Babar Azam, the Pakistan limited-overs skipper, put his team's dwindling T20I fortunes in recent times down to experimentation with their combinations, and hopes the experience in the team management will benefit them in the ICC Men's T20 World Cup.
Pakistan were leading the MRF Tyres ICC T20I Team Rankings for 27 months. From the end of the ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2016 in April to the start of 2019, they won 29 of their 33 T20Is, boasting of a win percentage of 87.87%. But a poor record in 2019, when they lost eight of their 12 T20Is, saw them slip to fourth place in the latest rankings.
Babar, however, isn't too concerned about the T20I team, and insisted they have identified the right mix of players for the ICC Men's T20 World Cup, which is scheduled to take place in Australia this year, depending on the global pandemic situation.
"Yes, we did lose a few matches and our ranking has unfortunately gone down," he said while preparing for their series in England, as quoted on News International. "What happened is that we did some experimentation and tried out several players. We are now sure about the combination, which includes both youth and experience. I’m confident that we will do well in the T20 series against England and improve our ranking.
"And if the World Cup is held according to schedule, I’m confident that our team will do well in it."
Babar, who replaced Sarfaraz Ahmed as limited-overs skipper, has led Pakistan in five T20Is so far, winning two and losing two. "As a professional cricketer I hope that the T20 World Cup is held according to schedule," he said. "As Pakistan’s captain I would really want that the World Cup is not delayed as it will be my first World Cup as skipper. But it’s up to the authorities to decide."
At 25, Babar is still building on experience, but is hoping to learn from the experience of stalwarts such as Misbah-ul-Haq, Younis Khan, Waqar Younis and Mushtaq Ahmed in the team management.
"I and other players will benefit immensely from their presence," the skipper said. "They are four of our greatest legends. They have loads of experience. It’s our duty to learn from them and I’m sure all of us will do that ... I’m keen to learn the art of captaincy from them."
Babar stressed that a player thrives under a coach who backs him and reserved special praise for Mickey Arthur, the former Pakistan coach.
"Mickey really supported me. He gave me confidence. He rated me highly even when I was very much a newcomer. He backed me all the time. The best thing about him was he had great trust in my abilities.
"I must add that Misbah bhai is no different. He really backs me and has confidence in me. It really helps when your coach trusts you.”
Great feeling to be on the cricket field again. I really missed it. Look forward to our historic series and praying that everyone gets back to their normal life soon. Keep shining and never give up. #RiseAndRise pic.twitter.com/MvTyuCFmx7— Babar Azam (@babarazam258) June 30, 2020
Pakistan are in England for a tour that includes Tests and T20Is. While the internationals begin only by the end of the month, the team has already set up camp. Babar is looking forward to making best use of their early arrival.
"When you don’t play cricket for three months it does make a difference. But the good thing is that we have one extra month to prepare ourselves for the Tests," he explained. "I was pleasantly surprised to see each and every boy was fit. That’s a good start.
"The next part is to play and practise as much as we can because the more you practise the better you get. We have lined up a series of training sessions and practice matches so I’m sure by the time the Test series begins we will be ready for it."