LAHORE    -   Top performing middle order batsman Babar Azam has said that Pakistan’s defeat against the West Indies deprived us of reaching the ICC World Cup 2019 semifinals.

Addressing the press conference along with opener Imam-ul-Haq here at Gaddafi Stadium on Tuesday, Babar Azam said: “This loss followed the team till our last group match and it was unfortunate that we out of last four on the basis of run rate despite being equal at points table with New Zealand with 11 points.

“We did well in the last four games and made a strong comeback by defeating New Zealand, South Africa, Afghanistan and Bangladesh prior to our morale boosting win over England, but it was not even enough to take us to the semifinals,” he added.

Babar accepted that he lost his wicket by playing a bad stroke in the match against Australia. “We should not have played in that manner against Australia and our shot selection was not up-to-the-mark.” But he was glad with his side’s performance against the hosts though. “England are one of the top-ranked teams but we performed really well against them,” he added.

About the rumours of grouping in the team, he dispelled the impression of grouping in the team. “There was no grouping in the team. When we lose a match, we start to hear about grouping in the team. We started hearing about grouping after the loss to India. It does not matter who the coach is, our job is to perform.”

When asked whether he is ready to take over the captaincy of the team, he replied: “It is Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) responsibility and the decision to appoint a captain and to whom they consider. My job is to play cricket and be a useful part of the team.” Replying to a query, he said the Pakistan 15-member squad, which took part in the World Cup did not include any ‘Railu Katta’ as all the players were selected based on their individual performance and talent.

Babar did not take a side on the debate that India may have thrown the England game on purpose to dent Pakistan’s semifinals chances. “We do not know if they lost on purpose or not. Only God knows that. We were only focused on winning our games.”

Opening batsman Imam-ul-Haq has asked the critics and fans to give the current team some time, reminding them that World Cup 2019 was the first for a majority of the team’s young members.

“Rohit Sharma scored five centuries; Shakib too was brilliant but this was our first World Cup. I am 24 and Babar Azam is the same. We need time and support. Rohit Sharma has played more than 200 ODIs, while Babar Azam has only played 60, 70 matches. So our comparison with them right now is a bit premature. It can’t happen that you’ve played 40 matches and are giving match-winning performances like Virat Kohli.

“They have made a lot of mistakes. At first, they too were not performing, the way they are now. Their system is so fantastic. Their openers have not been changed for the last three to four years, and their team is just the same. When that happens, performances come too. If we get the same backing from our media and people then we can do the same. Of course, if I repeat the same excuse after 150 matches, then that would be wrong,” he added.

He said he has learned a lot in the field and tries to stay positive despite the criticism he faces. “I try to set higher goals to perform better and deal with the challenges. Ups and downs are part of the game, and we should not be feeling disappointed from the result achieved in the world cup, we should try to move forward with a positive frame mind to continue our efforts to lift the overall performance of the team in future,” said the opener.

Defending the presence of chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq during England tour, he said: “Presence and absence of the chief selector on tour does not affect the team’s performance. Whenever he has accompanied the team, he has always motivated the team. You cannot blame the chief selector for the team’s chaotic and shambolic performance in the World Cup.” Imam described the World Cup as a ‘good experience’. “We won five out of nine matches. Unfortunately, we could not qualify for the semi-finals due to net run rate. Like the rest of the country, we are also very upset but this is sport. “The tournament was good for me but I wanted to contribute more but that’s life. Everyone learns from their mistakes, and I will too,” he added.

When asked after Inzamam is removed as chief selector, what will be his cricketing future, the opener said: “My future can neither be told by myself nor by you; my future has been decided by the Almighty. If he wishes, I’ll remain in the team. My job is to keep on performing and the rest is up to board.”

When asked about World Cup favourites, Imam picked one of ‘England and India’ before singling it down to the hosts. “I feel England are slight favourites.”