Babar vows no letting up as Pakistan strive for improvement

Published May 7, 2021
Babar Azam walks back after being dismissed by Keshav Maharaj during the third day of the 2nd Test between Pakistan and South Africa in Rawalpindi on February 6, 2021. — AFP/File
Babar Azam walks back after being dismissed by Keshav Maharaj during the third day of the 2nd Test between Pakistan and South Africa in Rawalpindi on February 6, 2021. — AFP/File

KARACHI: After last week’s lop-sided opening Test, during which Pakistan completed their first innings victory over Zimbabwe while needing less than three days of playing time, skipper Babar Azam said on Thursday that winning is a great habit and as captain he expects no loose ends.

Addressing a virtual media conference from Harare on eve of the second Test, Babar promised no letting up while announcing a 13-man squad that includes uncapped pair of fast bowlers Tabish Khan and Haris Rauf besides the entire playing eleven that was on duty during the innings and 116-run victory in the first Test.

“Look, I think we are now beginning to get the results going our way after a spate of heartbreaking moments. To be rated among the best, one have to keep winning regularly,” said Babar, who is the first Pakistan captain to win all of his opening three Tests. “It was a total team effort in the first Test. Hasan [Ali and Fawad [Alam} played the lead roles while there were good performances from Shaheen [Shah Afridi] and Imran [Butt] as well as Abid [Ali].

“I’ve no complaints there but success breeds success, it is imperative that Pakistan built on this habit to challenge the top-ranked teams across all formats. But gradually we are working towards that goal, although there are issues pertaining to our middle-order batting in white-ball cricket — something I’ve already mentioned in the media recently.”

Reminiscing the 2020-2021 international season, Babar, who was dismissed for his first golden duck in Test cricket at Harare last week, expressed satisfaction while recalling the tough New Zealand tour where he was sidelined by a finger injury and missed both the Twenty20 International and the two-match Test series.

“It was a big dent, the New Zealand tour. But credit to the guys who have since been on a roll. It was a moment of sheer joy to be part of Pakistan cricketing history [defeating South Africa in more than one Test of a series for the first time],” Babar said of the series early in the year as Pakistan defeated Quinton de Kock-led South Africa in both Tests — at Karachi and Rawalpindi — before sealing a 2-1 success in the T20 rubber.

“The best part of our journey is being able to win both the ODI and T20 series in South Africa and then defeating Zimbabwe in the T20s and the first Test. Obviously, as captain one can’t expect more from your players,” Babar said. “Fawad and Hasan have been phenomenal since their comeback to international cricket. Fawad is showing what experience is all about and Hasan is certainly growing in stature with every match and knows what exactly is required from him. Shaheen is also bowling well and is at the top of his game.”

Asked whether Tabish, who at 36 is still waiting to win his maiden Pakistan cap despite picking up a mountain of wickets — 598 in 137 first-class appearances at 24.29 — is in the frame to make his Test debut on Friday, Babar remarked: “If he’s in the 13 for the upcoming match then definitely he is under consideration along with Haris Rauf. Everything would hinge on how we assess the pitch and the weather before deciding on the final XI tomorrow [Friday] morning.”

Published in Dawn, May 7th, 2021

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