In fact, even before Friday’s loss to South Africa, PCB had made it clear that certain decisions would be taken “in the best interest of Pakistan cricket based on the team’s performances in the World Cup”.The first among them could be Babar’s scalp as the captain of an underperforming side.
Let’s not start a witch hunt now, Pakistan team director Mickey Arthur, who has perhaps seen Babar much more closely than all the skipper’s critics put together, pleaded after their gut-wrenching one-wicket loss to South Africa in Chennai. The signs are ominous and some of the country’s cricket greats have added spice to the speculations by questioning Babar’s captaincy.
ICC World Cup 2023: South Africa clinches thrilling win over Pakistan by 1 wicket in a dramatic turn
Yet, with three league-stage matches yet to be played, it might be too early for a knee-jerk reaction. Did he really err in asking Mohammad Nawaz to bowl the final over against South Africa? Or bowling out the pacers before that all-important over? Experts feel so. Perhaps even he feels so, if one can infer after he was caught shouting at Nawaz after the match. Babar, like MS Dhoni, does not lose his cool too often. But then, he is human too.
Even if the PCB spares him (and itself) the embarrassment of changing the skipper in the middle of the tournament, the call might come sooner than later. Babar might well just step aside “in the best interest of Pakistan cricket”.
When he looks back at the team’s World Cup campaign – in his own words “very disappointing” – Babar will surely rue the loss to Afghanistan much more than the one to India. The Men in Blue were always the overwhelming favourites, but surely their neighbours on the west were the banana skin they could have avoided.
A loss to Bangladesh on Tuesday – improbable but not impossible – will drive home the final nail. On the other hand, a miraculous recovery from here could alter some sentiments back home, even though it might not change the team’s fortunes in the World Cup.
As a batter, Babar could be considered to have had a modest tournament so far, with three half-centuries under his belt. However, with the plethora of centuries that the tournament has witnessed, at least one three-figure mark would have been par for the course for someone who is counted among the best in business.