Legendary Sri Lanka National Cricket Team batsman Mahela Jayawardene believes Pakistan National Cricket Team captain babar Azamiwhich has been through a lean period will soon make a strong comeback.
Babar Azam, the No. 1 batter in the ICC Men’s ODI Batting Rankings and the No. 3 batter in the ICC Men’s Test Batting Rankings, as well as the ICC Men’s T20I Batting Rankings, struggled for points in the 2022 Asia Cup.
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In the 15th edition of the tournament in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Babar registered scores of 10, 9, 14, 0, 30 and 5. In total, he scored only 68 runs in 6 matches with an average of 11.33 and a strike rate of 107.93 with a top score of 30, coming against Sri Lanka in the final Super 4 stage match of the mega event.
Meanwhile, Mahela Jayawardene thinks Babar’s poor form is definitely a concern for Team Pakistan as he has played a huge part in the team’s success over the years.
“The way Babar has been hitting for the past two years is a concern for him to have a tournament like this. But I think he’s still a quality player,” Jayawardene told host Sanjana Ganesan on The ICC Review.
“Probably the occasion is, you know, part of an Asian Cup, and not so often that India and Pakistan also play against each other. So maybe he got the whole pressure a little bit, I’d say. But he is still a quality player.
“Pakistan missed him with the bat because he and Rizwan at the top are a very, very consistent opening pair. Pakistan’s success in the last two years has been on that foundation where all the big hitters come in the middle and they (Babar and Rizwan) give that platform and they take it.
“That’s something they missed, but all good players go through a meager patch. I’m sure he will go back and go through his processes and come back stronger,” he said.
The legend of Sri Lanka held that the bowlers still have not discovered Babar Azam. Instead, he pointed to the opportunity as a factor in the Pakistani captain’s poor form.
“Not really I think, there were some good balls that caught him in this competition and some soft layoffs, which can happen,” said Jayawardene.
“It’s just the opportunity, the circumstances and everything. You take him out of this tournament and put him in another tournament, and he will come back strong – the quality is always there. Babar is such a batter – he will go through that process vigorously and make sure he comes back stronger,” he added.
Enter a World Cup, forget the captaincy – Mahela Jayawardene’s advice to Babar Azam
Jayawardene went on to say that the team management should ensure that they do not put additional pressure on Babar and that he should be confident and relaxed on his way to the 2022 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup. He also advised Babar to separate captain and batter. He explained:
“When you have a quality player like that, don’t try to pressure him. I’m sure there would have been a lot of discussion about his form in the Asia Cup and all. But when you go to the World Cup you want to best player confident and relaxed going to the World Cup.”
“So as long as they don’t put unnecessary pressure on him that’s the most important thing. Being the captain and being the best batsman in your team is not an easy task. He has to deliver on that.”
“When you go to a World Cup, forget his captain and all that – be the batsman he can be, and then be the captain he needs to be there on the field,” he said.
“These two responsibilities must be managed separately, and that’s the key to being a good player and then captain of the team.”
Mahela Jayawardene was very impressed with the performance of young Pakistani national cricket team right-arms player Naseem Shah in the recently concluded 2022 Asia Cup, taking 7 wickets. He claimed:
“I’ve been following Naseem for a while. Obviously they have used him a lot in red ball cricket, in Test match cricket because of his pace. They didn’t support him too much with the accuracy with the white ball format but lately with a lot of cricket being played he has matured and the control he showed especially with the new ball picking up wickets…that’s the key element.
The Sri Lankan legend also said it will be a nightmare for a pair of lead-up batters to face Naseem Shah and Shaheen Shah Afridi in the Australian conditions, where the 2022 ICC Men’s T20 World Championship will be held. He explained:
“That attack in Pakistan will look much stronger when Shaheen Afridi is back too, and the way Haris Rauf bowled. He bowled quickly. With the two youngsters they have a very, very good tempo unit. And Naseem was brilliant, I was really impressed with the way he handled things. The skills, especially bringing the ball back to the right-handers, the way he swung the ball with that kind of pace.
“In Australian conditions those guys will be a handful. Especially for quite a few opening batsmen it will be a nightmare if Shaheen and Naseem bowl from both sides at the same time.”
Also Read: ICC T20 World Cup 2022: “If you lose right before the World Cup…” – Wasim Akram’s verdict on India’s Asia Cup campaign
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