Babar Azam vowed not to overcomplicate things as ODI captain, saying he would try to apply the same mindset which fetched him positive results in T20s. Pakistan start as firm favourites against Zimbabwe, and Azam said they would test their bench strength during the series, but at the same time, he asked his players not to take the opponents lightly.
This is Azam’s first ODI series as captain despite being given the role over a year ago. Pakistan have not played an ODI since a three-match series against Sri Lanka in October 2019, and in that time, he has led his side in eight T20Is, with three wins and as many losses. His form as a batsman shows no sign of waning, but Azam is yet to truly stamp his mark as a captain.
“I have learned a lot in the last year and it is a continuous process,” Azam said on the eve of the first ODI. “It didn’t affect my batting much because with the bat I only focus on what I am doing in the middle. But as a captain, there are a lot of things going on my mind so I try to cover every aspect as captain while enjoying the game. The ODI cricket is played with a different mindset but whatever made me successful in T20 cricket, I’ll try and replicate that to get good results.”
Zimbabwe’s 20-man squad has a mix of youth and experience. While new faces like Faraz Akram, Wesley Madhevere and Milton Shumba are part of the side, there are also seven players who visited Pakistan in 2015. Pakistan, meanwhile, are playing with a full-strength squad and go into the series as firm favourites, having won each of their last six ODIs against Zimbabwe.
“This time around the competition will be good; they have brought in experienced players and you will see different cricket,” Azam said. “We will try to dominate and play according to our strengths and try and get a clean sweep. You can’t take them lightly and we will try to play with a combination of seniors and juniors and give chances to players like Khushdil [Shah], Usman Qadir and Zafar Gohar. We will try to shuffle during the whole series and test our bench strength.
“Whatever the team you are up against you can’t afford to take it easy,” he said. “We plan to have the same level of focus and planning. We have to give Zimbabwe respect and play at our full potential. I have given the same message to the boys in the dressing room not to be relaxed and play your natural game.”