Brampton captain says ‘anything is possible’ in Canada’s T20 World Cup match against Pakistan

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Published June 11, 2024 at 10:42 am

Canada's Saad Bin Zafar reaches down to field the ball during the men's T20 World Cup cricket match between the United States and Canada at Grand Prairie Stadium, in Grand Prairie, Texas, Saturday, June 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Canada is up against a motivated Pakistan squad as they meet at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in suburban New York on Tuesday.

Winless after two games at the 20-country cricket tournament, the sixth-ranked Pakistanis need to beat No. 23 Canada and No. 11 Ireland and get help elsewhere if they are to progress to the Super-8 stage.

Canada, meanwhile, is buoyed by its first-ever T20 World Cup win — a 12-run victory over Ireland on Friday that followed a seven-wicket loss to the 18th-ranked U.S. in the tournament opener June 1.

“Everybody’s in a positive mood … Our last game went really well,” said Canada captain and Brampton’s own Saad Bin Zafar. “It instilled a belief in us that if we play good cricket on the day, we can take down any opponent.

“I know that we are coming up against quite a high-ranked and well-experienced team in Pakistan but the reality is lately they haven’t been playing the good brand of cricket that they’re known for. They are under the pump. They have lost two games. So if we’re able to play good cricket on the day and we’re able to put some good pressure early on in the game, anything is possible.”

The emotions are far different in cricket-crazy Pakistan, with Canada taking them on Tuesday.

Pakistan, which won the T20 World Cup in 2009 and was runner-up to England in 2022, is getting roasted back home in the wake of losses to the U.S. (by five runs in a Super Over) and No. 1 India (by six runs Sunday).

Pakistan “choked” in the loss to India was the assessment of Dawn, a Pakistani English-language newspaper that has called it ‘a horrendous T20 World Cup for Pakistan.”

“I think I should have a template text ‘Disappointed & hurt’ automatically set to be posted,” Shoaib Akhtar, a former Pakistani international bowler and current commentator, said in a social media post after the India defeat.

The vitriol started after the upset loss to the U.S.

“This is not just a defeat, it is a sorry statement on the mental strength of our players,” said Mohsin Khan, a former Pakistan batsman, selector and interim coach.

The India-Pakistan game drew a crowd of 34,028 to Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in suburban New York and a massive worldwide audience. The last meeting between the two cricket rivals last fall drew a reported global audience of 398 million in India alone.

The Canada-Ireland game drew an announced crowd of 5,153 to the same venue. With the temporary Nassau County stadium lacking floodlights, the Canada-Pakistan game there will be another 10:30 a.m. ET start (which is 7:30 p.m. in Karachi).

For the Canadians, who are staying in Brooklyn, just getting to the stadium takes 90 minutes to two hours. Zafar says the team will leave the hotel around 7 a.m. Tuesday.

It’s a journey they have long waited for, however. Canada-Pakistan games are rare and usually restricted to world championships.

“One of the reasons why we so dearly wanted to qualify for the World Cup was so that we get an opportunity to play against some of these top-tier teams.” said Zafar.

In 50-over play, Canada lost to Pakistan by 46 runs at the 2011 ICC World Cup and eight wickets at the 1979 World Cup. Pakistan won by 35 runs when they met in 2008 in a T20 match in King City, Ont.

And while Zafar has Pakistan heritage, the 37-year-old from Brampton says Tuesday’s match is all about wearing Canadian colours.

“I was born in Pakistan so that element is there but at the end of the day I’m Canadian and I’m proud to represent Canada and proud to lead Canada,” said Zafar, who came to Canada at 17.

“I just want to go and beat them as I badly as I would want to go and beat any other opponents playing for Canada,” he added.

Zafar and Canada head to Florida after Tuesday’s match to face India at Central Broward Park & Broward County Stadium in Lauderhill.

Zafar, who made his Canadian debut in 2008, says the attention Canada has already garnered on the world stage has been gratifying.

“It’s been watched by a massive audience from all over the world … There are legends of the game who are now doing technical analysis and reviews of the game. And then you see them speaking about Canadian cricket and how well we’ve played in the past two games. It’s a surreal feeling for some of us that some of our heroes are talking and commenting about our games.

“It has been an amazing, joyful experience so far. And we hope to make more memories in the next two games as well.”

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