Pakistan head coach and chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq believes Babar Azam is destined to be a world-class player and is very close to being in the same league as India skipper Virat Kohli and Australia’s Steve Smith.
“I don’t like comparisons but Babar is currently very close to being in the same class as Virat Kohli, Steve Smith or Joe Root,” Misbah said in an interview with Youtube channel, Cricket Baaz.
“He believes in the work ethic that if you want to better Kohli you have to work harder than him at your skills, fitness and game awareness.”
The 25-year-old, who was named captain of the Pakistan T20 team ahead of the Australia series in October last year, was recently handed the reins of the ODI team as well.
“Making him the T20 captain was a tester. We wanted to see how he will respond to this challenge. All of us agree that he has done a very good job and his biggest plus is that being among the world’s top players he leads by example,” Misbah said.
“If you are a performer like Babar then it becomes easier for you to motivate the rest of the team and get things done.
“Even when I was made captain in 2010 my performances were here and there and I was in and out. But captaincy changed my game and mindset and I became a more hard-working and motivated cricketer.”
Misbah said Babar always challenges himself and would get better as a captain with experience.
“He is in a zone of his own. He just doesn’t want to be in the team. He just doesn’t want to play for money. He wants to be the top performer for Pakistan. He is always pitting himself against other top batsmen like Kohli or Smith,” he said.
“He loves challenges in the nets and on the field. He has really matured as a player and in time he will get better as a captain with experience.”
Babar was the leading run-scorer of the T20I series against Australia last year. He also scored 210 runs, which included a hundred, at 52.50 in the Test series against the same opponents.
In the two-Test home series against Sri Lanka, Babar ended the series with 262 runs with an average of exactly 262.
Misbah feels Babar had changed as a batsman when he got runs in the Tests in Australia.
“Before that he was getting runs in tests but not consistently. In Australia and in the following tests against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh he changed,” he said.
Talking about his experience as a head coach, Misbah said: “Having captained, it has helped me a lot. As captain I had to manage everything and also having played under top coaches ... I have seen closely their work ethics and how they managed things.
“It is a learning process. Having remained captain it is a big advantage for coaching because you know the players and their mood swings. You know which player will respond in a given situation, which player is feeling pressure in a scenario.
Misbah said it is not easy juggling between different roles.
“The most important thing as a coach is mentally and psychologically how you handle a group of players,” the former skipper said.
“Sometimes captain and coach are different as you have to take tough decisions. Being the chief selector makes it a bit difficult but I had the experience of creating and managing teams, I have been building teams since 2003. Till now it is going well.”
Misbah feels in Pakistan cricket there were different parameters for judging foreign and local coaches.
“I don’t know why it is like this why do we have different eye for locals and foreigners. Maybe we feel they have something special. It looks like every decision by a foreign coach is right. In contrast we tend to be very critical of local coaches no matter what decision they take,” he said.
(With PTI inputs)
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