Pakistan’s Babar tipped as World Cup star in the making

In this undated file photo, Pakistan's star batsman Babar Azam can be seen playing an elegant shot against his rival team during the recent tournament. (AFP)
Updated 06 June 2019

Pakistan’s Babar tipped as World Cup star in the making

  • Pakistan will take on Sri Lanka in the next match
  • Babar is likely to hold the key to his team’s hopes of a successful campaign, says Pakistan batting coach

BRISTOL: Pakistan batting coach Grant Flower has tipped gifted youngster Babar Azam to emerge as one of the best batsmen at the World Cup.
Babar showed his vast potential by smashing 63 from 66 balls to lead the Pakistan assault as they piled on 348-8 in their shock win over tournament favorites England on Monday.
The 24-year-old has already made an impact since his debut in 2016, having scored 2,824 runs in 66 one-day internationals at an impressive average of 51.34.
But he can underline his qualities in front of a global audience if he continues to shine at the World Cup in England and Wales.
Flower believes Pakistan’s batting will continue to flourish after a nervy start in their World Cup opener against the West Indies.
Babar is likely to hold the key to their hopes of a successful campaign and, speaking ahead of Friday’s match against Sri Lanka in Bristol, Flower said: “Babar has come a long way. His game is improving all the time.
“He’s going to develop even more, close to being at the top of his game, he is really exciting and he is going to be one of the best players in the world.”
Pakistan were shot out for a paltry 105 against the West Indies last Friday, before a far much impressive effort against England at the same Trent Bridge venue.
Flower said the two contrasting performances showed Pakistan’s unpredictability and inconsistency.
“I would say it’s a bit of a both,” said Flower, who along with his elder brother Andy formed the backbone of the Zimbabwe team in 1990s.
“Yeah, we didn’t adapt well to the conditions against West Indies. Technically, we were a bit poor on the day. And I think there were a lot of nerves being the first World Cup match definitely.
“Then the guys got over that against England and they showed their proper skills and it was a true test of character. They came through with flying colors in the second game.”
Pakistan’s batsmen showed remarkable improvement in their recent series against England when they became the first team ever to post 340-plus totals in three consecutive ODIs.
But Flower has warned his players not to underestimate Sri Lanka, who like Pakistan, have lost and won a game in this World Cup.
“You have always got to be respectful and they have got good bowlers. And, hopefully, the weather stays away, it is a bit poor, the forecast,” he said, with Friday set for persistent rain throughout the day.


Australia can win basketball World Cup, says USA coach

Updated 22 August 2019

Australia can win basketball World Cup, says USA coach

MELBOURNE: United States coach Gregg Popovich has tipped Australia as a key contender at the upcoming basketball World Cup in China, saying they have the ability to win the tournament.
The veteran San Antonio Spurs mastermind offered the praise ahead of two warm-up games between the nations in Melbourne this week.
“They are one of the teams that can win the whole thing, without a doubt,” Popovich said. “I’m not saying that because I’m here (in Melbourne). It’s just a fact.”
The world number one Americans will try to win a third consecutive World Cup next month with a line-up that lacks many of their NBA superstars, with the likes of James Harden, Anthony Davis and Kawhi Leonard among notable absentees.
But they boast top young talent and will use the games in Australia to refine their identity.
They arrived in Melbourne on the back of a 90-81 victory over second-ranked Spain in Anaheim, California, and will play the Boomers later Thursday, then again Saturday before a final warm-up against Canada in Sydney on August 26.
In contrast to the five-time World Cup winners, Australia have never won a medal. But Popovich thinks this could be their year.
“They’ve been close for several years, and they are hungry. They are talented. Coach (Andrej) Lemanis does a good job, and they are a team,” he said on the USA basketball website.
“They are together. They know what they are doing. They execute really well, so that’s what it takes. They have the toughness and physicality to go with it.
“I think they are one of the top contenders without a doubt.”
While Australia boosts a handful of NBA stars, including Utah Jazz’s Joe Ingle and Patty Mills of the San Antonio Spurs, they suffered a setback on Monday when Jonah Bolden joined his teammate Ben Simmons in pulling out of the World Cup.
Other Australian NBA standouts not playing include Thon Maker (NBA commitments), Ryan Broekhoff (birth of his child) and Dante Exum (injury).