Pakistan captain Babar Azam asserted that he is comfortable opening the innings despite claims that his poor strike rate was proving costly for the team, especially in the powerplay. Azam claimed he looks forward to continuing with Mohammad Rizwan at the top of the order.
Rizwan has been a revelation for Pakistan at the top of the order and has been one of the most consistent players in the format during the calendar year as well. Azam has heaped praise on the wicket-keeper's growth as of late and feels himself and Rizwan are the best possible options for Pakistan to deploy at the top of the order for the World Cup.
Speaking to ESPN Cricinfo, Azam said:
"I became No. 1 in the world as an opener, so I'm comfortable there. That's where I performed so well, so I'm very comfortable opening."
"The year's not done yet and he (Rizwan) has already scored the most ever T20I runs in a calendar year. What more do you need, really? There's no better combination. We always want to start well to set the tone for the guys coming after us. That's our mindset, and in the year we've been opening, we have come to understand each other's games."
Azam added that the communication between himself and Rizwan is very good and that it helps them function well together at the top of the order.
"We communicate well, and if he's struggling to tee off, I go after the bowlers, and if I'm struggling, he does. We've built on that very well, and you'll have noticed when we bat together we have built big partnerships."
Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan have shared 726 runs at an average of 56.61 this year while opening the innings. This is higher than any other pair in the shortest format across the globe in 2021.
You can't worry about whether the guys below will deliver: Babar Azam
In stark contrast to their plaudits at the top, the instability and frailty of the middle order has been Pakistan's undoing in recent times. The team have tried out several combinations using a mixture of experience and youth, but none have worked out well so far on a consistent bankable basis.
Speaking about the same, Azam feels that the batsmen facing the new ball cannot ponder whether the lower order will be able to handle the innings or take advantage of the platform or not. He added:
"If one of us is striking the ball well, we try to bat for as long as possible without changing our game. Keep our strike rate up, remain positive, but also try and hang around to take advantage of your form. You can't worry about whether the guys below will deliver. The mindset remains the same. We plan to ensure one of us remains at the crease for much of the innings."
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Pakistan have been drawn alongside arch-rivals India, New Zealand, Afghanistan and a qualifier in the Super 12s group for the T20 World Cup. They will kick start their campaign with a clash against India on October 24, in Dubai.