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Sports

April 3, 2018
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My job is to play my natural game: Babar Azam

KARACHI: Babar Azam knew that he lost a highly precious chance to score his maiden Twenty20 International century.

And the Pakistan opener admitted that he was himself to be blamed for the missed opportunity.

Babar, who is known for his consistency rather than big-hitting, smashed an entertaining 97* from just 58 balls to lead Pakistan to a 82-run triumph in the second One-day International against the West Indies at the National Stadium on Monday night.

The 23-year-old could have easily scored his first ever T20I ton as he was on strike on 89 when Pakistan's final over started, but only managed eight runs off the five balls he faced from Kesrick Williams.

Babar rued wasting the opportunity.

"I went with a hundred in sight. That's why I took a chance, but I wasn't able to utilise a couple of balls, which is why I missed it," he told reporters after the match.

"I had an experienced man - Shoaib Malik - at the other end, and was coordinating with him if I should take a chance or go for a single or double. I think that is where I lapsed, and I didn't read a few balls that slowed things down. This is unfortunate for me, but only I am responsible for it. But I have another game tomorrow, and hopefully I can score a century this time."

Babar had prolific season in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) which concluded last month, scoring 402 runs with five fifties.

Pakistan made full use of his consistency by asking him to open in the ongoing T20 series against the West Indies despite the fact that he is usually criticised for his relatively slow pace in the fastest format of the game.

But Babar doesn’t see anything wrong with his T20 approach.

"Runs are runs, even if they are coming off playing cut shots or in front, but it's not like T20 can only be played with big shots," he said. "It is not my role to go out and do the power hitting, my job is to play my natural game. There is always a plan, and that is very simple - to lead the game till the end, and my role is to play the anchor while the team plays around me. I know I shift gears, and when power hitting is required, I do it, but mostly, I just try to be myself and play my natural game.

"I do not pay any heed to the negative thoughts, I just go with the plan my team gives me," he said.

"People do talk, but my job is to play cricket with 100% commitment. I also have no concern if I play as an opener or one-down, it's all about what my team requires and I go with that. There is no pressure as such on me because I have a very strong belief in myself. I know if I have to play all three formats, I have to be fully fit with a positive mindset. Being a batsman, runs are always on my mind, otherwise the tension starts to mount. Playing all three formats is very demanding, and I know I can only do this by keeping myself fit."

The West Indians might be a toothless team but Babar made it clear that a 3-0 clean sweep in the series would be an important result for the hosts.

"Wining the series is always very important because it brings a lot confidence in you for the next tour," Babar said. "We don't consider them a weak opponent. They are the world champions, but we are given our plans, and we are just sticking to it and executing them accordingly.

"No doubt, when you play in front of home crowd, it gives you immense confidence. You understand the home conditions very well and have the knowledge about playing at home in domestic cricket which helps you a lot for international games."

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