‘Main isko chhorunga nahi’: Shoaib Akhtar recalls bowling to Babar Azam in the nets

Amid his criticism of Pakistan captain Babar Azam, former Pakistani speedster Shoaib Akhtar recalled an old incident about Azam where the youngster hit him for a straight drive and he thought of not sparing Azam. Akhtar, who has been vocal about his criticism of Azam in recent days over his captaincy style and batting approach, shared his thoughts about a training session with Azam in his earlier days when he bowled to Azam for the first time in the nets with former Pakistan head coach Mudassar Nazar watching.

“I still remember Babar used to come to the academy. Mudassar bhai would accompany him at the time. Once, I told Babar to bat in the nets, and specifically told him to not hit me for a straight drive. But he’s a natural batter who relies on his cover and straight drives. Soon, he hit me for a straight drive. Tab maine socha, ‘Main isko chhorunga nahi’ (Then I thought, I won’t spare you). Then, Mudassar bhai (former Pakistan head coach) told Babar to come out varna ye bal mar dega (or else he will hit you),” Akhtar told Suno News.

Azam is currently leading Peshawar Zalmi side in the Pakistan Premier League and Akhar has been critical of the Pakistani captain. Last week, Akhtar had critisised Azam for his poor communication skills and had backed Shadab Khan for the role of Pakistan captain in white-ball cricket. “Shadab is a very smart kid when it comes to cricket skills. He wants to improve, which is a very good thing. He is ready to accept his mistakes and rectify them. In past two years, he has worked very hard on his bowling and his fitness has improved as well. He wants to look good and speak well. In times to come, he is not a bad option for captaincy for Pakistan in white-ball cricket,” Akhtar had told Cricket Pakistan.

The former Pakistan pacer also termed Pakistan Super League (PSL) side Islamabad United wicket-keeper Azam Khan as a ‘captaincy material’. Khan had played an unbeaten knock of 72 runs off 41 balls for his team in the six-wicket win over Karachi Kings in a previous PSL match. Akhtar also took a dig on Azam’s communication skills in his praise for Khan. “I found Azam Khan as a responsible guy who can build the innings, not just slog. He spoke smartly in the interview as well, and it felt nice to hear him speak like that as he talked about his performance. When I was playing 20 years ago, I didn’t care how I spoke. But in today’s era, being in media is a part of your job. I can only indicate and pin-point for you, ‘this is a problem, please go and correct it. It’s for your own benefit’. He (Azam) looked like a captaincy material with the way he spoke.” Akhtar had told Suno News after the match.

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