Recent reports from Pakistan suggest that star batsman Babar Azam was hesitant to participate in the concluding 5th T20I against New Zealand in Christchurch. This reluctance stemmed from the fact that Pakistan was already trailing 4-0 in the series, narrowly avoiding a second consecutive whitewash after their 3-0 defeat in the Test series against Australia.
Pakistan’s tour of Australia had left them demoralized, having suffered a comprehensive whitewash in the red-ball series under the leadership of Shan Masood. The team arrived in New Zealand with hopes of a better performance under Shaheen Afridi’s captaincy, but the series took a turn for the worse with successive defeats, raising the specter of another whitewash.
Before the 5th T20I, Babar Azam reportedly expressed concerns about a slight groin discomfort, fearing a potential injury. This news came as a shock to the Pakistan team management, who were reluctant to sideline their key player. Despite his injury concerns, Babar Azam decided to play in the match after winning the toss and opting to bat first.
Babar Azam’s performance in the 5th T20I was below par, as he scored just 13 runs off 24 balls before being dismissed by Ish Sodhi. This came after a series where he had been the standout performer for Pakistan, scoring 200 runs across the previous four matches.
The decision to play Babar Azam despite his injury concerns raises questions about the team management’s handling of player fitness, especially with the ICC T20 World Cup approaching in the USA and the West Indies in five to six months. This incident highlights the delicate balance between player fitness and team requirements, especially in high-stakes international competitions.
Despite his injury worries, Babar Azam later showcased his batting prowess in the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) by playing a match-winning knock of 62 runs off 46 balls for the Rangpur Riders. His performance helped his team secure a convincing victory, indicating that his injury concerns might have been manageable.
Looking ahead, Babar Azam is set to participate in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) for the Peshawar Zalmi before heading to England for a 4-match T20I series. His ability to manage his fitness and continue performing at the highest level will be crucial for Pakistan’s success in upcoming tournaments.