Test captain Azhar Ali has explained star batsman Babar Azam’s recent march up the batting order, which is set to go up another notch higher in the upcoming second and final Test against Australia.
Babar, who opens the batting for Pakistan in the two shorter formats, used to bat at number six in Tests under former head coach Mickey Arthur.
He was promoted from sixth to fifth in the first Test against Australia last week, and rumour has it that in the final Test he would bat at number four.
Azhar says that Babar’s rise up the order was a part of the plan and that he was not assigned a lower slot because of any doubts in his ability.
“We all know how talented Babar Azam is. He has performed well in Tests as well in the recent past. He is improving all the time. The previous management had assigned him a lower number in the batting order so that he got started [in the longest former] but no one had any doubts in his ability,” the skipper told Pakistan Cricket Board’s procast.
“But now we are thinking to promote him up the order gradually. We all know how good he is but we also need to keep him at a position where he keeps on scoring.”
Azhar further said that despite Pakistan’s innings defeat in the series opener, “neither me nor the team management has any doubt in the ability of the players.”
After the chastening defeat in the first Test last week, Pakistan cricket team’s management is expected to ring in several changes for the second and final Test, with out-of-form Haris Sohail likely to be dropped and the batting order set to be shuffled.
Head coach Misbah-ul-Haq and co, according to sources within the team, are considering dropping Sohail in favour of opening batsman Imam-ul-Haq.
Imam, if picked, will open the Pakistan innings alongside fellow southpaw Shan Masood, which means captain Azhar Ali, who had opened the batting in the first Test and failed to deliver, would bat at one-down where Sohail had previously.
Star batsman Babar Azam had earned plaudits for his century in the second innings of the opening Test, which Pakistan ended up losing by an innings and five runs. Promoting the stylish right-hander up the order from fifth place to fourth is also on the cards.
The team management had caught a lot of flak for snubbing pace spearhead Mohammad Abbas and picking Imran Khan Sr on the basis of the latter’s five-fer in a warm-up match. Abbas’ selection in the second Test’s line-up is all but certain, as per sources.
Teenage pacer Naseem Shah impressed all and sundry with his bowling on debut but team management wants to use him with restraint. In case, Misbah decides to rest him, fellow teen tearaway Muhammad Musa Khan could replace him.
The final line-ups and team strategies, however, will be decided after analyzing the Adelaide pitch, where the second Test will be played from Friday.—Agencies