You will be stranded as a batter if you’re satisfied with yourself: Babar Azam
Pakistan’s Babar Azam, who is playing for Rangpur Riders in the ongoing Bangladesh Premier League, is undoubtedly the biggest star in the competition. In an exclusive chat with Cricbuzz, Azam spoke about his cricketing philosophy across formats, his famed cover drive, being one’s own coach and a lot more.
What are your learning from BPL?
It’s a learning experience for me that I am playing here because you can learn the art of playing spinners by taking part in these kind of tournaments. Here there are quality spinners and wicket is not that easy, you have to work hard to make your runs. I think these kinds of challenges will help me in my batting.
You arrived from New Zealand and played on the following day and scored a half century. Does experience help in this regard as you know what to expect here?
Look, we have played international cricket here. Certainly I have some kind of knowledge about what to expect here as far as conditions are concerned. There is a difference between there (New Zealand) and here (Bangladesh), so you need to have that mindset about how you want to play. I took some time in the middle (in my opening game) because the team needed partnerships as we lost a couple of wickets. I did not think what will I do till the end because when you are walking with a plan, you can chase it down when you are set. It was just that I had to see one or two overs to understand the conditions and that’s it.
Can you talk about how you approach different formats of cricket?
Cricket is a game of mindset. A Test match is played for five days and all your skillsets are tested there. In white-ball cricket, you have to be a bit more positive, especially in T20s. You have to always be on your toes – like how you want to go about it if you are batting first and what will be your method if you are chasing. You have to assess which bowler you want to target and who you don’t want to go after.
Lot of people says that T20 is a game for young blood. What are your thoughts on that?
Young blood is good but at the same time you also need experience (in T20s) because only an experience player can bail you out in a difficult situation – like [he will know] how to handle the pressure. I feel both is required [experience and young blood]. You need to have senior players because if you have a combination of young and experience, it will be beneficial for the youngster as well as the experience ones.
Why do you think sub-continental batters struggle in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and England?
As a professional you have to always be proactive and you cannot give an excuse that we are Asian and when we go over there we struggle, because you have to go over there being prepared. There are technologies and practices in place to manage pace and bounce over there. You have to go there being prepared, like how you want to play pace and bounce over there.
The ball gets some pace and bounce there but you cannot use that as an excuse because in international cricket you cannot expect that you won’t get pace. Every team has bowlers who can bowl over 140 kmph.
Let’s talk about your favourite shot – the cover drive. Is that your go-to shot under pressure?
As a batter whenever you are playing a shot, your nervousness decreases. Whenever you play a shot or score a boundary you tend to get normal and my cover drive is my strength and my confidence gets a boost after hitting that shot. From the early days I worked hard on my cover drive and now I feel that I have mastered it (cover drive) to some extent.
Is there anything about your batting you would like to change? And is that because you’ve seen some failure?
Failure is bound to come and you have to be ready for that too. It is not that I can be satisfied where I am standing today and stop doing all the hard work that I am doing. I try to learn something new every day and apply it to my batting and execute it in the nets to see whether it is helping me or not. It can be mindset or a shot or a different kind of practice. I don’t believe that I can be satisfied with what I have achieved, and all the time I try to reach a new destination and [think] how I can improve myself. You will be stranded as a batter if you are satisfied with yourself. If you want to achieve anything, you have to improve on day-to-day basis.
How do you deal with a low phase? Do you seek help and talk to people around you?
Yes of course I talk with a lot of people. I also analyse where I am going wrong by seeing my own videos in the nets and having discussion over it. But I feel you are your biggest coach. Another person can tell you about technique but you have to understand from within where you are making a mistake and how you can rectify because you know best what mistakes you are committing as a batter.
You always say that you play for the team but do you set any goal for yourself?
Look, the main thing is how much you are enjoying your game and certainly the goal is how I can win games for my team. As far as my own goal is concerned, I am never satisfied because whenever I achieve something, I always focus on my next goal and make plans on how I can achieve that. That keeps me going and it never stops. I always focus on my next goal because what I have achieved is in the past. What is there to be achieved for me – like how I can score runs and how I can match the top players – is something that keeps me motivated.