On the eve before the four-match T20I series against West Indies kicks off, Pakistan captain Babar Azam has suggested that his side will look to try out different combinations in this series to provide opportunities for his players in the build-up to the T20 World Cup.
Earlier this year, Pakistan won their T20 series against South Africa and Zimbabwe. While the Men in Green were brushed aside by a second-string England team in the recently concluded ODI series, they put up a resilient performance in the shorter format but ultimately had to surrender the series 1-2.
Babar recognized that his side couldn't try a lot of different combinations in the series against England but was quick to point out that this series would be different in that regard. With the likes of Azam Khan, Mohammad Hasnain and Sohaib Maqsood impressing in the recently concluded PSL, Pakistan want to give their players the chance to go out there and play cricket in a modern and fearless way.
"The players in the side have performed in domestic and PSL matches. Keeping the World Cup in mind we will be trying different combinations. We will also test our pinch-hitting. We have to trust our middle-order batsmen. We have a good track record against West Indies. We will try to play fearless cricket.
“We did not get a lot of chances to try different combinations during the series against England. We will now try different combinations. We will try to learn from our mistakes. We will give confidence to our players. We have also worked on our fielding. Hopefully, we will see better results,” said Babar Azam.
My performances have improved since becoming the captain: Babar Azam
On being asked if captaincy has affected his individual performances, Babar was quick to dismiss the notion. The 26-year old added that captaincy is all about supporting his players on and off the field and that expectations have increased since he took over the role.
"I think it's important to understand what is captaincy. It's all about on-field encouraging the players. When the bowlers get hit, you have to back them. Back the batsmen when the scores aren't coming. From the time I've become captain, the margin of error is more and the expectations have also increased. I try to perform in every match. Since the time I've become captain, my performances have improved as well. I take it as a challenge. Hopefully, I can carry on and I can improve even more," Babar Azam added.
The stats back Babar's claim as well. While the sample size might not be conclusive, it should be noted that Babar's numbers have been on the up since taking over the reigns. In matches before he was appointed skipper, Babar averaged 54.17 in ODIs and 49.61 at a strike rate of 126 in T20Is. Since taking over the added responsibilities, he has averaged 78.25 in ODI's and 43.15 and a strike rate of 137.
Babar also spoke about Sharjeel Khan's inclusion in the team, suggesting that the 31-year old could get a chance at the top of the order. The skipper also pointed out how England worked out different combinations in their series which saw their captain sit out for a game as well, allowing other players the opportunity.
While the possibility of an opportunity for Sharjeel Khan might open up during the series, the form of Mohammad Rizwan and Babar Azam at the top of the order suggests that the visitors don't need to fix what's not broken.