Lahore: While acknowledging that competing against Australia on their soil has always been a challenging task, newly-appointed Twenty20 captain Babar Azam on Friday said Pakistan’s pace bowling department for the forthcoming tour Down Under is strong and dependable.
The Pakistan squad is set to leave for what is expected to be an arduous tour of Australia on Saturday to play three T20 Internationals followed by a two-Test series. The tourists will play the T20 internationals in Sydney (Nov 3), Canberra (Nov 5) and Perth (Nov 8). The Tests will be staged in Brisbane (Nov 21-25) and Adelaide (Nov 29-Dec 3).
While Babar will lead Pakistan in the T20 series, experienced batsman Azhar Ali will captain the Test side in place of Sarfraz Ahmed who was sacked after Pakistan’s humiliating T20 series whitewash at the hands of an inexperienced Sri Lanka in Lahore earlier this month.
“The experienced trio of Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz and the comeback of Mohammad Irfan with youngster Musa Khan make Pakistan’s fast bowling department strong and dependable [in T20s],” Babar said at the press conference on the eve of the team’s departure for Australia
“Playing against Australia in Australia has always been a challenging task. However, we will try our best to give our best and not to repeat the mistakes which we committed against Sri Lanka [in the T20 home series],” the 25-year-old world’s top-ranked T20 batsman added.
“It was not Sri Lanka’s C team [that beat Pakistan], it was their national team. It was a young team and we have learned a lot from that series.”
The prolific right-hander said Pakistan batsmen have the knowledge how to play on Aussie tracks.
“Yes pitches in Australia are bouncy. But most of us have played there; I toured with the senior team in 2016 and earlier in 2012 I had toured as the skipper of Pakistan U-19 squad. So we have the knowledge how to play on those pitches,” he said.
“The target of every team is always to win every series and we are also going with the same target. However, to achieve this aim every member of the squad has to give his 100 per cent and play aggressive cricket the Australians do,” Babar, who has scored 1,201 runs at an excellent average of 49.61 in 33 T20 Internationals, stated.
The captain said he would advise his players to just play positive cricket and enjoy their game without taking pressure on the demanding Australia tour.
“We should have self-belief. On my part as captain, I will try to maintain a good atmosphere in the dressing room and good conduct with my players,” he said.
To a question, Babar denied the impression that out-of-form players Shadab Khan and Fakhar Zaman, who are part of the national T20 squad, would be a burden on the squad touring Down Under.
“It is a wrong impression. Both have a good track record though currently they are struggling and therefore they need our backing. After showing improvement in form during the [recently-held] National T20 Cup, they will play their due role against Australia,” the skipper reckoned.
Young Babar, who idolises New Zealand captain Kane Williamson and Indian skipper Virat Kohli, said he has been studying how those two play their roles in the success of their respective teams.
“When the responsibility comes, it doubles up the pressure but to overcome that I should try to keep myself focused,” he said. “I am not thinking about that if I perform and team doesn’t perform it’s okay. I will try to give performance and take performance from the team, too.”
Babar said he was not new as captain, noting that besides leading Pakistan U-19 team in the 2012 World Cup he has captained different teams at the domestic level too.
To a question regarding previous T20 captain Sarfraz, Babar said though he served immensely as skipper and made Pakistan world’s top-ranked team, the performance of wicket-keeper Mohammad Rizwan in all three formats on the domestic circuit was also good. “He would deliver [in Australia],” the T20 skipper hoped.
Babar emphasised that like any other captain whose team is struggling Sarfraz might be facing pressure. “But Sarfraz has the ability to stage a comeback after performing at the domestic level.”
He denied the impression that leg-spinner Usman Qadir, the son of legendary leg-spinner Abdul Qadir, was named in Pakistan’s T20 team on his (Babar’s) recommendation.
“It is wrong. Usman has featured in [Pakistan’s] domestic cricket and his experience of playing in Australian domestic cricket proved decisive in his selection. It is Pakistan’s team and not of my club that I could select any one. Yes, the friendship with Usman is out of the ground and not inside the ground,” Babar maintained.
Responding to a query, the said though he had recommended the names of some senior players to be included in the national T20 team, it was the prerogative of the chief selector to make the final call. “I just gave my input in the team’s selection.”
To a question Babar, who boasts a highly-impressive batting average of 54.17 in ODIs by scoring 3,359 runs in 74 matches, said currently he was not concentrating on breaking Kohli’s records rather he was keeping his focus on the Australia tour.