Saqlain Mushtaq backs skipper Babar Azam ahead of Australia series

KARACHI: Pakistan head coach Saqlain Mushtaq on Thursday backed the leadership qualities of all-format captain Babar Azam ahead of next month’s historic home series against Australia. Babar has captained Karachi Kings to eight consecutive Twenty20 losses in the ongoing Pakistan Super League (PSL) and has scored only two half-centuries. The 2020 champions are out of contention for the playoffs. Australia makes their first trip to Pakistan in 24 years to play three Test matches, three ODIs, and a one-off T20 International. The Aussies are due to arrive on Feb 27.

The tour starts in Rawalpindi on March 4 with the first Test, followed by Test matches in Karachi and Lahore. All the ODIs and the T20 will be played at Rawalpindi.
KARACHI: Leg-spinner Yasir Shah bowls to Azhar Ali during a net practice session at the National Stadium on Thursday.—PPI “Babar is world’s No. 1 player, and he has performed outstandingly for Pakistan,” former Test off-spinner Saqlain told reporters at the National Stadium, Karachi, where the Pakistan Test players have started a training camp under the supervision of Saqlain and batting coach Mohammad Yousuf. They’ll shift to Rawalpindi later this month. “T20 cricket is all about momentum. All the six teams [in PSL] are very strong, but the team which gets the momentum takes the edge. Unfortunately, Karachi couldn’t get the momentum.”

Babar is fifth in PSL scoring with 268 runs in eight games. “I have no doubt about Babar,” Saqlain said. “He’s a world-class player, strong leader, equally good against spin and fast bowlers. He has played lots of knocks for Pakistan and every [cricket] expert in the world talks about him.” Australia is the world’s top-ranked Test team and will be touring Pakistan on the back of their 4-0 Ashes win at home against England. Led by Pat Cummins, Australia is at No. 2 on the ICC World Test Championship points table behind Sri Lanka while Pakistan occupies the No. 3 spot. Saqlain was hopeful the home conditions will suit his players against Australia.

“They [Australians] play tough cricket,” Saqlain said. “Wherever they go, they go with full preparation and obviously we have to play tough cricket against them. They had a really good [Ashes] series against England, but they are coming to our territory and we will give our best.

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