LAHORE: Pakistan One-day and T20 captain Babar Azam on Thursday said that though hosts England have a little edge over Pakistan due to their experienced outfit and home ground advantage, Pakistan is fully capable of giving them a tough time in both Tests and the T20I series since the visitors have a talented squad comprising a good blend of senior and junior players.
“First and foremost, we are only focusing on the Test series which is a big challenge indeed. And then we will move on to the T20Is where we will try to win all three matches in order to to regain our top ranking in the shortest version of the game,” said Babar while talking to journalists through a video-link from Worcester where Pakistan team is going through the quarantine period of 14 days and have also started practice sessions under strict SOPs due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Yes, after I took over as captain in the T20s, Pakistan’s ranking slipped from top to fifth as we tested some new players against Sri Lanka and Australia,” admitted Babar. “But now a fine team with a blend of youth and seniors is here in England and we will try to win all the three T20 games to regain our top ranking,’’he said.
Babar said the local weather conditions and the use of Duke balls in England were in favour of the home team but Pakistan will try its best to repeat the performances it had produced on the last two tours to England in 2016 and 2018.
“Our main target is to set a good total on the scoreboard which will boost our bowlers and will help us to put pressure on England. For that purpose our batsmen have to perform really well and with confidence,” said Babar who has so far excelled in all the three formats of the game around the world. He has fantastic averages of 45.1 in Tests, 54.2 in ODIs and 50.7 in T20 cricket.
It may be mentioned here that Babar has played 26 Test matches and is just 150 runs away from completing 2000 runs.
The dashing right-hander further said that all the cricketers are in good shape and looking fit and are not facing too many problems in adjusting with the new conditions made mandatory due to Covid-19 situation.
To a question Babar said he valued those performance which benefited the team and not just his own career. “I feel that any good individual performance which may not bring victory for the team is quite useless,” he said.
He observed that while some former Pakistani cricketers were not too hopeful about a good show from Pakistan against England on this tour, his team was in a position to give very tough time to the hosts in both Tests and T20s.
He said though England team had established bowlers, the way Nasim Shah, Mohammad Abbas and Shaheen Afridi were bowling and had improved on their variety, they were fully capable of surprising England batsmen.
“Though England would have an edge in the series against us as they would be in the groove after playing the Tests against the West Indies. But I feel Pakistan would also be in a good position and will be watching them closely to work out an effective strategy against them.”
He said head coach Misbah-ul-Haq and batting coach Younis Khan were helping the batsmen by giving them fine tips for the upcoming series.
To a question as to how he was feeling about the practice sessions being held under a new environment due to Covid-19 and with no fans around, Babar said: “Yes, in England, Pakistani players have a good fan following and usually a lot of fans are present even during net practice and asking for autographs and selfies which could be good for the team’s confidence. However, these things are not being witnessed on this tour and we are surely missing them.”
“There is also a change in team culture as we can’t go outside and during practice we have to keep a distance from each other. But with the passage of time the players will get used to the new conditions. As it is, the players are trying to stay upbeat and are spending time with each other and playing different games to keep our spirits up,” said Babar.
Babar went on to add that whenever required, he would take advice from senior players like Sarfaraz Ahmad and others which has been the practice in the past as well. He said Sarfaraz had good experience of playing in England so his presence in the dressing room would be helpful.
Babar said though England had good bowling line up like Stuart Broad, Jofra Archer, James Anderson, he is not daunted by that and believes in playing every ball on its merit.
Commenting on repeated comparison with India’s Virat Kohli, Babar said he would feel proud if people compared him with great Pakistani cricketers like Javed Miandad, Inzamam-ul-Haq and others.
Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2020