Legendary Sri Lanka National Cricket Team batter Mahela Jayawardene believes that the Pakistan National Cricket Team skipper Babar Azam, who has been going through a lean patch, will soon make a strong comeback.
Babar Azam, who is the No.1 ranked batter in the ICC Men’s ODI Batting Rankings and No.3 ranked batter in the ICC Men’s Test Batting Rankings as well as ICC Men’s T20I Batting Rankings, struggled for runs in the Asia Cup 2022.
In the 15th edition of the tournament in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Babar registered scores of 10, 9, 14, 0, 30, and 5. Overall, he scored only 68 runs in 6 games at an average of 11.33 and a strike rate of 107.93 with a top score of 30, which came against Sri Lanka in the final Super 4 stage game of the mega event.
Meanwhile, Mahela Jayawardene reckons that the poor form of Babar is definitely a concern for Team Pakistan as he has played a big role in the team’s success over the years.
“The way Babar has been batting the last two years, for him to have a tournament like that is a concern. But I think he is still a quality player,” Jayawardene told host Sanjana Ganesan on The ICC Review.
“Probably the occasion being, you know, part of an Asia Cup, and not that often that India-Pakistan play each other as well. So maybe the whole pressure got to him a little bit, I would say. But he is still a quality player.
“Pakistan did miss him with the bat because Rizwan and him at the top are a very, very consistent opening pair. The success of Pakistan over 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 on.
“That’s something that they missed, but all good players go through some lean patch. I’m sure he will go back and go through his processes and come back stronger,” he further said.
Sri Lanka legend was of the opinion that the bowlers have still not figured out Babar Azam. Instead, he pinpointed the occasion as a factor in the Pakistan captain’s poor form.
“Not really I think, there were a couple of good balls that caught him out in this competition and a couple of soft dismissals, which can happen,” Jayawardene said.
“It’s just the occasion, the conditions and all that. You take him away from this tournament and put him in another tournament, and he will come back strongly – the quality is always there. Babar is that kind of a batter – he will go through that process vigorously and make sure that he comes back stronger,” he added.
Going into a World Cup, forget about captaincy – Mahela Jayawardene’s advice to Babar Azam
Jayawardene further said that the team management will have to make sure that they don’t put extra pressure on Babar and he should be confident and relaxed heading into the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022. He also advised Babar to separate captaincy and batting. He elaborated:
“When you have a quality player like that, try and not put pressure on him. I’m sure there would have been a lot of discussion about his form in the Asia Cup and all that. But leading into the World Cup, you want your best player to be confident and relaxed, going into the World Cup.”
“So as long as they are not putting undue pressure on him, that’s the important thing. Being the captain and being the best batsman in your team, it is not an easy task. That’s something that he has to live up to.”
“Going into a World Cup, forget about his captaincy and all that – be the batsman that he can be, and then be the captain that he needs to be out there on the field,” he said.
“These two responsibilities have to be managed separately, and that’s key to being a good player and then being a captain of the team.”
Mahela Jayawardene was highly impressed with the performance of the young Pakistan National Cricket Team right-arm pacer Naseem Shah in the recently concluded Asia Cup 2022, where he bagged 7 wickets. He stated:
“I’ve been following Naseem for a while now. Obviously, they have used him a lot in red-ball cricket, in Test match cricket because of his pace. They did not back him too much with the accuracy with the white-ball format but lately, with a lot of cricket being played, he has come of age and the control that he showed, especially with the new ball, picking up wickets … that’s the key element.
Sri Lanka legend also said that facing Naseem Shah and Shaheen Shah Afridi in the Australian conditions, where the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022 is set to be held, will be a nightmare for a few opening batters. He elaborated:
“That Pakistan attack will look much stronger with Shaheen Afridi back as well, and the way Haris Rauf bowled. He bowled quickly. With the two youngsters, they’ve got a really, really good pace unit. And Naseem has been brilliant, I was really impressed by the way he went about things. The skills, especially bringing the ball back into 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 in tandem from both ends.”
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