‘It’s like home’: Babar Azam surprised by welcome in India for World Cup 2023

Babar Azam responding to questions during Captains Day media event in Ahmedabad, India on October 4, 2023. — X/@TheRealPCB
Babar Azam responding to questions during Captains’ Day media event in Ahmedabad, India on October 4, 2023. — X/@TheRealPCB

AHMEDABAD: Pakistan skipper Babar Azam said Wednesday his team “was not expecting” the warm reception they have received in India, claiming that it felt like being in home country.

Babar and Co landed in Hyderabad under tight security last week for two warm-up matches before they kickstart their tournament against the Netherlands at the same venue on Friday.

“I think the hospitality was nice — we were not expecting this, but I think the way people are responding towards our team, everyone enjoyed it,” Azam said during Captains’ Day media event in Ahmedabad on Wednesday.

Pakistan will take on India at Ahmedabad’s 132,000-capacity stadium on October 14.

“We are a week in Hyderabad so it is not like we are in India, it is like we are home. I think it’s a golden opportunity for everyone to give their 100% and enjoy the tournament.”

India and Pakistan are bitter adversaries with longstanding political tensions.

The teams only play cricket against each other in international tournaments.

Pakistan last toured India for the 2016 T20 World Cup and for nearly all the players it’s a first trip to Indian shores.

“The moment we landed in Hyderabad, the way people welcomed us from the airport to the hotel and even on the ground in the last (warm-up) match, we felt good,” said Azam.

But he added: “It would have been better if we had fans from our side. We will hope to get such support in every match, in every stadium, in every match.”

Many players at the World Cup have experience of Indian pitches due to their participation in the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Pakistan players are banned from taking part.

However, Babar does not see this as a disadvantage in their World Cup planning.

“There is no pressure at all. The (India) conditions are similar to Pakistan and Asia,” he said.

“It’s just that the boundaries are small here and the bowlers have little margin for error.

“It will big scoring and you will have to adapt to that. So we will have to play to the best of our ability and give our best shot.”

Azam said his team´s bowling, led by pace spearhead Shaheen Shah Afridi, remains their “strength”.

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