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'Easy to give opinion on TV, captaincy didn't affect my batting': Babar Azam takes on critics

Kolkata: Hitting back at critics for questioning his leadership skills, Pakistan skipper Babar Azam on Friday said it’s easy to give opinion on TV and asserted that captaincy had no adverse impact on his batting in the World Cup.

Azam has been in the eye of storm after their embarrassing eight-wicket defeat against Afghanistan and for failing to defend 271 against South Africa, who they had reduced to 260/9.

Former skippers including Moin Khan and Shoaib Malik have openly criticised Babar’s captaincy on air and felt that the burden of leadership has affected his batting.

‘It’s very easy to give opinion on TV. If someone wishes to offer advice, they are welcome to call me directly, my number is known to everyone,’ Babar said, referring to the criticism.

Malik had contended that Babar was was king as a batsman but not as a leader.

‘The guy who is most responsible is the captain,’ Malik had said.

Moin had opined that Babar should learn from Indian batter Virat Kohli, who is now more focussed on batting after quitting captaincy. ‘He would have been better playing as a batsman than leading this team. Look at Kohli,’ said Moin.

Babar held firm and said his form was never affected by the criticisms.

‘I have been captaining my team for the last three years and I have never felt this way. It’s just because I have not performed the way I should have in the World Cup, that’s why people are saying that I am under pressure.

‘I don’t think I was under any pressure or felt any different because of this. I try to give my best in the field during the fielding. During batting, I think about how I should make runs and make the team win,’ he said.

Facing a barrage of questions from Pakistani journalists including the possibility of stepping down from the captaincy, Babar remained steadfast and composed, playing with a straight bat.

‘I have no idea what decisions you are talking about. The decisions we make here, regarding selections of players — are the decision of the coaches and the captain.

‘We go with the best combination of conditions and situations. Sometimes we have succeeded and sometimes we haven’t.’ ‘About the captaincy — as I said, once we go back to Pakistan or after this match, we will see what happens. But right now, I am not focusing on this, my focus is on the next match.’ In a disastrous World Cup campaign, Babar (282 runs) hit four half-centuries but could convert his any of the starts into a triple-digit score which has hurt the team badly.

New Zealand’s five-wicket win with 160 balls to spare over Sri Lanka on Thursday has almost ended Pakistan’s hope to make the semifinal.

Pakistan now have to win against England by an astronomical margin here on Saturday to overtake New Zealand’s net run-rate and seal a last-four berth.

Babar said their losses to Afghanistan and South Africa have cost them badly.

‘We should have won our matches against South Africa and Afghanistan because of which we are at this stage. We will try our best to finish on a good note. You never know this is cricket,’ Babar said of the match against England.

‘You cannot say that it is the fault of bowling, fielding, or batting. As a team we could not execute. We cannot say that we got so many runs in bowling or lost runs in fielding. As a team we did not execute the plan or play as per the demand — that includes bowling, batting, and fielding.’ Babar also refused to agree that the team’s performance has dipped sharply since the 1999 World Cup.

‘Because we haven’t done well in this World Cup or the last World Cup, you can’t say that we haven’t done well since 99, we have dominated and we were number one in One-day. Yes, we are not able to finish well. We will work on that and finish well.’ Their lack of experience in playing in India has also affected them, said the skipper.

‘We came here for the first time. We didn’t have the awareness of how to take it but we adapted as soon as possible in practice, that we will have to face it like this.

‘To be honest we got a lot of love from India, a lot of support. Not only me, the entire team. Of course, I was not able to get a good finish,’ he said.

(Published 10 November 2023, 12:17 IST)

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