Babar Azam’s captaincy style in Tests has been generally criticised as too defensive
Captaincy is a difficult job and different people have different styles of leadership. Cricket captaincy isn’t only about tactical decisions; it’s also about how you lead your team, how you communicate with them, how you take decisions according to different situations, how you build team spirit and how you handle pressure in crunch situations. It takes time to adapt and develop the skills needed to be a successful captain.
Babar Azam is considered one of the best batsmen in the world, but as skipper he is under fire these days and his captaincy has been a topic of debate among cricket analysts and fans.
There are several reasons why people believe that Babar is not a good captain, especially in the Test format. Some experts suppose that he lacks tactical intelligence and struggles to make the right decisions at the right time on the field. He has been criticised for not being aggressive enough in his captaincy and for not being able to come up with a game plan to outsmart the opposition.
Babar claims that his men did not play with a defensive approach against Australia, England and New Zealand.
He backed his team and said, “We didn’t play with a defensive mindset; instead, we played in accordance with the situation, with a positive attitude, and a desire to reach the goal. We played good cricket overall.”
But results show a different story. First, Australia defeated Pakistan by 115 runs in the third and final Test of the Benaud-Qadir Trophy in Lahore in March last year.
Later England completed a 3-0 whitewash over Pakistan in December 2022. Babar and company became the only Pakistan team to suffer a whitewash in a home Test series.
England won the Test series with aggressive cricket. Aggressive approach was one of the most important aspects of the England team’s success while the Pakistan team was still playing the cricket of the ‘80s and the ‘90s.
During the third Test against England, former English skipper Nasser Hussain pointed out that Babar’s captaincy was “very orthodox . . . almost textbook”.
Indian wicketkeeper batsman Danish Kaneria, during the Pakistan-England Test series, also slammed Babar’s leadership skill and rated it “zero”. He feels that Babar doesn’t have the quality to lead Pakistan in the red-ball format and should learn the tricks from England skipper Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum.
Against New Zealand, Pakistan also lost the opportunity to erase the memory of England whitewash and the tourists ended the Test series in a 0-0 draw.
In both Tests, Pakistan were in winning positions, but in the end they survived defeats by inches.
There is no doubt that Babar is a much better player than he is captain. Babar should learn how a wicket behaves on different days of a Test, a perception he has not yet developed.
Currently, Babar is leading the national side in all three formats and he is still in the learning process of the art of leadership, especially in crunch moments.
In T20Is, he has led the team 66 times, winning 40. This includes two final losses in the Asia Cup and World Cup, and a semi-final loss in the 2021 World Cup.
In ODIs, he has led the team 21 times with 13 wins.
In terms of percentage of wins, he is Pakistan’s 3rd most successful captain in T20 history, and the most successful in the ODI format.
But in Test cricket his captaincy is under threat as he has led the team in 18 matches, won eight, lost six and drew the remaining.
In 2022, Pakistan won just one out of their eight Tests, all in Asia. At home, they drew two and lost one against Australia. Against England, they faced whitewash (0-3).
Babar was appointed as Pakistan’s vice-captain in September 2019. The Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) initial idea was to groom him under former captain Sarfaraz Ahmed but after an abrupt end to Sarfaraz’s captaincy career, he was asked to lead the team in the white-ball format.
A positive thing in all of this is that his batting form hasn’t suffered.
Former captain Shahid Afridi has jumped in to defend Babar, saying that sacking him is not going to be a solution.
Despite all criticism, the 28-year-old, Babar Azam proved his skills in the 50-over format. It was a remarkable year for Babar as captain of the Pakistan ODI team. He won three out of three series, losing just one match (against Australia) out of nine ODIs played last year.
After Pakistan Super League (PSL) 8th edition, the PCB management will review the status of Babar’s captaincy and it is likely that Babar will lead the national side only in Twenty20 format, while Shan Masood could lead the side in the ODIs and for the Test matches Sarfaraz Ahmed could be a strong candidate, especially after his remarkable comeback performance against the New Zealand.