If it was Azhar Ali, the Test captain, who drew flak and copped a fair bit of criticism over some of his on-field decisions in the recent lost series against England, it’s now the turn of Pakistan’s limited overs captain Babar Azam to be in the line of fire from pundits back home.
Much like Azhar, whose field placements and bowling changes in the first Test raised eyebrows as Pakistan literally let England off the hook and chase down 277 for a win which seemed improbable at 117/5, Babar is being called out for his indecision and lack of assertiveness on the field as was evident in the loss in the 2nd T20I at the Emirates Old Trafford.
His body language in the field, as England coasted to a win chasing a stiff target of 196, smacked of a leader who can’t make his own decisions and has to regularly fall back on his senior team mates (read: Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik) for advice. For a captain to be clueless on the field and turn to his senior mates for hand-holding is tantamount to betraying the confidence of the think-tank and the selection panel which put their trust in his leadership ability.
The critics apart, even the management doesn’t appear sold in his leadership. Speaking at a press conference ahead of the third T20I at the Old Trafford, Pakistan’s batting coach Younis Khan said Babar Azam needs to be fearless and make his own decisions on the field regardless of how they turn out in the end.
Reflecting on the loss in the 2nd T20I, the former star batsman said Pakistan should have kicked on to a bigger score considering the momentum they had built up from ball one and the fact that they had enough wickets in hand.
“Whenever you have the momentum in your favour, it’s important that you make full use of it. That’s where, I believe, we lagged in the last game,” Younis said.
“The target that we set for England might look big enough on paper but I felt we could have ended our innings a lot better than we did. I think we lost out on a great opportunity to put England under pressure,” the former Pakistan captain said.
“One good thing about the way England went about their chase in the last game was that they kept up the pressure on our bowlers and induced mistakes. You make mistakes only when you are under pressure and that’s where England got the better of us,”Younis said.
Coming to Babar Azam’s leadership, the former batting great said, “It’s been a while since he has been our captain in the limited overs formats. Though he has enough seniors both on the field and off it whom he can turn to for advice, I believe he should learn to take more initiative and make his own decisions on the field.
Not that he doesn’t but every decision that a captain makes should carry a lot of conviction. Even when I was captain, there were six or seven seniors around me but a good leader is one who lives and dies by his own decisions. He shouldn’t fear his decisions, as, even if they turn out to be wrong, he will have learnt his lessons,” Younis said.
Calling out Babar’s lack of assertiveness on the field, former Pakistan tearaway Shoaib Akhtar said the Pakistan captain looked short of ideas as England were running away with the game.
“Babar looked like a lost cow to me. It looked as if he didn’t know what to do. It’s important that he learns to take his own decisions as it would help him be a better captain. He needs to understand that he won’t keep getting chances all his life and hence should make the most of them,” the former quick, who was known as the ‘Rawalpindi Express’ in his playing days, said.
The third T20I, which will be played later on Tuesday, will give the cricketing world a fair idea of whether he took the lessons from the last defeat to heart.