KARACHI: In his first game as captain of Peshawar Zalmi, Babar Azam will be up against the side he’s played for in the past six editions of the HBL Pakistan Super League.
With the batting superstar set to come up against Karachi Kings’ Mohammad Amir and Imad Wasim, two players who have been out of the national team fold during Babar’s time as Pakistan’s all-format skipper, it has added greater intrigue to the season-opener for both sides at the National Stadium on Tuesday.
“For six years, I’ve been playing for Kings but now I’m looking forward to playing for Zalmi and leading them in the best possible way,” Babar, who replaced Wahab Riaz as the leader of the side, told reporters. “It’s my first year with Zalmi and I want to play well for them.”
On the fact that he will be coming up against former team-mate Amir, who is looking towards a strong performance in the PSL to force his way back into the national side after his differences with the previous Pakistan Cricket Board setup, Babar said he will try to do the basics right.
“There is a lot of competition in the PSL with each team having quality bowlers,” said Babar. “I have played against bowlers from every other side in the PSL apart from Kings. The plan is to do the basics right and keep things simple. I’ll try to play to my strengths.”
Babar has been seen busy practising in the nets in the buildup to the PSL even at times when there isn’t a scheduled training session for Zalmi. “I’ve been trying new things … with modern day cricket, you have to practice new shots,” he said.
A glimpse of things he’s been trying could come against the Kings, who Babar inspired to the PSL title in 2020. References of his contributions were heavy during the press conference with Kings captain Imad Wasim later on Monday.
“Players come and go but in the end it’s about the team, which can be formed by new players as well,” Imad, who returns as Kings captain after Babar’s departure, told reporters.
“Of course there was a big contribution from Babar in helping us win the PSL and his services for us have been great. But life is about moving on. If he wants to come back, it’s between him and the owner. We have players who can go out there and fight for the team.”
Under Babar’s captaincy, the Kings had a disastrous campaign last season, losing nine out of 10 matches to finish bottom of the pile.
Babar’s style of leadership has been under sharp focus for the national team with critics laying into the Pakistan captain for his defensive mindset.
Imad tried his best to swat away rumours of discord between him and Babar but said that his style of captaincy “is a bit more aggressive.”
“I’ve always empahsised the we need to play T20 cricket like it’s played around the world,” he said. “It’s all about the mindest. My experience of playing [in T20 leagues around the world] suggests that you should always play positive cricket.”
Published in Dawn, February 14th, 2023
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