who hit a 34-ball 51 against India, said after clasping together in front of his head while listening intently to Babar.
“The captain and the management have supported us. Our morale is high and we are confident as always.”
Even though spirits were lifted, the pain over such a defeat in an instant classic between great rivals that will be forever remembered, gnaws away.
“It always hurts you a bit after losing such a big match. We can’t pretend that nothing happened… no, it really hurts,” Iftikhar said. “After all, we are representing more than 200 to 250 million people here. Therefore, we are all feeling the pain and are hurting.”
It looms as a major challenge, but Pakistan will need to regroup quickly against Zimbabwe on Thursday. The sunny skies in Perth to greet Pakistan would have surely provided a tonic, after so much weather innuendo in Melbourne, and so too stepping onto Optus Stadium, which mirrors the nearby WACA with its bounce and pace while swing on the green-tinged pitch has been notable with the new ball.
“Haris is our main strike bowler and we expect him to bowl better here and win it for Pakistan,” Iftikhar said. “The Australian pitches are fast and bouncy and we have prepared for that.”
After Pakistan were rattled early by menacing movement, which almost resembled something out of a Shield match, from India quicks Arshdeep Singh and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Iftikhar steadied the innings by cleverly utilising the gaps on the vast MCG before being inventive against left-arm spinner Axar Patel.
“People say I don’t play sweep and reverse, so I am also trying to master these shots. Sweep and reverse sweep will be key shots on these pitches because of the bounce here,” he said.
“My role in the team is to stay long at the crease after we lose a wicket. My role is to take stock and then attack. When you get runs against big teams then it raises your morale and I will take this confidence forward.
“Every match is a new game and the effort will be to give my 100% for the team.”
Pakistan’s heartbreaking opening defeat has put them – even at this early stage – on the back foot, meaning there is little room left for error if they are to make the semi-finals again.
“Zimbabwe is an international team and we have to play strong against them like any other team,” Iftikhar said. “Important to play well…the players are hungry to perform.
“We are trying to prepare for the next game, come back strong and remain in contention for this World Cup.”
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