Babar Azam. Photo- PCB
Babar Azam. Photo- PCB

Pakistan openers Ahmed Shehzad and Imam-ul-Haq were involved in a heated debate over Babar Azam’s captaincy. Babar Azam has been a player who has divided opinions. He was captain of the team for the first time from 2019-2023 and was reinstated just after one series of stepping down. He replaced Shaheen Afridi as T20I captain and was handed the ODI captaincy as well.

During a T20 World Cup build-up broadcast on Pakistan’s Geo TV, Shehzad was asked if Babar Azam favours certain players when selecting national teams. In response, the right-handed batter didn’t hold back.

Shehzad used strong language to attack Babar Azam and even chastised the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) for re-appointing him as white-ball captain soon before the T20 World Cup.

“Speaking of Babar Azam, there is friendship. Look, he is carrying players from a long run. The players are out of form for a long time. It doesn’t look good. If I count the number of matches, you’ll realize players don’t get that long run. If there were any other captain, he wouldn’t have carried players for 35-40 games. He should have thought about himself.

We don’t play cricket to win bilateral series but to win ICC events. Did we win any event in the last 4-5 years? If we didn’t win, I would say there are gangs, friendships, and tola with an agent who has been manipulating cricket for the last 4-5 years,” Shehzad said.

He also compared the captaincy of Babar Azam with Sarfaraz Ahmed and pointed out that Ahmed won the ICC Champions Trophy in 2017 for Pakistan. But Babar Azam has failed to do so even after leading the side in 5 ICC tournaments.

“They [Sarfaraz Ahmed and Co.] produced the results, won the Champions Trophy. It justifies, you also win this event and justify. However, you’ve got a longer run, one captain doesn’t get five events. You were removed and then brought back. I understand if you were MS Dhoni that you were brought back. But no. It’s wrong with Shaheen, you made him captain for two matches and then you removed him,” Shehzad added.

Imam Ul Haq and Ahmed Shehzad fight over Babar Azam’s captaincy

Pakistan opener Imam-ul-Haq and former batter Imran Nazir were also part of the show. Imam was asked to comment on PCB’s decision to go back to Babar before the T20 World Cup.

Imam said: “Babar was removed without his consent and reinstated without his consent as well. The board re-appointed him as captain. In 2021, we reached the semifinals. Later in 2022, we played the final, which means there were performances. We didn’t win, that can be a debate. We didn’t click in the final. You can say Babar likes these lot of players but terming it as friendship is quite personal.”

That is where the war of words began between Imam and Shehzad.

Ahmed Shehzad: “We understand that Imam is in a central contract, he is young. We spoke the same when were at his age. I’m 34, sick and tired of things. We want things to be better. When you drag players for 4-5 years, you do wrong with those performing in domestic. Someone else takes their rights.”

“I am in a central contract. I have been playing for the last 6-7 years but I promise you that when I’ll be 36, my stand will be the same. If someone has a problem, they can speak if they are 28 as well. Why don’t you say that?” Imam replied.

Babar Azam will have another chance to win an ICC event when Pakistan plays its first match of the T20 World Cup 2024 against USA on June 6.

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