Pakistan star Babar Azam - I don't want to be compared to Virat Kohli or any other batsman

Waseem Ahmed 17:43 10/08/2019
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Babar Azam

Comparisons with India skipper Virat Kohli have followed Babar Azam ever since the Pakistan batsman burst on to the international scene in 2015 but the 24-year-old feels that they are unwarranted.

The right-hander recently became the second fastest batsman in ODI history to register 3,000 runs during the 2019 World Cup in England and achieved the milestone in 68 innings compared to the 75 taken by Kohli to get to the mark.

However, the Pakistan sensation believes that comparisons with other batsmen such as Kohli are not really called for.

“I don’t think there is or should be any comparison as we are different types of players. I just focus on my batting and working on my strengths and weaknesses and have no desire to be compared with any other cricketer,” Babar told PakPassion.net in an interview.

“I’m sure I speak for most cricketers when I say comparisons are only for fans and the media and we cricketers don’t really crave any comparisons or want to be compared to any current or former players as that just creates endless pressure.

“As great as he is, I don’t want to be compared to Virat or any other cricketer, I just want to win matches for my country as that is my only aim.”

The Pakistan superstar has been in stellar form over the last few months in England and had an excellent individual campaign for the Men in Green in the World Cup. The 474 runs scored by Babar in eight innings is the highest tally ever recorded by any Pakistan batsman in World Cup history.

The top-order batsman has extended that superb form to his maiden county stint with Somerset in the Vitality T20 Blast where he is currently the leading run-scorer with 425 runs in eight innings at an average of nearly 71 and a strike-rate of more than 155.

Babar was in terrific touch for Somerset on Friday in their clash against Hampshire and struck an unbeaten 102 off just 55 deliveries to set up a 63-run win for his side.

“Playing county cricket had been on my radar for quite a while and when this offer came from Somerset I had no hesitation in accepting it,” he said.

“I have always enjoyed playing in England and recently had a fairly successful World Cup, so the target really is to continue my good form at the World Cup into my time with Somerset. It’s a great set-up at Somerset and they have really made me feel welcome.

“It’s a county with a great tradition and some of the world’s best cricketers have played at Somerset over the years and for me it’s an honour to be playing for this great team.”

With Pakistan head coach Mickey Arthur’s contract not renewed after the World Cup, there has been speculation that Sarfraz Ahmed could be removed from his captaincy across all formats.

Babar’s name has naturally been linked as a potential successor but the batsman is not thinking about the captaincy just yet.

“It’s up to the Pakistan Cricket Board to decide whoever captains the teams and in whichever format,” he said.

“The Board will decide who the captain or captains are and the players of course abide by their choice. I’ve never really thought about captaining Pakistan and have in all honesty only thought about playing for my country.

“I am not someone who craves being captain and am more interested in scoring runs for Pakistan. Whoever the Board chooses is the right choice and in fact I think Sarfaraz Ahmed is fine and is doing a good job at the moment.”

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Tom Moody, Mike Hesson and other leading men eyeing subcontinent head coach jobs

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Tom Moddy (r).

It is all set to be an interesting few weeks in the subcontinent with head coach positions opening up left, right and centre.

All five international sides in the region – India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan – are on the lookout for a new head coach following the completion of the 2019 ICC World Cup in England.

Ravi Shastri’s contract with the Indian team is up and the BCCI has already invited applications from interested candidates. Pakistan have opted against renewing Mickey Arthur’s contract while Bangladesh have parted ways with Steve Rhodes just one year into his two-year contract.

Sri Lanka, meanwhile, have appointed an interim coach for their upcoming series against New Zealand with the board attempting to severe ties with current coach Chandika Hathurusingha despite him holding a contract till the end of 2020.

Afghanistan, on the other hand, have parted ways with West Indies icon Phil Simmons.

As the search for the next head coach for the five sides hots up, we take a look at the leading men in contention.

Mike Hesson

The former Black Caps head coach has stepped down from his Kings XI Punjab role after just one season with the IPL franchise. The media in New Zealand has reported that Hesson is Bangladesh Cricket Board’s leading contender to replace Rhodes while he is also said to be in the running for the India and Pakistan jobs.

Hesson has a strong resume to back up him up and spent six years with the Black Caps between 2012 to 2018 while leading them to a runners-up finish in the 2015 World Cup. He is responsible for transforming the culture within the team alongside then skipper Brendon McCullum.

Hesson has previously coached the Kenya and Argentina national teams as well and should be a good fit for any side.

Hesson had a memorable stint with New Zealand.

Hesson had a memorable stint with New Zealand.

Tom Moody

The Australian is a heavyweight in the coaching arena with nearly 15 years of experience behind him. Having taken the Sri Lanka team all the way to the final of the 2007 World Cup, Moody is no stranger to dealing with the subcontinent hierarchy.

He has extensive coaching experience on the T20 franchise circuit with stints in the IPL, Big Bash League, Pakistan Super League, Bangladesh Premier League and the Caribbean Premier League.

He was recently removed from his position with the Sunrisers Hyderabad and will be on the radar of most teams in the subcontinent.

