All is not well in the Pakistan dressing room, at least if words of reports from the neighbouring country are believed to be true. The Babar Azam-led side looked destined to make the Asia Cup 2023 final, and hand world cricket the most-anticipated multi-nation event summit clash, against India. But the wait continued as Pakistan were denied a spot in the final after defending champions Sri Lanka eked out a thriller of a win in a rain-marred 42-over encounter in the Super Four stage. Pakistan, who had made the final last year, hence finished bottom in the points table of the Super Four stage, having earlier had their hopes crushed by India in Colombo, also in a rain-interrupted game, which had gone into a reserve day.
With India through to the final after wins against Pakistan and Sri Lanka and Bangladesh having suffered twin losses, the Asia Cup Super Four had produced a virtual semi-final between Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Mohammad Rizwan‘s 87 and Iftikhar Ahmed’s 40-ball 47 helped the two-time champions finish with 252 runs for seven wickets in 42 overs. In response, Sri Lanka lost both their openers courtesy of a stunning fielding effort from Shadab Khan before a century stand for the fourth wicket between Kusal Mendis and Sadeera Samarawickrama left Pakistan frustrated.
Iftikhar eventually broke the stand, before dismissing both Mendis and Dasun Shanaka. Sri Lanka once again bounced back before Shaheen Afridi shifted the momentum yet again with two wickets in the penultimate over. The final over responsibility fell on Zaman Khan. Although Pakistan picked up an eighth wicket in that over, Charith Asalanka, en route to his unbeaten 49, guided Sri Lanka to the final, thus knocking Pakistan out of the contest.
Following the shocking exit from Asia Cup, reports on Samaa TV and Bol News emerged that Babar had lost his cool in his dressing room chat with the team, where he had called out players for their poor performances while saying that “Pakistan never looked like the No.1 ranked ODI side against Sri Lanka”.
The Pakistan skipper also reportedly warned the players saying, “Zyada superstar na bane (Stop thing yourselves to be superstars). If you lose the World Cup no one will consider you a superstar.” The report further added that Shaheen Afridi then interrupted Babar urging him to at leat appreciate the performance of the players, but the captain remained unfazed and urged players to refocus on their performance with the World Cup around. This was followed by some of the senior players in Mohammad Rizwan calming down Babar before the players left for the team hotel.
Pakistan are slated to regroup shortly for the ODI World Cup in India with their campaign starting against qualifier Netherlands on October 6 at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad before they take on Sri Lanka on October 10 and India on October 14.