spinners more.”

“The morale of the team is high and we are very confident,” Babar said. “We will try to come back with a win, we request you all to back us and pray for us.”

The buildup to cricket's top one-day tournament hasn't been easy for Pakistan, which not only failed to reach the Asia Cup final — losing in the Super 4 stage after a crushing 228-run defeat to India — but also saw its premier fast bowler Naseem Shah ruled out of the World Cup because of a shoulder injury.

Naseem had been impressive for Pakistan in all three formats of the game, especially in white-ball cricket where he was doing wonders for Pakistan with the new ball.

“Of course we will miss Naseem Shah a lot,” Babar said. “Shaheen (Afridi) and Naseem bowling together gave us a different vibe and it was not easy to pick his replacement.”

Pakistan has recalled fast bowler Hasan Ali, mainly because of his experience, but Babar didn’t reveal whether the pacer will be sharing the new ball with Afridi.

“We went with Hasan Ali because of his experience,” Babar said. “I cannot comment who will bowl the new ball … it will become more clear to us when we travel to India and assess the conditions.”

Babar has backed his core players and, despite strong criticism in the local media, kept faith in his struggling spinners.

“We know we have lapsed in fielding and in our wicket-taking abilities in the middle overs,” Babar said. “I believe in my players more than I believe in myself ... I know who my players are, the ones who would be willing to put (up) a fight, and I believe in them blindly.”

Babar said he’s not worried about his personal milestones but is excited at the thought of playing India at Ahmedabad on Oct. 14 in an eagerly anticipated game for both countries.

“I am excited to play in Ahmedabad as it will be jam-packed,” Babar said. “I am not worried about my individual accolades, I want to make sure whatever I do it helps the result for the team.”

Pakistan will play a warmup game against Australia on Oct. 3 before it takes on the Netherlands in its first World Cup game three days later at Hyderabad.