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'Big achievement for me to captain my team at home' - Babar Azam
Pakistan News

'Big achievement for me to captain my team at home' - Babar Azam

Babar Azam is all set to lead Pakistan for the first time on home turf as his team takes on Bangladesh in the first T20I of the three-match series in Lahore on Friday.

Still early days for the world No. 1 batsman in the captaincy post, Babar termed his journey from being a ball-picker at the Gaddafi Stadium a decade ago to becoming the T20I skipper a "big achievement" for him personally.

"It is a big achievement for me to captain my team at home," Babar told reporters on the eve of the first 20-over clash.

"When I was coming to the stadium, I remembered how I used to work as a ball-boy 10-15 years ago at this very venue. This is now a proud moment for me that I am seated in front of you as the captain of Pakistan."

Amidst the sentimental value of the occasion, Babar is cognizant of the challenges faced by Pakistan's T20 outfit.

Having crashed to four straight series defeats, Pakistan are now on the verge of losing their No. 1 spot in the T20I rankings even if they lose one game against Bangladesh.

Babar's captaincy debut in Australia failed to prevent heavy losses in lopsided contests but the elegant shot-maker is adamant at recovering Pakistan's golden run in the format.

"We are focused on maintaining our No. 1 ranking. We can hang on to that only if we win all three matches, so it's a do-or-die situation and we have planned for that."

The 25-year-old opener alluded to the T20I whitewash at the hands of Sri Lanka last year as a harsh reality check that would not play on the minds of the players.

"There isn't a lot of pressure pertaining to the past losses at the Gaddafi Stadium against Sri Lanka.

"You can't do anything to change that. But we have learned from those mistakes and hope not to repeat them as we bank on our strengths."

'The seniors will be given a proper chance'

In a bid to bolster Pakistan's fragile state in T20 cricket, the selectors have gone back to the veteran duo of Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik.

The two individuals were included in the squad on the insistence of Babar, who reiterated the fact that Malik and Hafeez were vital cogs in Pakistan's line-up which climbed to the summit of the rankings.

"Malik and Hafeez were constantly part of the team that rose to the top of the rankings so my opinion was to include them in the side. I am thankful to the selectors for taking my suggestion into consideration

"Their presence will be helpful for my captaincy since it gives me an opportunity to learn from their experience."

"The seniors will be given a proper chance and we expect them to perform. There is also the PSL next month where we will get a clear picture regarding which players are in form," he added.

When asked to identify Pakistan's strengths, Babar was keen on highlighting the team's profound skills in the batting department.

He felt Iftikhar Ahmed's explosive batting abilities were pivotal to Pakistan's cause.

"I believe our strength is batting since the depth goes till No. 9. Iftikhar is in great form as he was outstanding in Australia. Meanwhile, Shadab and Imad cover the area of power-hitting in the lower order."

Reflecting on Pakistan's inexperienced bowling attack especially in the absence of Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Amir, Babar said the likes of Shaheen Afridi and Haris Rauf had a lot to offer.

Shaheen's red-ball form has been top-notch in recent times in light of his bowling heroics against Sri Lanka whereas Rauf consistently wreaked havoc with the ball in the Big Bash League.

"We have an exciting fast bowling duo - Shaheen Afridi has performed well in Test matches while Haris Rauf has been excellent in the BBL. It is important to give confidence to the two."