Wednesday, April 12, 2023
The upcoming limited overs home series against New Zealand may just be another opportunity for the national side to prepare for the World Cup 2023, but speculations surrounding skipper Babar Azam have put him under strict scrutiny.
The series, which begins in Lahore later this week has become a major assignment for Babar as his role as Pakistan's all-format captain has come under the scanner despite him being by far the most prolific batter for the side.
Recently, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman Najam Sethi tried to shrug off the ongoing speculations but fell short of full support for the 28-year-old batter.
In a series of tweets on Monday, Sethi said that for months media and cricketing circles have been discussing pros and cons of retaining Babar Azam as captain in all formats of the game.
The PCB chief added that he also sought the views of selection committees headed by Shahid Afridi and now Haroon Rashid in this regard.
"Both Committees thought the matter merited discussion but both later came to the conclusion that the status quo should be retained. I have subsequently publicly stated this position. In the final analysis, my decision will be subject to the success or failure of the status quo."
Given that reasoning by Najam Sethi, Babar Azam must be fully aware that he needs to ensure that his team gives its best and win both in the ODI and T20I series against the visitors, to prove his mettle.
He will have a full-strength team for the series including comeback pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi.
So unlike the series against Afghanistan that Pakistan lost after fielding a second-string team, the skipper will have no excuses.
On Tuesday, the Tom Latham-led New Zealand cricket team arrived in Pakistan to play five ODIs and as many T20Is.
The team landed at Lahore airport and was escorted to the hotel with high-security measures in place. They will commence practice from Thursday (tomorrow).
The T20I matches will take place in Lahore (April 14, 15, 17) and Rawalpindi (April 20, 24) and the ODIs will be held in Rawalpindi (April 27, 29) and Karachi (May 3, 5, 7).
After reaching Pakistan, NZ all-rounder Daryl Mitchell said that they are very excited about playing T20 and ODI series in Pakistan.
“There are young players in the team who have not played in these conditions before,” he said. Terming the Pakistan tour a “challenging” one, the player said that Pakistan has a world-class team.
“Conditions are quite different here from New Zealand and young players will gain experience,” he said.
“The series is quite long. We will try to play good cricket.”