Fakhar Zaman lauds Pakistan mindset change: 'We will play for 200-plus'

Can Kirsten get the best out of Babar? (1:29)

Osman Samiuddin joins the Switch Hit podcast to explain how the new Pakistan leadership can help free up Babar Azam in T20 cricket (1:29)

A chastening five-wicket loss to Ireland a fortnight ago has, according to Fakhar Zaman, pushed Pakistan to finally adopt a more attacking approach when batting first. Pakistan bounced back to win the series 2-1, but in both their wins chased down targets, a situation they are historically much better at.

As such the new mindset is only likely to be unveiled at some point over the next three T20Is against England, reigning T20I world champions and the side that has pushed hardest the limits of attacking white-ball batting over the last decade.

Pakistan go into Edgbaston on Saturday - after the first game at Headingley was washed out - on the back of a string of unconvincing performances and enhanced scrutiny on their top order when batting first. They drew a T20I series against a severely depleted New Zealand side at home before the series win against Ireland; in five out of 13 T20Is this year when Pakistan have batted first, they have made 158, 134, 178, 178 and 182.

Three of those have ended in defeat and the focus has fallen on the intent of their top order, in particular captain Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan.

"After we lost that first game against Ireland, after that the mindset that we made, the body language was very different," Fakhar said. "Nobody likes to lose, we understand that. But after that first match, the mindset that we have, if we continue that you will see a different side.

"We have meetings after every game and the mindset we have now is that our target batting first is to make 200 or 200-plus. I am talking about this mindset, that if we go into the World Cup with it… there's always talk about our batting, though the bowling is world class. What I'm saying is, our batting, the mindset that we have, and are batting with, you'll see we will play for 200-plus. You'll see the intent."

Central to that will be Babar, not so much whether he can score the runs but whether, as incoming coach Gary Kirsten said recently, he can be convinced to play with greater freedom.

Kirsten joined up with the Pakistan squad ahead of the England series and early impressions have been positive, though with the acknowledgment that it's too late for a big impact ahead of the T20 World Cup.

"Too many new coaches," Fakhar quipped when asked about Kirsten. "But Gary is such a great guy. He is new but we don't feel he is new because the day he arrived he gelled with the team. He likes to talk to everyone. He likes to hear our story, how we play cricket and his own culture. We're very excited to work with him.

"He hasn't had that much time but his mindset, the way he sits and talks with us like we're friends, I really liked that. The World Cup is so close, so I'm not going to listen to anyone right now [about his own batting]. If you tinker stuff with a tournament so close it's not easy. So I'm going to keep playing the way I am and then will work with him after that."

The emergence of Saim Ayub at the top has meant Fakhar batting at No. 4 this year, one spot lower than the position he had played for Pakistan since April 2021. Despite a poor PSL, his international numbers have been impressive: he averages 36 and is striking at nearly 155, as well as being good against spin in the middle overs.

"In cricket, if you're in form then you have to try and stretch that form out," he said. "Whether I make 10, 15 or 20, I want to make sure it helps the team, that it has impact. In the middle order, you get situations like you're batting in the 15th over, or the 2nd, so my role is to go hard and make it easier for others."