Babar eyes clean sweep against ‘dangerous’ WI in scorching Multan

LAHORE: While terming the extremely hot weather currently prevailing in Multan a challenge for the players during the forthcoming ODI series against West Indies, Pakistan skipper Babar Azam on Wednesday said he was targeting a clean sweep against the Caribbean side whom he called dangerous.

“Definitely it [hot weather] will be a challenge in Multan where we have played T20 games in the past. The present temperature there is 1-2 degrees higher than what we have in Lahore these days,” Babar said in a media interaction, organised by the Pakistan Cricket Board separately for print and electronic media on Wednesday, ahead of a three-day training camp starting in Lahore on Thursday.

“We have played in similar conditions in Dubai where the temperature sometimes touches 45 degrees Celsius. Being professionals, we have to manage things under such situations anywhere in the world. Therefore, we are well prepared [for the games in Multan],” the Pakistan skipper added.

“The West Indies also play under such hot weather conditions as their home temperatures generally remain around 40. Yes, they will get only a few days to acclimatize themselves to the local conditions but they must be having some plan to handle this situation. Therefore, I don’t think Pakistan will get any significant edge due to the hot weather factor,” said Babar under whose captaincy Pakistan have played 12 ODIs matches so far winning six and losing five while one ended in a tie.

Keeping the ICC World Cup Super League in mind, the 27-year-old batting sensation said he was aiming to sweep the West Indies series so that Pakistan could get maximum points.

“Definitely, as captain, I always wish to make clean sweep in every series and the target would be the same against the West Indies. However, their team is not easy to beat; they have some dangerous players who have the talent to upset any team on a given day,” the right-handed Babar, who has featured in 86 ODIs, maintained.

As captain, Babar said, he was fully satisfied with his team members who he said were taking responsibility and following the strategy adopted to dominate the game.

Regarding the pitches to be used for the ODIs in Multan, Babar said he could say something only after watching the tracks.

Commenting on the likely opening pair for the West Indies series, Babar said consistency in selection could be vital in building a strong team.

“Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq as openers are my first priority as both are in nice form, but we have a talented upcoming opener in Abdullah Shafique too,” the skipper remarked.

“I always try to field the best available XI because only consistency in selection can build our team. If we want to raise the world’s best team we have to give chances to [promising] players, rather than dropping them for one or two bad performances,” he said.

Building big partnerships and developing strong communication on the crease were the key areas in batting department, he said.

“With long partnerships, a team can push back the opponents as we did against a strong Australian team during the last home series.”

Babar welcomed back two spin all-rounders — his deputy Shadab Khan and Mohammad Nawaz — for the West Indies series after recovering from injuries. Both the players due to injuries missed the home series against Australia as well as some matches of the last HBL Pakistan Super League.

“Shadab and Nawaz are my main players and their absence disturbed our ODI combination. Both can bat at different positions effectively and I get confidence from the fact that they complete our batting and bowling departments,” the captain said.

“They have the talent to finish the game batting at number five and six. They way Nawaz did it against South Africa was impressive. Moreover, when your vice-captain makes a comeback it definitely gives you a lot of confidence,” Babar said.

Commenting on Iftikhar Ahmed whose batting has come under criticism, Babar while admitting he could not play a long innings due to having less number of overs, said the all-rounder had the potential to play with defence and aggression.

Babar negated the impression that Pakistan bowlers in death over were conceding too many runs.

“Pakistan have the best bowling attack for death overs. If we failed in a couple of [ODI] matches against Australia, there are many other games in which we bowled very effectively in the end,” the captain emphasised.

After arriving in Islamabad on June 6, the West Indies squad on the same day will proceed to Multan on a chartered flight.

The Pakistan squad after ending the camp in Lahore will leave for Multan on June 5.

The matches will be played on June 8, 10 and 12 with each game starting at 4:00pm.

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