Best decision taken after discussion on team selection: Babar Azam

Published December 25, 2022
Cricket captain Babar Azam speaking to the media during a pre-series press conference on Sunday in Karachi. — Screengrab from video by PCB.
Cricket captain Babar Azam speaking to the media during a pre-series press conference on Sunday in Karachi. — Screengrab from video by PCB.

Pakistan cricket captain Babar Azam said on Sunday that a “debate” took place regarding the recent inclusion of three players for the upcoming Test series against New Zealand with the interim selection committee headed by former captain Shahid Afridi.

Afridi — in his first decision in his new role — had added three players to the team a day before, including pacers Mir Hamza and Shahnawaz Dahani and off-spinner Sajid Khan.

Responding to a reporter during a pre-series press conference in Karachi, Azam said that a discussion took place on their inclusion and they had a “debate about how to take this forward because he (Shahid Afridi) had his own mindset”.

“And then I gave my opinion and we decided what seemed the best to us,” he added as the team gears up to face the Kiwis after its first-ever Test series whitewash at home.

The skipper clarified that the final 11 players are not decided yet and will be decided after a meeting with the chief selector, who would be arriving soon.

Afridi had chaired a meeting of the selection committee which saw Azam join via a video link.

The committee chair had said, “We had a good discussion on the squad and agreed we needed to strengthen our bowling department to give ourselves the best chance of taking 20 wickets in a match.”

“I am confident [that] the inclusion of three additional bowling resources will give Babar Azam more options to field the best available squad for the first Test,” Afridi had opined.

The Pakistan Cricket Board appointed Afridi as the interim head of the men’s national selection committee for the home series against New Zealand yesterday.

Upcoming NZ series

Referring to the pitch for the upcoming series, Azam said, “The pitch seems to be quite good; you can say [it’s] similar to [the one in] Australia because you know, here, the wicket’s behaviour changes day by day.”

He opined, “The wicket definitely supports you but as a team, you have to play well too.”

To another question about the team’s strength, the captain said, “I think our batting is our strength because even in the last two […] but in patches, you have to perform lengthy batting in test matches [and] show passion as a batting unit.”

He asserted, “Hopefully, bowling will make a comeback as well because [right now,] there are injuries in our main bowling line.”

Responding to criticism

Asked about the strategy employed by the team under his guidance, Azam responded, “When you lose, definitely, there are things that go against you but I employ what I think is best [strategy].”

He explained, “It depends on the opposing team; [if] they’re playing a different type of cricket, then you cannot attack much. If we will attack and they’ll score, then you’ll say ‘why didn’t you defend’.”

The skipper remarked, “Sitting outside [the field], you think that we should have been defensive but I think the situation on the inside is different.”

He gave the example that even he thinks “this and that should have been done” but “till you are inside, you cannot feel that thing”.

Azam opined that the one inside the pitch can understand the situation better than those outside it, about what should be done in that particular scenario.

Responding to another question about the team selection for the England Test series, he asserted, “In my opinion, it was no mistake. The ones who we thought were the best 11, we made them play [and] I stand by that decision.”

The captain commented that as things are going against a person, they begin thinking “this should have been done, that player should have been included”, implying misplaced blame.

He assured the reporters, “As a captain, I have full confidence in myself and in my team that we will make a comeback soon.”

Azam — under scrutiny after losing an unprecedented four home Tests on the trot — had stated previously that he enjoyed the challenge.

“Captaincy is a matter of honour for me. I will do whatever best I can for my country and for myself,” he had said.

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