Babar Azam must become a match-winner

Babar Azam must become a match-winner: Afridi

Monitoring Desk

LAHORE: Pakistan batsman Babar Azam must “become a match-winner” before he can be compared to the likes of England’s Joe Root or India’s Virat Kohli, says former all-rounder Shahid Afridi.

Babar, 25, scored 69 and five as Pakistan lost to England in the first Test of the three-match series.

He averages 44.74 from 27 Tests.

“He is very talented – the backbone of the team – but needs to score big runs,” Afridi told BBC Sport before the second Test, which starts on Thursday.

Babar is ranked as the number one batsman in Twenty20s and third in one-day-internationals, but Afridi – who retired from playing for Pakistan in 2017 – says he has more to do in the longer format of the game.

“If Babar wants to become like Root, Kohli, Australia’s Steve Smith or South African AB de Villiers then he need to convert his fifties into hundreds,” the 40-year-old added.

The young pace duo of Naseem Shah, 17, and Shaheen Afridi, 20, impressed for the tourists in the thrilling first Test but Afridi warns that it is too soon to be drawing comparisons with Pakistan greats Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis.

“We have high expectation of Naseem and Shaheen,” said Afridi.

“They are young, energetic and highly talented, but if they are to become like Wasim and Waqar then they have to be consistent in their performance and we have to win matches.

“They need to just take the pressure which they are under, enjoy the game and give 100%.”

‘Azhar’s consistency isn’t there’

Pakistan captain Azhar Ali has come in for criticism after he failed to score in the first innings against England in the first Test and was out 18 in the second innings.

In his post-match interview, Azhar also admitted to BBC’s Test Match Special that perhaps he “was too late to bring fielders up” in the hosts’ run-chase.

Afridi says Azhar needs to first improve his own displays with the bat to help his side level the series at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton.

“If you look at Azhar’s track record, the consistency in performance hasn’t quite been there,” added Afridi.

“When any team loses the captain is criticised. That will always be there. But his own performance is very important. As the captain he is the base.”

Afridi scored 11,196 international runs and took 541 wickets in all three formats of the game.

He expects Pakistan to react strongly against a “world-class England team” in the second Test.

“I’m totally confident Pakistan will always bounce back very well,” he said.

“Our squad is very good. We have experienced management and players, good batsmen and players.” (BBC)

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