LAHORE: Pakistan’s newly-appointed One-day International captain Babar Azam on Monday stated that he wants to be an attacking captain like Imran Khan while playing in empty stadiums is nothing new for him since he experienced such conditions for several years when playing at neutral venues of the UAE.
In a video conference held on Monday, Babar — who has been recently elevated as Pakistan’s ODI captain — while replying to a question said that two of the country’s most successful captains have been Imran Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq and both had different styles. However, when asked which one of the two he would like to emulate as skipper, Babar said: “I want to be an attacking captain, that is what I have learnt. I will follow Imran Khan’s aggressive style as captain.”
It may be mentioned here that while Imran has been a widely celebrated captain of Pakistan, known for his bold leadership, his track record as captain in Test cricket is not extraordinary. He captained Pakistan in 48 Tests, winning 14, losing 8 with 26 ending in draw.
On the other hand, Misbah, despite being considered as a defensive captain, led Pakistan in 56 test, winning 26, losing 19 and playing only 11 draws.
To a question that his quiet personality gives the impression that he is being dominated by head coach-cum-chief selector Misbah, Babar said:”I try to take my own decisions. Yes, if Misbah has any better idea he sends a message to me, but in the ground it is my authority to take decisions.
“As a captain you should be a cool-minded person,” added Babar. “You may be angry at times with a player (during the match) for poor fielding or anything, but you must not show your emotions or reactions openly because that is not a proper thing to do by a team leader.”
Commenting on Pakistan’s upcoming tour of England for three Tests and as many T20s which could be played under special arrangements including empty stadiums due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Babar said: “Cricket without spectators is nothing new for Pakistan team as we have lot of experience in playing in such conditions at the neutral venues of Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the UAE where most of the time stadiums were empty.
“But I think it will be a challenge for the other countries as it will be the first time for them to play in empty stadiums,” said Babar.
“Overall, I have this fear that cricket without spectators may lose its charm and the transformation of the game into next generation will be severely hampered if the parents do not take their children to the stadium to see cricket matches first hand,” he observed.
Babar expressed hope that the PCB would ensure hundred per cent safety and security of the players before giving a final nod to the ECB for the upcoming tour. He said the PCB was in best position to take any decision about the tour of England.
“Holding of the matches has no value as compared to the risk of life to the players. But the PCB is making sincere efforts and I believe safety and security of the players will be its first priority,” he said.
Babar, a prolific and stylish batsman who is rated among the best in the world, did not agree with the notion that his batting could be affected due to extra pressures of captaincy.
“I love to accept challenges and I will deal with this new challenge too,” he replied confidently. “It is quite simple; when you are batting you must be focusing fully on it and when you are going to take any decision as skipper you must be focused on that,” he stated.
“For a successful captain, full support of his team members is essential and I will try to gain that by giving all of them proper chances on merit.”
Babar thanked the PCB for appointing him captain for the two formats and added that his first priority would be to bring Pakistan among the top three positions in all the three formats. Currently, Pakistan is struggling at the 7th place in Tests, at 6th position in the ODIs and recently slipped to number four in the T20 rankings.
To a question about the future of discarded wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal, Babar said Rizwan Ahmad was the first choice keeper while ex-skipper Sarfraz Ahmad was the next choice. “Rizwan has also scored century in Australia, so he deserves to be retained in the team,” said Babar.
He expressed hope that the upcoming ICC T20 World Cup is held as per schedule in Australia in Oct-Nov this year. “It will be the first T20 World Cup of my career as a player and as captain, so I am really keen for it to go ahead on schedule.”
To a question, Babar said he should not be compared with India’s prime batsman and captain Virat Kohli as they were different type of players. He said he used to bowl also but due to chucking problem he had to give up bowling. “However, I will try and remove that problem to be more useful for the team.”
Speaking about pacers Mohamamd Amir and Wahab Riaz losing central contracts, Babar said it did not mean they would not be selected again as both are very much part of the team’s strategy in limited over games
He admitted that the Pakistan team lacked big stars but gradually the national team will raise its graph to become an established limited overs format outfit.
Babar averages a healthy 54.20 in 74 ODIs while in T20, he has an average of 50.7 after 38 matches. In the 26 Tests that he has featured in, Babar averages 45 which makes him among the top three players in the world.
Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2020