Babar Azam, the acclaimed Pakistan skipper, is undoubtedly one of the finest batters of this generation. However, following his team’s recent seven-wicket loss to India in the ongoing ICC Cricket World Cup 2023, Azam has faced criticism, particularly regarding his captaincy skills.
Former Indian opener Gautam Gambhir, revered for his no-nonsense approach to cricket, has offered Azam some valuable advice on navigating these challenges and evolving as a captain. In a candid conversation with Sportskeeda, Gambhir highlighted the need for Azam to make specific changes in his approach.
Gambhir emphasized the significance of a more positive mindset on the field. He suggested that Azam should aim to be the beacon of positivity for his team, inspiring them to play with an attacking mentality.
Gambhir said, “I feel Babar will have to change his personality, game and, importantly, mindset. Pakistan has had a history of attacking batters – Shahid Afridi, Imran Nazir, Saeed Anwar, and Aamer Sohail. In the present top three, everyone bats in a similar mode. If someone has to take responsibility, it has to be their captain, who bats at No. 3.”
Intent, Gambhir pointed out, is the driving force behind success in international cricket. He believes Azam should showcase a keen intent to win and lead by example, motivating his teammates.
It’s not just about playing with aggression but also about making minor adjustments in his mindset. Gambhir underlined that the current Pakistani top-order batters, including Azam himself, tend to have a similar style of play. Azam should be willing to take on a more responsible and dynamic rol to break this moulde.
Gambhir drew a comparison between Babar Azam and Indian captain Rohit Sharma. Both captains scored half-centuries, but the approach set them apart. While Azam’s 50 was instrumental, Sharma’s 80 displayed a more aggressive intent. Gambhir stressed the importance of leading from the front and setting the tone for the team.
The approach of a captain can significantly impact the team’s performance. If the captain is defensive, the team’s approach often reflects. Gambhir highlighted that a captain cannot expect ten other players to play positively while he anchors from one end. Leadership in cricket is about shouldering responsibility and shaping the team’s mindset.
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Gambhir concluded, “The team plays how the captain plays. Both Babar Azam and Rohit Sharma scored the fifties. One scored a 50, and the other scored an 80. None of them scored a hundred, but the approach was the difference. If Pakistan were chasing 190, their mindset would have been just to win the game, whether they got there in 35 or 40 overs. The captain needs to take responsibility. If the captain is defensive, the team will be defensive. You can’t tell the 10 other players in the room that, ‘you play positive, I will play [anchor] from one end”.
Babar Azam and his team are set to face Australia on October 20, an opportunity to put the advice into practice. The clash with Australia in Bangalore provides the perfect platform for Azam to exhibit the positive mindset and dynamic leadership that Gambhir has advocated.