How Babar Azam rode confidence and his coach’s backing to rediscover batting form
“Once there's a lull, there's often a storm that follows. So look out, rest of the world, because I think you're about to see something very special from Babar.”
Pakistan’s head coach Matthew Hayden had warned the world what to expect from Babar in Wednesday’s semi-final. And the captain lived up to his coach’s billing.
A reprieve thanks to a dropped catch off his first ball gave Babar a chance, and he didn’t require a second invitation.
His 53 from 42 balls was a welcome return to form after what has been a tricky World Cup for the Pakistan captain.
Yet the 28-year-old says he always felt confident about his game, even as the runs dried up through the Super 12 stage.
“I’m very confident about my batting,” he told reporters after the win over New Zealand in Sydney.
“I struggled a little bit in a few matches, but I feel good, so I continue that momentum in the final.”
To find momentum at such a crunch point of the tournament is huge for Babar and Pakistan.
Prior to Wednesday’s semi-final, his numbers were befuddlingly poor. In five matches he had scored just 39 runs at an average of 7.80 and a debilitating strike rate of 61.90.
And stretching further back, his 2022 stats haven’t lived up to previous heights either, with 703 runs coming at an average of 31.95 – still good but not the world-class level that had him atop the MRF Tyres ICC Men's T20I Batting Rankings in the past.
But Babar is back, just as Hayden said he would be.
"We all know that in any given career, you have significant moments of ups and downs. And the challenges and the humps along the way, they cement you and your greatness,” Hayden said prior to the semi-final.
“You can't continue to keep on punching out hundreds and 50s and strike rates of 140-plus. There's got to be moments in time where there's a lull.
"And as we all know about the weather, once there's a lull, there's often a storm that follows. So look out, rest of the world, because I think you're about to see something very special from Babar."
Babar’s 30th career T20I half-century played a significant part in Pakistan’s seven-wicket win over the Black Caps.
His personal return to form has run in parallel to that of the team, and the skipper says Pakistan are delighted with how things have unfolded.
“It means a lot. To be honest, we did not start well, but after the South Africa match we had hope.
“After that we grabbed the opportunity. We are playing our best cricket and, Alhamdulillah, we will play well in the final.”
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