With Pakistan failing to win the Asia Cup despite reaching the final, there has been no shortage of criticism towards the team, with fingers being pointed at Babar Azam‘s form and captaincy. One of the most consistent batters in world cricket, Babar endured a horror run in the tournament, scoring just 68 runs in six innings with a best of 30 against Sri Lanka in a Super 4 match. That, coupled by the fact that some of Babar’s tactics as captain were baffling to many, such as persisting with himself as opener and keeping Fakhar Zaman at No. 3. What also didn’t help Babar’s case was Mohammad Rizwan’s strike-rate. The Pakistan wicketkeeper batter may have emerged as the highest run-scorer of the Asia Cup with 281 runs, the fact that most of his knocks took significant number of deliveries is what has forced the public daggers to come out.
Former noted Pakistan cricketers such as Shoaib Akhtar, Inzamam-Ul-Haq, Salman Butt, Moin Khan, Aaqib Javed and others have been very vocal about their displeasure towards Babar’s captaincy, and joining them is Kamran Akmal, who too had his reservations about Babar’s form with the bat and some of the decision he took during the tournament. Kamran, r Babar replaced Sarfaraz Ahmed as Pakistan captain with the three-match T20Is series against Bangladesh in January 2020 being his first time leading the side, but Akmal revealed that he had in fact told Babar not to consider the position as he felt he was too young to take up the role and that it was time for him to concentrate on his batting.
“During a T20I in Faisalabad when Babar was walking out for the toss, I got to know that he is being made captain. That is when I told him… ‘I don’t think now is the right time for you to become captain. Give your best performances in the next 2-3 years. The batting line-up is depended on you. Reach Virat Kohli’s level first, Steve Smith’s level. By then, you would have scored 35-40 centuries and enjoy captaincy. The moment Sarfaraz leaves, you will be next in line. But now is the right time. I told him back in the day but it was his decision. Those who were close to him, must have spoken to him and advised him to take up captaincy,” Kamran said during a YouTube show.
Earlier this year, Babar took up captaincy of all three formats and even became Pakistan’s most-successful T20I skipper with 29 wins. Add to that his stellar form with the bat and Babar became the only batter in contemporary world cricket to be in the top three rankings in ODIs, Tests and T20Is. After finishing runner-up in the Asia Cup, Babar’s captaincy may have come under a bit of threat, but Akmal reckons stripping him of the post now will only take Pakistan cricket backward.
“I had also told him to only concentrate on his batting. He was scoring runs and would have continued to do so. The flow was beautiful. People enjoyed watching him bat. With captaincy, there will be pressure, which will affect his batting, his approach. And somewhere, that is visible now. But at the same time removing him as captain right now would be a big blunder on the part of the team management. Pakistan cricket will go back,” added Akmal.
“But now he has matured. It’s been 2-3 years since he has been captaining, but it still should have been better. The way he captained in the final of the Asia Cup final, he has done better than that in the past. He has utilised his bowlers – like Nawaz – really well. But when you don’t have form, you can make a few changes at the top. Perhaps push Rizwan down to 3, bat there yourself. Make Fakhar open, maybe he can come back to form. So there are the decisions a captain should take.”