LAHORE: While announcing to try various team combinations in the lead-up to this year’s T20 World Cup, Pakistan skipper Babar Azam said he wants to raise an inspiring national squad which can leave behind a rich legacy during the next 10 to 15 years.
“We have a hectic international schedule this year during which we will test different combinations as part of our preparations for the T20 World Cup in order to field the best team,” Babar told Dawn in an exclusive interview on Tuesday.
The right-handed batting sensation has a dream for the World Cup, scheduled to be held in Australia during October-November.
“When I was made [T20] captain [in 2019] my dream was to prepare a team which could brighten the name of Pakistan for many years to come. When I leave cricket I want to give my country a rich legacy which can serve Pakistan cricket for the next 10-15 years,” said the 27-year-old Babar, who as a world-class batter has broken a number of world records during his illustrious international career spanning around seven years.
Developing a team having inspiration requires certain characters, the captain said.
“To build an inspiring team you need characters [players] who with their 100 per cent performance can win matches for Pakistan, and leave no stone unturned to achieve that goal,” he maintained.
“However, finding such characters is not easy as there are different people of different characters; taking the best out of them is the captain’s task and for that players should be accorded a comfortable level. This I do to get match-winning performances from them,” said Babar, who made a glorious Test match-saving knock of 196 against Australia in Karachi earlier this year.
Commenting on the Pakistan team, the captain said they had started challenging their rivals adding the way the green-shirts defeated archrivals India at last year’s T20 World Cup where hard-hitting Shoaib Malik and Asif Ali helped the team snatch victories shows they had gained higher level of confidence.
“And the way we fought against a tough opponent like Australia [in the semi-final] is also a positive,” he underlined.
Speaking on Pakistan’s last home series against Australia staged earlier this year, Babar termed it memorable and historic featuring outstanding cricket from both the teams.
On how he quickly returned to form for the Australia series after experiencing a lean patch, both as Karachi Kings captain and batter in the HBL PSL-2022 which ended just a few days before the start of that series, Babar said look-ahead approach was the key.
“I always try to forget the past and focus on what is coming, and thank God I recovered quickly against Australia.”
Australia in the said series won the three-Test rubber 1-0 and the one-off T20 International while the three-game ODI contest was claimed 2-1 by Pakistan.
The Pakistan captain particularly praised the bowling of his Australian counterpart — fast bowler Pat Cummins — who despite having no favourable bowling conditions succeeded to contain the batters.
“When a batter is not getting easy runs it always frustrates him and Cummins caused exactly this problem for Pakistan,” he recalled.
According to Babar, the home series against Australia was one of the best for him as it happened after a long period of 24 years “I was leading the team while Australia for the first time were competing in a Test series on Pakistan soil [after 24 years] with all their top players,” the Pakistan captain said.
Babar also commended young opener Abdullah Shafique’s batting talent.
“I personally watch and definitely enjoy Abdullah’s stylish batting. He plays very clean, his stance and the way he ducks the ball are impressive. Usually we compare him to Kane Williamson and Rahul Dravid. We call him Dravid,” he said.
Babar continued, “In the presence of Abdullah, the place of opener Shan Masood, another polished batter, may be in doubt but our main aim in selecting an individual is the team’s interest.”
NO COMPLACENCY AGAINST WEST INDIES
Commenting on next month’s three-match ODI home series against the West Indies being held in Rawalpindi, the captain said the Caribbean team had the ability to upset any opposition.
“They play bold cricket and can upset every team on a given day. Therefore, we will try our best to go for big wins in order to earn maximum points to make Pakistan strong for the [50-over] 2023 World Cup,” he said.
Babar negated the impression, speculated through some media reports, that new aspirants would be given chances in the West Indies series.
“Our first priority is our team; we prefer the best side for each series and that is done while announcing the team for the next series,” he said.
Maintaining top-level fitness during a hectic schedule was the biggest challenge for the players, the skipper insisted.
“For that purpose the conditioning camp was set up in Lahore, while another camp will be held in Rawalpindi before the start of the [West Indies] series.”
To a question, Babar said with the comeback of all-rounders Shadab Khan and Mohammad Nawaz the team’s batting problem at number five and six could be addressed.
Responding to a question on the subject of the revival of India-Pakistan bilateral cricket, Babar while avoiding to make any concrete comment said restoring it would be good for fans well as the cricketers of both the countries.
“It is better for the two governments to deal with this issue, and as cricketers we will only follow the PCB line of action set for us,” the Pakistan captain stated.
Speaking on playing cricket under Covid-19 restrictions, the skipper recalled Pakistan team had played the highest number of matches during this tough period which he said made “our players physically and mentally strong”.