'If we don't back and value Babar Azam, who will value him?" - Shahid Afridi
Babar Azam has been going through a lean patch of late, leading to his side's recent underperformance. However, Shahid Afridi has urged all to back him, besides calling for Mohammad Rizwan to be rested and Sarfaraz Ahmed to be brought in.
Legendary former Pakistani cricketer Shahid Afridi has claimed that skipper Babar Azam has not been taking advice from senior players in strategising and preparing. Besides, he blamed batting coach Mohammad Yousuf for not playing a militant role in matters concerning selections, as Pakistan yielded the Test series to Ben Stokes' England. The English took a 2-0 lead in the three-Test series on Monday, overthrowing Pakistan by 26 runs in Multan.
"As a captain, I always felt one had to be a good leader, which was possible by uniting all the players. It means that you should discuss your plans with seniors. When you start taking advice from outsiders and not involve seniors, issues come (up)," Afridi said on a TV channel.
Coach Yousuf was asked during the post-match conference about the fluctuating form of vice-captain and wicketkeeper-opener Mohammad Rizwan in the series. The former Pakistan cricketer declared that he had "no role in selection matters". "I think it was not a great answer from Yousuf, and I feel Rizwan needs to be given a break and rested, and Pakistan should bring Sarfaraz Ahmed in his place for Test matches," voiced Afridi.
The former skipper, however, mandated complete aegis for Babar, the team's top batter. "If we don't back and value him, who will value him? Every player has a bad match here and there. But, Babar remains the backbone of this team, and he got a century (in the first Test) and 75 in the second Test," Afridi conveyed.
Afridi added he would like to notice Sarfaraz and batter Shan Masood get opportunities in Karachi's third and final Test. Both players are in the squad. Pakistan coach Saqlain Mushtaq has also been criticised for saying that the team will try to get a solace triumph in the final Test, beginning December 17.
"Instead of talking about where we are going wrong, he is now talking about a consolation win. What sort of a coach is Saqlain?" former Test batter, ex-chief selector, and head coach Mohsin Khan sounded. Skipper Babar also faced the heat during the post-match presser after being asked about discomfort in his performance in Multan, failing in the second innings, scoring just a run.
In retort to a query, Azam said sarcastically, "When I score runs, you say I got them on flat pitches and easy opposition, and when I don't get runs, everyone says I can't perform in difficult situations. Please don't forget the 196 runs I got against Australia." Babar had no rationale for successive drubbings in Rawalpindi and Multan on batting-friendly tracks.
England bested the opening Test by 74 runs in Rawalpindi despite the International Cricket Council (ICC) match referee rating the wicket below average for supplying bowlers with minimal help throughout the five-day contest. Babar enunciated that Pakistan had put up a heroic fight in both matches. "I thought we had a good fight in the second innings [of the second Test]. Saud [Shakeel] and [Mohammad] Nawaz played very well, and even Imam [ul-Haq] came back from a hospital to get runs, but we need to still up our performance to beat this England side," he concluded.
(With inputs from PTI)