Babar can be among Pakistan’s great batsmen: Azharuddin

Pakistan's Babar Azam celebrates his century during the fourth One Day International (ODI) cricket match between England and Pakistan at Trent Bridge in Nottingham on May 17, 2019. (Photo by Lindsey PARNABY / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. NO ASSOCIATION WITH DIRECT COMPETITOR OF SPONSOR, PARTNER, OR SUPPLIER OF THE ECB

Former Indian skipper Mohammad Azharuddin sees limited-overs captain Babar Azam to be regarded as one of Pakistan’s greatest batsmen in future, provided the Lahore-born cricketer remains consistent in his performance.

The ex-Indian batsman said fans should enjoy Babar’s batting rather than comparing him with Indian captain Virat Kohli.

“Babar is still young and has a lot of cricket ahead of him. He has the ability to become a top batsman and register his name among the great Pakistani batsmen of the past,” quoted Azharrudin as saying.

“I don’t believe in comparisons. If a batsman is good, then his batting should be enjoyed and he should be praised rather than comparing him with someone else,” Azharuddin, who played his last Test and ODI in 2000, said.

“Pressure can be a reason. Out of three World Cup games against Pakistan in which I captained India, only the match in Bangalore was a high-scoring encounter. In the other two games, Pakistan were chasing around 230 and lost early wickets. If you lose early wickets in a World Cup game while chasing, then even a small target like 230 also looks like 300 or 350. We played positive cricket and performed in all departments, which is why we won those games,” he said.

Azharuddin said any future bilateral series between the arch-rivals depends on the political relations between the two countries.

“This decision depends on the government of both countries. Once talk resumes between both countries, only then a series can happen,” he said.

During Pakistan’s 2016 tour of England, Younis Khan, Pakistan’s veteran batsman and current national team batting coach, had sought Azharuddin’s advice, following which the former amassed a splendid 218 against England in the fourth and final Test at The Oval to help Pakistan level the series 2-2 in style.

“I want to thank Younis for giving me credit. I watched him bat on TV and he was playing in an ungainly way. Sometimes he was playing from outside the crease and sometimes he was trying other things. I didn’t like seeing a player, who has scored 10,000 runs, bat in this manner. So I just called him on the phone and advised him to stay still and play from inside the crease, as it will be easier for him,” he said.

“I know Younis since he made his debut in 2000. We played a game in Sharjah and he caught me in that match. He is a very good friend and a human being,” Azharuddin added.

He said Pakistan Super League (PSL) has proved beneficial for Pakistan cricket as it has brought international cricket back to the country after 2009.

“PSL is really good for Pakistan cricket as matches are again taking place there as there was no cricket in the country for past 7 or 8 years. Youngsters will get to watch their heroes play in stadiums rather than watching them on TV,” Azharuddin remarked.

Published in Dawn, July 30th, 2020