Pakistan have been facing significant criticism after the side was knocked out in the Super 4 stage of the Asia Cup 2023 earlier this week. Despite making a strong start to the second round with a win over Bangladesh, Pakistan faltered in their campaign after a 228-run thrashing at the hands of arch-rivals India in Colombo. In a rain-hit must-win game against Sri Lanka, Babar Azam’s men almost pulled up a stellar comeback with Shaheen Afridi and Zaman Khan producing impressive final overs, but Charith Asalanka held his nerve to see his side through on the last ball of the run-chase.
Babar Azam, in particular, is facing severe criticism for some of his captaincy decisions throughout the Asia Cup. During the rain-abandoned group stage game against India, Babar faced flak for not persisting with pacers after reducing India to 66/4, as the side recovered and eventually scored 266, thanks to half-centuries from Ishan Kishan and Hardik Pandya. Babar’s persistence with Shadab Khan despite the all-rounder’s poor performances have also drawn significant attention, with many arguing that Usama Mir should have been given an opportunity instead.
Amid the criticism, former Pakistan captain and batting legend Younis Khan has made a key observation on the ‘pattern’ that the side has followed over the past few years. Giving the example of Mohammad Rizwan and Sarfaraz Ahmed, the two wicketkeepers in Pakistan, Younis explained why there is a resistance towards using back-ups in the playing XI.
“Even if we were facing Namibia, we were more focussed on keeping the winning combination. In our culture, we think, ‘if Sarfaraz is the wicketkeeper, Rizwan shouldn’t be there because it will create pressure on Sarfaraz, and vice-versa’. Similarly, say, if Babar Azam is the captain of the team, Younis Khan — being the batter of similar stature — can’t be vice-captain because it would put Babar in pressure,” Younis said on ARY News.
“If you can’t handle this pressure, you are not capable of being in the national team. Then, it will be difficult. Just do your homework! Captaincy isn’t a very big deal actually. If your bowler isn’t performing well in a particular situation, you should know how to utilise him. You can’t follow a certain pattern everywhere in this day and age. Batters now have a plan. Even now, nothing has gone wrong. Address the grey areas. Don’t back someone just because he is a fan favourite,” said Younis further.
The comments come shortly after rumours circulated over a dressing room argument between Pakistan players including Babar Azam, following the side’s elimination from Asia Cup.
Injury setbacks for Pakistan
It was also reported on Saturday that Naseem Shah might miss the 2023 World Cup due to shoulder injury that he sustained during the Super 4 game against Pakistan. With Haris Rauf already under injury scanner, the troubles are mounting for Pakistan as they prepare for the marquee global tournament in India.
Babar’s men will begin their campaign in the World Cup on October 6 against Netherlands.