Pakistan unveils playing XI for Asia Cup opener against Nepal

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Pakistan has unveiled its playing XI for the inaugural Asia Cup match against Nepal, scheduled to be held tomorrow (Wednesday) at Multan Cricket Stadium in a Group-A face-off.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) shared the news via X, previously known as Twitter, stating, “Our playing XI for the first match of #AsiaCup2023.”

The chosen playing XI comprises Babar Azam (captain), Shadab Khan (vice-captain), Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Salman Ali Agha, Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Mohammad Nawaz, Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, and Haris Rauf.

Emphasizing the team’s attitude toward the competition, Pakistan’s skipper Babar Azam affirmed that they wouldn’t underestimate any rival team in the Asia Cup.

He stated, “We will maintain the winning momentum as we did in the series against Afghanistan in Sri Lanka.” Babar conveyed these sentiments during a press conference ahead of the opening Asia Cup encounter against Nepal.

Babar Azam acknowledged that the Pakistan team, which has recently reclaimed the number one position in the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) one-day international (ODI) rankings, had faced both criticism and praise. However, the team remains unwaveringly focused on cricket.

“When I assumed the captaincy, I aimed to shift the team’s mindset. Expectations from the public have grown, and we must meet them. My objective is to contribute to the team, and I have transcended individual considerations,” the skipper expressed.

Assessing the team’s form, Babar noted its current strong state, but he also mentioned the possibility of adjustments before the World Cup if necessary.

He added that it would have been ideal if the entire event had taken place in Pakistan, highlighting the significance of the match between Pakistan and India.

This match showcases several firsts, as Nepal as a team and Multan as a venue make their debuts in the continental tournament. Additionally, it marks the first-ever encounter between Pakistan and Nepal at this level.

Anticipation for the Wednesday clash at the picturesque Multan Cricket Stadium is building up, with both teams set to receive enthusiastic support from the cricket-loving Multan fans. The match will be preceded by a captivating opening ceremony and will commence at 2:30 pm.

Pakistan’s entry into the Asia Cup is accompanied by substantial momentum, as they presently hold the top spot in the ODI rankings. This marks the second occasion since April that the team has secured this position. Pakistan also boasts a remarkable win/loss ratio of 2.750, with 22 victories in 31 matches during this World Cup cycle.

Addressing the pressure of being the top-ranked side, Babar affirmed, “I wouldn’t label it as pressure. Instead, we approach this tournament with increased confidence. This team has dedicated substantial effort over the past few years, and attaining the top position attests to that. However, our mission isn’t complete; we aim to win both the Asia Cup and the World Cup. We have a competitive and exciting few months ahead, and we’re enthusiastic about delivering for our nation.”

“Every player in this squad is driven to win matches for their country and steps up when needed. They are consistently prepared to put in hard work and confront challenging situations. The recent months have been exceptional, and now we must capitalize on the momentum.”

Pakistan will travel to Sri Lanka on August 31 to face India in the second Group-A match on September 2 in Kandy. The venue will also host the final match of the group stage between India and Nepal on September 4.