After Pakistan batted out their quota of 20 overs in the second T20I against West Indies, Babar Azam, who was not out at the end of the innings alongside Shoaib Malik, had his head down as he walked towards the pavilion.
He gave a look of a defeated soldier or of a player who had dropped a World Cup despite Pakistan posting their highest-ever T20I score. Azam had just missed out his maiden T20I century by a narrow margin of only three runs.
When a single brought Malik on strike in the middle of the last over, the veteran all-rounder pushed the next delivery down the ground and strolled to the non-striker’s end to provide the youngster with an opportunity to score a hundred. Azam had two balls to score four runs and become only the second Pakistan batsman to score in triple-digits in the shortest-format after Ahmed Shehzad. But, the penultimate ball of the innings brought no run as a short delivery was cut straight to the point fielder and only one run came off the last ball.
“I am very sad,” Azam said when he was asked how he felt about missing out on a century after the match. “I missed a few balls [that could have been hit for runs] which played a role in missing out the century. I was discussing with Shoaib bhai whether I should take a chance [with a big shot] or try to get to the century by running ones or twos. I misread a few balls and ended up missing the opportunity.”
Azam faced criticism in the recently concluded PSL due to his inability to score runs at a higher rate. He scored as many as five fifties for Karachi Kings, with just one of them, scored at an impressive strike rate of 148, winning his side a match. However, Azam said that it was those big scores that gave him confidence to score 97 not out in the second T20I on Monday (April 2).
“I scored fifties in the PSL but unfortunately my team did not win,” he said. “We can say that our bowling also had a role to play in it. But, I got a lot of confidence by scoring those runs. I have brought that confidence here and applied myself.”
Termed as one of the most technically sound batsmen in this Pakistani lineup, Azam, 23, relies on textbook shots. In a day and age of 360 degree batting, he doesn’t commit himself to paddle scoops or reverse sweeps on the pitch. When asked whether he needed to evolve his strokes and come out of the habit of playing backfoot cuts – which have been an integral part of his batting – as they don’t get too many runs in T20s, he said: “Whether the runs are coming down the ground or through cut shots, the runs should come. T20 cricket is not about big-hitting. My role is to play my natural game, not go out there and slog.