Fakhar on his fantastic comeback: 'I did not rest'

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Fakhar Zaman was reflective after an intense chase in rainy Bengaluru on Saturday that kept Pakistan’s World Cup hopes in doubt. He had the feeling of being a deep thinker who adheres to his methods and those who have helped him on his path to redemption, through thick and thin. There was also palpable relief.

“At this level there are always ups and downs,” he said after his century. “The Asian Cup didn’t go well for me. Did I have a maximum of 30? [27]. It wasn’t a good time. I went to Peshawar to work with Aftab Khan. [Pakistan’s fielding coach] in his academy. He had pointed out my weakness against side effects. “He was an outcast, so I worked with him a lot.”

When Fakhar made three consecutive ODI hundreds against New Zealand in April, including a 180 not out that helped seal Pakistan’s second-highest ODI chase, it seemed inconceivable that he would have to wait his turn to return to the team if he chose injury or an inconvenience on the way.

However, as Fakhar went through a series of low scores in the run-up to the World Cup (11 innings without a half-century), there was increasing pressure on him to break out of a rut that became much more magnified with every step. day.

If the pressure of performance was tough enough to cope with, Fakhar injured his knee while training for a match ahead of the 2023 World Cup. It meant two weeks out. Fakhar kept faith in her abilities and has now racked up scores of 81 and 126* in two match-winning performances that have kept Pakistan alive.

“Every player who plays says ‘I did this, I did that.’ But when he had free time [after the Asia Cup]”I didn’t rest,” Fakhar said. “I was home only for two days and then I went straight to Peshawar for training. I want to dedicate this performance to Aftab Khan.”

Fakhar was a little emotional at the time, but he wasn’t being generic in praising his coaches because he had to. There seemed to be a genuine feeling of gratitude and warmth that came from the acceptance that he had some areas to work on.

“The things he’s shared with me, the time he’s given me… not many people give you that kind of dedication. You need people like that. When performances happen, you see the hard work. When you don’t do it, you don’t see it. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t tried.”

Fakhar then explained Pakistan’s methods of trying to reduce New Zealand’s 402. They decided to “play properly” for the first four overs and then take the attack to the bowlers. It is within these four overs that he and Babar Azam decided to step up and “be ahead of the target at all times”.

“The wicket was very good, there was no spin, nothing,” Fakhar said. “The rain was in the back of our minds. We knew [of the forecast] from yesterday. That’s why after 15 overs, [Babar and himself] He sent a message to the management to give us the target of 20 overs.

“We wanted to try to fix it [in those five overs]. At this level, planning is important. Otherwise, it’s difficult. We had planned this. So when we had 10 races ahead, around the 20th, we played [Trent] Boult because we knew we were way ahead.”

Fakhar praised the team management for showing “positivity at all times” even as they entered a downward spiral after two early wins. Now there is confidence in the field. And there’s a sense of “rhythm” that he says has the potential to get them going. Of course, with some luck with some other results.

“The good thing about the management of this team is that they are always positive, they never show us that we are out of it, they support each and every player,” Fakhar said. “We believe we can reach the semi-finals, maybe even the final. We will follow the match between Sri Lanka and New Zealand closely. We are hopeful.”

Shashank Kishore is Senior Deputy Editor at ESPNcricinfo