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July 3, 2020

Covid-19 restrictions will help forge greater unity in our ranks: Babar Azam


July 3, 2020

KARACHI: Babar Azam, Pakistan’s limited-overs captain, believes seemingly suffocating Covid-19 restrictions could turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the tourists, who are currently getting ready for a tough Test series in England.

Pakistan landed in England last Sunday and are currently in quarantine in Worcester. For the next two months, they will spend time in near isolation away from their family and friends.

But instead of dreading the coming weeks, Babar is relishing the opportunity with the belief that staying together will forge unity among the players.

“For the next two months we will be away from our families, our friends. At the moment the 20 of us are family,” he told ‘The News’ in an exclusive interview from Worcester where Pakistan have set up camp ahead of their three-Test series against England.

“We are together and I think the more time we stay like this our bond of friendship will be bolstered. We are already united but there will be greater unity (in the team).”

Babar is just 25 years old. His Test career spans over less than four years in which he has played 26 matches.

But ahead of the Test and Twenty20 International series in England, Babar is seen as Pakistan’s biggest batting hope and not without reason.

That’s not all.

Babar is also Pakistan’s ODI and T20I captain and will be leading them in the three-match T20I series next month. Pakistan are hoping that Babar, regarded among the world’s best batters in all three formats, would somehow lift their dipping performance graph in the shortest version of the game.

Most other players would crumble under the weight of such expectations.

But Babar is no ordinary cricketer.

“The more the expectations the better I perform,” Babar said.

“Expectations are always there. Together with prayers they really boost me up as a batsman. They give me confidence,” he said in the detailed interview soon after he ended a grueling session in the nets at the New Road Ground on Thursday afternoon.

“It’s my mindset to perform in all conditions. I anaylse the opponents bowling and plan accordingly.”

Babar who has five Test tons and averages just over 45 in the format is hoping to give his best in next month’s Test series against England.

“As a batsman you are always hungry for runs. Personally, I want to get better and better. If I score 100 I want to get to 200 and then 300. So yes my target is to give my best (in the Tests) but the goal is to help the team win. We want Pakistan to be the number one team in the world.”

Babar, who averages over 50 in ODI and T2OI formats, is often compared with the ‘Fab Four’ – India’s Virat Kohli, Australia’s Steve Smith, New Zealand’s Kane Williamson and England’s Joe Root.

So does he see himself in that elite group?

“I don’t think I’m in competition with any of these batsmen,” he said. “If you have to compare me then I would rather be compared with our own batting legends. We have greats like (Mohammad) Yousuf Bhai, Inzi (Inzamam-ul-Haq) Bhai, Younis (Khan) Bhai and Javed (Miandad) Bhai. These are the batsmen I want to emulate.”

Hosts England will begin the Test series as overwhelming favourites but Babar doesn’t agree.

“You can’t underestimate us,” he said. “On our last two tours we drew our Test series. This time the team is looking to win (the series). I think we can do it.

“We are strong in both batting and bowling. We have exciting fast bowlers like the young Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi and Mohammad Abbas.

“The batting is also pretty good. Shan Masood is in good form. Abid Ali is playing well. Azhar Bhai is there. I’m there. It’s a good combination and I believe we will do well.

“If you compare the two sides then you’ll see that both Pakistan and England are good teams so it is going to be a keenly-contested series. Both the teams will be playing in conditions that will be very different. Things are going to be unusual. There are new rules in place. There will be no crowds.”

Babar believes England’s biggest asset will be their pace attack. “They are a strong team with a good pace attack.”

England pacer Jofra Archer was singled out by Younis Khan. Pakistan’s batting coach for the tour, as the biggest threat for the tourists.

However, Babar played it down stressing that he won’t be intimidated by any bowler.

“As a professional player you don’t care about the bowler’s name. You play any delivery according to its merit. Personally I’ll prepare myself for all challenges. Thankfully we have a month to get ready and I intend to use each and every day to get ready for the coming series.”