Shadab Khan insists Pakistan can pull off 'miracle' and reach World Cup semi-finals

Struggling side face in-form South Africa in must-win game on Friday

Pakistan's Shadab Khan plays a shot during the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup match between Pakistan and Afghanistan in Chennai. AP
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All-rounder Shadab Khan says misfiring Pakistan can still qualify for the World Cup semi-finals, insisting that "miracles happen" in cricket.

After starting strongly with wins over the Netherlands and Sri Lanka, the 1992 champions were soundly beaten by India and Australia before being humbled by neighbours Afghanistan.

They will likely now need to win all their remaining pool games, starting with a clash against big-hitting South Africa in Chennai on Friday.

"We have under-performed in all three departments – batting, bowling and fielding," admitted Shadab. "We have not played good cricket but have bounced back from such situations."

With four group games remaining, Pakistan can still make the semi-finals but there is no margin for error.

But on top of needing results - and fast - they'll also likely need to improve their poor net run rate, which could yet prove pivotal in deciding the final four.

"If you have belief, miracles happen," added Shadab, vice-captain to skipper Babar Azam. "We have not played like we were playing before the World Cup but from tomorrow we have to start a winning streak. When you are in a do-or-die position then I think the pressure is less because you have nothing to lose."

Pakistan have found themselves under heavy fire from a critical domestic media, scathing former players and a disgruntled fanbase following their shock eight-wicket loss to the Afghans.

The noise grew so loud, the Pakistan Cricket Board on Thursday released a statement asking for everyone to get behind the team, but offering no guarantees to skipper Azam and those in positions of power above him.

"The PCB acknowledges the emotions and sentiments of cricket fans following the three consecutive defeats faced by the national team in the ICC World Cup 2023," the statement read. "In this challenging environment, the board administration hopes that the cricketing fraternity and fans will continue to support captain Babar Azam and the entire Pakistan cricket team.

"Addressing the media scrutiny directed at captain Babar Azam and the team management, the board's stance, echoing that of former cricketers, is that successes and defeats are part of the game. Captain Babar Azam and Chief Selector Inzamam-ul-Haq were given freedom and support in forming the squad for the ICC World Cup 2023.

"Looking ahead, the board will make decisions in the best interest of Pakistan cricket based on the team's performances in the World Cup."

Shadab insists victory over the South Africans will change the conversation.

"I always tell the players that if you are going to a tournament like this, you have to cut off from the social media," said Shadab.

"If you perform then everyone says that 'he is doing so well', but when you are not performing then the same people will say 'he is not good enough'."

He added: "It's the mentality that when someone is not in the team, then they are the best and when someone is in the team they are the worst."

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Updated: October 26, 2023, 2:38 PM