Moody's experience makes him a leading candidate.

Moody’s experience makes him a leading candidate.

Chandika Hathurusingha

The Sri Lanka coach’s position is currently looking untenable with the board actively looking to replace him after just a year into his role. He has already been suspended by the Sri Lanka Cricket despite holding a valid contract until the end of 2020.

With Rumesh Ratnayake appointed as Sri Lanka coach for the upcoming New Zealand series, Hathurusingha’s future looks bleak. Hathurusingha is not short of experience either and he could be in demand for other jobs which have opened in the subcontinent.

He has previously coached the UAE, Canada and had a successful three and a half-year stint with Bangladesh before taking over his current role with Sri Lanka.

Hathurusingha (l) is being pushed out of his role with Sri Lanka.

Hathurusingha (l) is being pushed out of his role with Sri Lanka.

Ravi Shastri

The former World Cup winning all-rounder has been at the helm of the India men’s team since 2017 and is reportedly favoured to get another extension. Shastri’s numbers are good with India climbing to the top of the ICC Test rankings under his tenure while achieving a historic maiden Test series win on Australian soil.

However, while the team has been successful for the most part in bilateral ODI cricket, the loss to New Zealand in the semi-final is seen as a failure. Away Test series defeats against South Africa and England have dented his record as well.

What Shastri has going for him is his rapport with Virat Kohli and his method of working in the background while letting the skipper take most of the limelight. As long as Kohli and India are not complaining, Shastri will likely keep his job for some time to come.

Shastri's equation with Kohli should see him get another stint.

Shastri’s equation with Kohli should see him get another stint.

Mickey Arthur

The South African has been left ‘hurt and disappointed’ after not being granted an extension by Pakistan and could be contender for other sides in the subcontinent. Under Arthur, Pakistan climbed to the top of the T20 rankings while also clinching the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy.

However, his record otherwise hasn’t been too flattering with ‘home’ Test defeats in the UAE against Sri Lanka and New Zealand. Pakistan have not been at their best in the ODI format since that Champions Trophy win and missed out on a semi-final spot in the recent World Cup.

He does have previous coaching experience with the South African and Australian men’s teams and will be desperate to land another international job soon.

Mickey Arthur has been relieved of his Pakistan duties.

Mickey Arthur has been relieved of his Pakistan duties.

Outside contenders

Mahela Jayawardene

The former Sri Lanka skipper has been on the coaching circuit over the last few years with stints as batting consultant of the England team and head coach roles at IPL side Mumbai Indians and BPL side Khulna Titans.

Does not have the best of relationships with Sri Lanka Cricket but could be a good shout for some other teams.

Andy Flower

The former Zimbabwe stalwart had five mostly successful years with the England cricket team as head coach and has continued to work in the set up as Technical Director of Elite Coaching.

He is reportedly eyeing up T20 franchise coaching jobs but would be an ideal candidate for many sides in the subcontinent with his meticulous approach.

Andy Flower is a solid shout.

Andy Flower is a solid shout.

Grant Bradburn

The former Scotland head coach is currently the only man from the Pakistan coaching setup to have survived the chop after a recent review of the team’s performance. While he is currently employed as the fielding coach, Bradburn can make the step up if needed given his previous coaching experience with Scotland and New Zealand A.

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Rahkeem Cornwall makes it to West Indies Test squad for India series

Sudhir Gupta 12:25 10/08/2019
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Rahkeem Cornwall.

West Indies picked hard-hitting all-rounder Rahkeem Cornwall for the Test series against India.

Cornwall made headlines early in his career for his size and was kept out of top level cricket due to weight and fitness issues. After starting off at more than 140 kilos, Corwall has shed the pounds and after consistent performances for the West Indies ‘A’ team and first-class cricket, the off-spinning all-rounder has been selected to play the two-Test series against the Indians that follows the ongoing ODI series.

Cornwall played four one-day and two four-day games against India ‘A’ and performed well. He failed to pick up a wicket in just two out of eight outings and hit two fifties in the red-ball games.

Cornwall has 260 wickets from 55 first-class games and was the leading bowler in the recent regional four-day tournament.

“Rahkeem has been performing consistently over a long period of time and has proven to be a match-winner, so we believe his elevation to the Test squad is merited at this time,” Robert Haynes, the head of the interim selection panel, said.

“We believe he can provide an attacking option to our bowling attack with his sharp turn and extra bounce. He can also lend a bit of depth to the batting, so we are looking forward to him coming into the squad and making a valuable contribution.”

The selectors retained most of the squad that registered a stunning 2-1 Test series win over England earlier this year in the Caribbean, apart from injured fast bowler Alzarri Joseph and left-arm spinner Jomel Warrican.

West Indies ‘A’ captain Shamarh Brooks is the only other uncapped player in the squad, apart from Cornwall.

WI Test squad: Jason Holder (c), Kraigg Brathwaite, Darren Bravo, Shamarh Brooks, John Campbell, Roston Chase, Rahkeem Cornwall, Shane Dowrich (wk), Shannon Gabriel, Shimron Hetmyer Shai Hope, Keemo Paul, Kemar Roach

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