Don’t bring players’ families into criticism – Wahab

Pakistan know that defeat to South Africa on Sunday is virtually not an option if they are to stem the backlash the team are facing at home after their defeat to India. Ever since the loss, speculation in Pakistan has been rife once again of factionalism within the side and of deteriorating support for the captain Sarfaraz Ahmed.

That was rubbished by Mohammad Hafeez on Thursday and on Friday one of their most resolute World Cup performers, left-arm paceman Wahab Riaz, turned up at Lord’s to remind fans that, “none of us like the fact that we lost to India, we feel very strongly at having disappointed people, I’d say we are more hurt and disappointed than people back at home.”

When asked whether the public disappointment to the defeat had affected the team, Wahab said “there is demoralisation when they are personal attacks on us in the media. Criticise us, criticise our performances and we will accept it because we want to do perform better.” He said that what bothered players was when the criticism of the players involved their families as it has in the case of Shoaib Malik. “I think if people stay away from getting our families into it and focus on our game, that’s more important.”

Wahab is in his third World Cup, one of the team’s more experienced players, and said that the team has found a way to band together to prepare for the South Africa match. “The players are each other’s strength. When we speak to people at home, they tell us why did you do this, if you’d done that, you’d have done better. So as a team we know we can lift each other up more than what even our families can do.”

He reminded the public back home that “Pakistan plays better under pressure and inshallah, we will quality for the finals and semi-finals.” Accepting that the team’s progress in the competition was beyond their direct results, Wahab said, “Our focus is on beating South Africa, and we know we shouldn’t get ahead or think about the future. We need to go one by one on what do every day. On what we do in the now and not what is happening elsewhere. We shouldn’t be thinking about the future beyond the one by one. Everything one by one.”

He did say that he thought the Pakistan team had “more talent” than the South Africans despite the quality of the opposition bowling. “But execution of skills is everything,” he added. “They have failed in that aspect as well like we did, we had matches we could have won. In this match it depends on who handles pressure better and plays better. They will win.”

The team had spoken about their cricket and their mistakes in past matches “openly.” “Good teams are those that discuss and talk about their mistakes openly to each other and we’ve done that. Inshallah we will make up for our mistakes.”

The “small things”, Wahab said, was keeping control of their innings with the bat and taking early wickets with the ball. Pakistan conceded more than 130 runs before taking a wicket in their defeats to Australia and India. Against Australia, he said, “it was a 260-270 wicket [Australia scored 307] and we didn’t bowl well at the start. In England it is important to strike with the new ball. If you take wickets up front it affects that batting team. If you don’t…this a high scoring World Cup.”

The match against India, where Pakistan conceded 336 he said was “a pressure game and every player feels it. But we didn’t play as well as we can. We didn’t play as good as we are. And we need to play better. We were in very good positions with our batting against Australia and then we gave it away. We did the same against India. We will need to do the small things better and we need to be in control of those. We need to play our A game throughout.”

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