Saqlain Mushtaq Image Source : ICC VIA GETTY IMAGES
Saqlain Mushtaq Image Source : ICC VIA GETTY IMAGES
Saqlain Mushtaq, the Pakistan head coach, is a philosophical man at the best of times. On Sunday night, after Sri Lanka had won the Asia Cup 2022 final, the hope in his words, however, struck a note of misplaced optimism.
No team had won after losing the toss in Dubai at the tournament before the final. Sri Lanka did it despite slipping to 58 for 5. It was their only win batting first in the competition after four back-to-back chases.
Pakistan coach Saqlain Mushtaq (Photo: ANI)
Pakistan coach Saqlain Mushtaq (Photo: ANI)

Saqlain Mushtaq Defended Mohammad Rizwan For Poor Strike Rate And Babar Azam’s Poor T20I Form

Mohammad Rizwan(55 off 49 balls) and Iftikhar Ahmed (32 off 31 balls) added 71 runs for the third wicket in almost 10 overs as Sri Lanka kept mounting the pressure by bowling tidily in the middle overs.

Mohammad Rizwan was dismissed in the 17th over, and by then, the game had slipped through Pakistan’s hand. They needed 61 runs in the last four overs with six wickets in hand.

“If you’re a champion team, you need to be a champion irrespective of whether it’s first innings or second innings,” Saqlain said at the press interaction.
“In the previous game, they asked us to bat first and won. In this game, we batted second and they still won. The way they played in both games, it’s well-deserved.”
That was nice and easy. But soon, the tougher – and perhaps very justified – questions came. Among them were querying about Mohammad Rizwan’s approach to T20I batting, Babar Azam’s T20I form, Pakistan’s top three, the muddled middle order, and much else.
Mohammad Rizwan top-scored for Pakistan in the final, but his strike rate of 112.24 ended up hurting them•Getty Images
Mohammad Rizwan top-scored for Pakistan in the final, but his strike rate of 112.24 ended up hurting them•Getty Images
On Sunday, Mohammad Rizwan made a battling 55 off 49, before being dismissed in the 17th over. By then, the general sense was that he had perhaps left Pakistan with a tad too much to achieve in the final four overs – they needed 61 with six wickets in hand.
The dismissals of Mohammad Rizwan, Asif Ali, and Khushdil Shah – all to Wanindu Hasaranga – all but meant curtains for Pakistan. The target was beyond them after that. Saqlain Mushtaq fielded the questions patiently and gave the answers with his own unique twist as he did with his doosra when he played.
“Every team and player has their own style and methods,” Saqlain Mushtaq said in Mohammad Rizwan’s defense.
“The way we played, we reached semi-finals of the T20 World Cup last year, we got to the final of an Asia Cup here. Evidence suggests you’re doing something right to get here,” Saqlain Mushtaq said.
“It’s not compulsory that you do what the rest of the world is doing [in terms of strike rates and showing more intent with the bat]. We’d rather focus on the small things we aren’t doing right instead of looking at what others are doing. His method is not bad,” Saqlain Mushtaq said.
“We played just nine overs of good cricket; after that they dominated for 31 overs in all aspects,” Saqlain Mushtaq said.
Babar Azam had a poor tournament. The 30 he made in a dead rubber against Sri Lanka prior to the final was his highest score in six outings. It didn’t seem to matter that Babar Azam had three consecutive half-centuries leading into the Asia Cup, in the ODIs against the Netherlands in Rotterdam.
“I said it earlier too if someone looks at his batting, you’d just say he’s unlucky, especially the way he’s getting out,” Saqlain said.
“It’s just a patch. If you look at the rankings, he’s top in T20Is [No. 2, behind Rizwan] and in ODIs. It’s just been bad luck. The way he’s training and playing it’s amazing. His work ethic is top-notch. I don’t need to say more. I hope Allah saves him from the evil eye.”
Next, Saqlain Mushtaq was asked if Pakistan were erring strategically by being rigid about opening with Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan, instead of trying to unsettle teams with a right-left combination with Fakhar Zaman opening with one of them.
“You need to show faith, trust and belief,” Saqlain Mushtaq said, seemingly running a little low on patience by this point.
“If you keep shuffling, it sends a message that you don’t trust them. After the second match itself, there was chatter about our batting shuffle. I don’t follow social media, but you do hear the murmurs. You need to give time. If you keep shuffling, how will you know? Whatever we did, it’s not good to shuffle a lot. It sends a wrong message,” Saqlain Mushtaq said.

Pakistan captain Babar Azam failed to make a mark in the title clash of the Asia Cup 2022 on Sunday, as he was dismissed on 5 of six deliveries against Sri Lanka in Dubai.

Babar Azam endured a poor outing in the continental tournament this year, as he scored only 68 runs in six innings averaging only 11.33 registering the best score of 30 against the same opponents in the Super 4 game.

Saqlain Mushtaq: Bhanuka Rajapaksa Played The Innings Of His Life In Asia Cup 2022 Final

When it came to Asia Cup 2022 winners Sri Lanka, though, there was magnanimity and praise, especially for the left-hand batter whose name he didn’t immediately recollect. But once prompted, he mentioned the name repeatedly: Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Saqlain Mushtaq felt, played the “innings of his life.”
Bhanuka Rajapaksa had breathed fire into a fumbling inning by making an unbeaten 41-ball 75, which helped lift Sri Lanka from a seemingly hopeless 58 for 5 in 8.5 overs. They finished with 170 for 6, which at the time seemed just about par, but also quite challenging considering the stage.
“They have been playing brilliant cricket; credit goes to all the boys. Looks like they are on top of the world. The way they played against India and got momentum against Afghanistan, a lot of praise for all of them. I’ll credit the Sri Lankans.” 
Bhanuka Rajapaksa
Bhanuka Rajapaksa. (Photo: Twitter)
” We’d broken their backbone in the first nine overs, but the way Rajapaksa played, and the others rallied around him, no praise is enough. I’m sure it should be the best innings of his life. The way he lifted them, hats off.”
Earlier, Sri Lanka middle order batter Bhanuka Rajapaksa hit an unbeaten 71 off 45 balls in Dubai and led Sri Lanka as it recovered from 58-5 to reach 170-6 in the final after Pakistan won the toss and elected to field. Pakistan crashed to 147 all out off the last ball as its top order continued to struggle against the pace with fast bowler Pramod Madushan claiming 4-34 in only his second T20I.