Improving Pakistan’s standing in the rankings is one of the top priorities for new ODI skipper Babar Azam, he revealed on Monday (May 18) during a media interaction. Pakistan are currently languishing in the sixth spot in the ODI rankings and had failed to make it to the semifinal of last year’s World Cup in England. Babar, who is already leading the T20I side, mentioned that he is ready for the new challenge as Pakistan’s white-ball leader.
“I’m grateful to the PCB for naming me as ODI captain,” Babar said. “I’ve captained the U19 as well as the T20I team in the past. When I look at our rankings in the formats, it is not acceptable for me and my task is to bring that up to the top-3. Misbah bhai called me and congratulated me for getting the ODI captaincy. PCB thought I was ready and they gave it to me. I’m ready.”
Babar is also hopeful of his batting performances not getting affected by the additional responsibility. He is currently ranked third in ODIs and is leading the T20I charts. “I’m a fan of challenges,” he pointed out. “Captaincy and batting is a little different, when you are batting, you are just focussing on batting and not thinking about captaincy. It’s only when you are done with batting that you start thinking about team performance.
“My aim is to continue performing the same way even as captain. Maybe Australia T20s didn’t go as well as we’d hoped. But now we won the T20 series against Bangladesh, so we are confident. Hopefully, I can keep giving performances that results in victories so the team is also confident. It’s not like captaining will affect my batting. I’ve never thought of it that way.”
Even though the PCB didn’t name a vice-captain officially, Babar is confident that the presence of head coach Misbah-ul-Haq and the senior players will be of huge help. “When you are handed captaincy, there’ll be ups and downs, it’s not like you’ll keep winning everything and have flowers showered,” he said. “You will make mistakes along the way. There will be seniors around, I’ll get help. Misbah bhai will be there, I keep asking him. Whenever I need advice, I take it from the senior players. Just like PCB has groomed me, they may also have a vice captain in mind.”
The 25-year-old suggested that he would like to have a calming effect on the field as a skipper and is hopeful of following the footsteps of legendary captain Imran Khan. “When you are captaining, you need to have a bit of a cool mind, you’ve to carry your team along, you’ve to be methodical with your plans against the opposition to get them out,” he observed. “You have to be a little controlled, inside you may feel angry but you have to be in control. I learnt this in under-19 [cricket]. In the ground, you may have to tone down the aggression and give the players confidence. If you back your players 110%, they’ll do that well. I want to be an attacking captain. I want to adopt the Imran Khan style.”
On the possibility of touring England after a few weeks, Babar said that the PCB will give the players the green signal only after prioritising the safety. “PCB will make the decision completely based on the players and their health,” he noted. “Only if they are 110 percent confident will they send the players. This is an ongoing process. Whatever are the rules, they will be the same for everyone… It’ll be difficult, like no shining the balls, no celebrations, we can’t go near each other because social distancing will have to be followed by everyone.
“About the World Cup (T20), it’ll be my first as a captain, so I want it to happen. It’ll be difficult for everyone to play indoors [without fans] but no one knows about it more than us, what it feels to play without fans. We’ve played for 10 years almost without crowds in Dubai. We understand it. When you play with the crowd, you give 110% percent. Fans will miss the tournament, we’ll miss them too. When your supporters are right behind you… It’s a different feeling. We’ll miss it.”