Pakistan’s journey in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 came to an abrupt end with five defeats in nine league-stage matches, prompting skipper Babar Azam to step down from his leadership role. Former Australian opener Matthew Hayden, however, came to Babar’s defence, citing various challenges that contributed to Pakistan’s early exit.
Hayden identified several factors that played a role in Pakistan’s disappointing World Cup campaign. The absence of key players like Naseem Shah, coupled with the poor form of Shaheen Shah Afridi and Fakhar Zaman, created challenges for the team. Additionally, the spin duo of Mohammad Nawaz and Shadab Khan failed to make a significant impact during the tournament.
“Firstly, they didn’t have Naseem (Shah). They had, I believe, some concerns over their world-class left-arm pacer. Shaheen came in, and we watched him closely during the Asia Cup; he was a little underdone. Fakhar Zaman didn’t really arrive at this tournament, and then when he did, it was probably too late for Pakistan,” said Matthew Hayden.
Expressing his views on the overall cricketing structure of Pakistan, Hayden highlighted the absence of a conducive high-performance culture. He pointed out challenges within the team setup, emphasizing that leadership woes were just one aspect of the broader structural issues faced by Pakistan cricket.
“They had their spinners, Nawaz and Shadab, who both were finding it really difficult in 2023, firstly to retain their spot, which they didn’t in the World Cup. So, there were lots of challenges in and around the actual setup. I always sense that with Pakistan, it has never to do with the actual leadership of the group itself. It’s more just the overall game, having a structure that’s conducive to a high-performance culture, which is the most challenging element, I feel, for Pakistan cricket,” he added.
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Addressing Babar Azam’s resignation, Hayden defended the former captain’s performance, emphasizing that his leadership record was exceptional. Hayden expressed disappointment in the premature reaction to Babar’s leadership capabilities, citing the captain’s impressive average of over 50.
"They've potentially shot the gun a little bit early in terms of his leadership capabilities"@haydostweets discusses Babar Azam stepping down as Pakistan's captain 🗣 https://t.co/aXy2I16Ygu #CWC23 pic.twitter.com/8Rem4w8jtc— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) November 17, 2023
“Whoever was doing the numbers clearly wasn’t looking at them when it came to Babar’s performances as non-captain and captain. He actually had better numbers as a captain. We’re talking an average of 50 plus more. So he was a natural leader, a good choice. I think they’ve potentially shot the gun a little bit early in terms of his leadership capabilities. He’s still a young player, a dominant player in World cricket. So I’m a little disappointed and a little shocked about the reaction,” Hayden concluded.
As Pakistan looks to regroup after the World Cup setback, they face an upcoming test series against Australia. While the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has not announced a new skipper for the ODI team, speculations arise around Shaheen Afridi potentially taking over the leadership role, given his success with Lahore Qalandars in the Pakistan Super League.