How Babar Azam's captaincy failed Pakistan in their loss to Afghanistan
As aesthetic as Babar Azam’s batting is, his captaincy and on-field tactics have always been questionable. His decisions have backfired several times, and Pakistan have lost momentum many times. Babar becomes too defensive with his bowling changes and field settings, probably due to thinking too far, and it hasn’t helped the team for some time.
On Monday, Babar’s questionable tactics came to the fore again when Afghanistan stunned them with a clinical show. While Pakistan have plenty of issues in every department, the least they can do is be tactically sound. Unfortunately, they haven’t been even close to it and, consequently, suffered their third straight loss in the World Cup 2023.
In this segment, we look at the three blunders made by Babar Azam that cost them the game against Afghanistan in Chennai.
Bowling three spinners in tandem
Afghanistan might have a range of issues in their batting department, but facing spin won’t be one of them. To their fortunes, Babar kept feeding spinners to their quality openers in the early phase of middle overs. Between over 15 and 21, Pakistan used Usama Mir, Shadab Khan and Iftikhar Ahmed without any break.
They couldn’t apply any pressure and conceded 41 runs in seven overs. None of the spinners looked threatening enough at any stage, either. The blunder came into the limelight immediately when Shaheen Afridi returned for another stint and dismissed Rahmanullah Gurbaz on the first ball.
Pakistan’s spinners have failed to provide breakthroughs for some time now. Hence, the decision to stick with three spinners at once was more than baffling, to say the least.
Delaying the pacers several times
Babar Azam missed the trick several times by delaying the entry of their pacers during the second innings. When Gurbaz lost his wicket, Pakistan continued with Shadab Khan from the other end. They had a chance to break the game by lining up Haris Rauf from his end.
Rahmat Shah has had lucid troubles against the pacers, and Haris could have threatened him, eventually leading to a few casualties. Rahmat eased his way and later went on to notch up a match-winning fifty.
Again, when Ibrahim Zadran was dismissed in the 34th over by Hasan Ali, Babar stuck with his part-timer Iftikhar Ahmed from the other end when he had a real chance to expose a shaky Afghanistan middle order by attacking with the pacers. Mind you, there was some reverse swing available for the pacers in the last 20-odd overs.
Not to forget, Babar gave an additional over to Usama Mir in the 46th, and he leaked 11 runs to end Pakistan’s all chances. They still had two overs of Haris Rauf left, and while he was expensive, he would have still been a better option. Afghanistan will always prefer a spinner who bowls so many loose balls over a pacer with express pace in the slog overs.
The field placements have been a permanent problem with Babar Azam. His defensive mindset never helps Pakistan, and he still continues with it. Babar didn’t use attacking fielders for a long time, and while he did place them after a wicket, they were removed only after a few deliveries.
Even when a few runs were required, the Pakistani fielders inside the ring were on the edge. Hence, Afghanistan’s batters easily rotated the strike. Rahmat Shah and Hashmatullah Shahidi did play some extra dot balls, but they were well helped by the field placements and managed to get away without feeling the pressure of the required rate.
When Afghanistan required less than 30 to win, Babar Azam didn’t bring in those extra fielders to build pressure and enable the batters to take an aerial route to break the shackles. They ran hard between the wickets, and the fielders, as always, were sloppy to make work easier for Afghanistan. Barring a few overs, Babar didn’t station those attacking and catching fielders, and the batters never had to force themselves out of their comfort zones and try anything different.