Pakistan fast bowling legend Wasim Akram strongly criticised captain Babar Azam for not being “intelligent enough” with team selection and omitting veteran middle-order batter Shoaib Malik from Pakistan’s squad for the ongoing Men’s T20 World Cup in Australia.
Pakistan’s chances of reaching the semifinals of the T20 World Cup are now hanging by a thread after losing to Zimbabwe by one run in their second Super 12 match at Perth on Thursday. They had lost to India in their opening match.
Their prolific opening pair of Azam and Mohammad Rizwan ‘idn’t fire and with 43 needed off 37 balls with seven wickets in hand, Pakistan’s middle order crumbled in spectacular fashion to lose the match on the final ball of the innings.
“This is what I was talking about. As Waqar said, everyone has to sit down. Everyone from Pakistan from last year, including us, knew that the middle order is slightly weak. Now, this bloke is sitting here, Shoaib Malik. If I was the captain, what is my end goal as a skipper? It is to win the World Cup.”
“I will go to any extent in selecting the team who can win you the World Cup. If I want Shoaib Malik in the middle-order, I will make sure that I convey that to the chairman of selectors otherwise I will say I am not captaining the side if I don’t get my side,” said Akram on the ‘A Sports’ Channel.
Malik’s last T20I appearance came in 2021 against Bangladesh and hasn’t played a single match for Pakistan this year. “Babar has to be more intelligent. This is not a gully cricket team where anybody comes into the team on the basis of preferences. I am just saying what I am hearing. If I was the selector, I would have kept Malik in the middle order on the very first day. It’s Australia, it’s not Sharjah, Dubai, or Pakistan that there will be dead wickets,” added Akram.
Apart from the bat, Pakistan were also guilty of letting Zimbabwe get to a playing start with excessive use of the yorker and overpitched deliveries as they conceded 42 runs in 4.5 overs. Zimbabwe, on the other hand, were extremely disciplined and used the length balls to great effect to take out Azam and Rizwan in quick succession.
“Look what the Zimbabwe medium pacers did. They kept bowling length balls and we kept bowling the yorker-length. Shaun Tait (Pakistan’s bowling coach) should have gone to Shaheen Shah Afridi and said that ‘see the pitch is not conducive for bowling yorker-length (balls)’.”
“Try to get your rhythm and bowl length deliveries and try to move the ball from that length. See the delivery that got Rizwan out. It got big on him from a length. That’s the pace and bounce which we talk about on Australian pitches,” stated Akram.
Akram, who took 916 international wickets between 1984 and 2003, further criticised Azam for Pakistan’s poor planning and identification of the right personnel ahead of T20 World Cup.
“We all know as sportsmen that winning and losing is part of the game but this was always on the cards. We knew for over a year what was the schedule for World Cup and that we needed a fast-bowling all-rounder for it.”
“Par koi majaal hai kisi ne koi taiyyari ki ho (but nobody cared to prepare for the same). This includes the captain (Babar Azam) and chief selector (Mohammad Wasim). You included all-rounder Aamir Jamal for England series (at home in September), but you didn’t take him to Australia (for T20 World Cup).”
“This is the captain’s job, it should be his vision on how to build a team for the World Cup keeping in mind the pitches. As you said (the show anchor) the pitches were difficult and if they are difficult then take Gaddafi’s pitch to World Cup and play on it.”