Babar Azam has a long way to go before becoming a captain who can handle pressure, said former Pakistan skipper Rashid Latif, declaring that India would be favourites against his country owing to a more balanced squad when the two sides clash in the T20 World Cup on Sunday. The India-Pakistan showdown, to be held in New York, is one of the most eagerly-awaited games of the ongoing tournament being co-hosted by the USA and the West Indies.

“…the focus is on the game on June 9 against India. Babar (Pakistan captain) will be under a lot of pressure because of the game against India rather than performing in the World Cup,” the 55-year-old former wicketkeeper-batter told PTI videos in an exclusive interview.

“But he has to learn to carry pressure, he should learn that from Virat and Rohit. They know how to carry the game. As a batter Babar is one of the best but as a captain and leader, there’s a lot that he needs to learn,” he added.

Latif said India have superior spinners and based on current form, Rohit Sharma’s men are favourites for a win on Sunday.

“Kuldeep Yadav is that one player who if remains fit for India throughout the World Cup, he can cause trouble for batters. He is India’s key bowler and also a key to success. Given the current form and stats definitely India has an advantage ahead of June 9,” he said.

Latif also pointed out that the Pakistan’s preparedness is nowhere close to being as good as it was during its strong performances in the 2021 and 2022 editions, when the team reached the finals.

“The Pakistan team plays well in the ICC tournaments but the team doesn’t look as prepared as they were in 2021 and 2022. The damage happened after the last ODI World Cup with changes in captaincy, the selection committee, and players,” he explained.

“The team doesn’t know who their openers will be and what they have tried has failed miserably,” he pointed out.

Latif lamented the decline of Pakistan’s bowling, especially the pacers. He blamed poor fitness for it.

“A lot of bowlers like Shaheen, Naseem, Rauf, Shadab came back from injury and now Imad Wasim is injured. The biggest issue has been the fitness of the bowlers,” he said.

“Former greats like Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Mohammad Asif were way fitter than them and never used to miss any Tests or ODIs. But these guys, despite playing shorter formats, don’t have adequate fitness,” he added.

He also criticised the selection of bowlers who play similar roles in the side.

“…they bring back Mohammad Amir and Imad Wasim. Earlier when these two bowlers used to play for Pakistan and in the PSL, they used to bowl the early overs between 1-4.

“Now, Rauf and Shaheen perform the same role, if you have four bowlers with the same role, who will bowl in the middle overs?” he asked.

He lauded India for getting their bowling combination right.

“Look at India, they have got Kuldeep, Axar, Jadeja and Chahal who can bowl in the middle and also the early overs. Pakistan couldn’t develop Abrar Ahmed much. If Shadab Khan goes for runs in the middle overs, Pakistan doesn’t have a lot of cover,” he said.

Latif also questioned the timing of South African Gary Kirsten’s appointment as Pakistan coach.

“The timing of his joining is very wrong. He joined the team on May 19 after the IPL season for Gujarat Titans ended,” Latif pointed out.

“He only knows players by their names, but when you are going to the World Cup then you at least need to have spent at least a year with the players. He did not get this time and the Pakistan board is to blame for that,” he said.

Talking about Virat Kohli, Latif said, “Virat has a lot of fans in Pakistan and also the players playing are his fans. Like I also say this whenever Sachin used to play earlier, I never wanted him to get out.

“The world was paying to watch him bat but I was sitting behind the stumps and enjoying it for free,” he recalled on a lighter note.

“Virat Kohli is a different player…Virat is a different player after this IPL…It will be really interesting to see where he bats in this World Cup.” Kohli opened with Rohit in India’s opener against Ireland.

Latif said even Babar can grow in stature but he needs a better team around him.

“Babar is a great player but doesn’t have a lot of players to support him. Virat definitely has an advantage because the players are around him. But Pakistan lacks that cushion.

“Babar only has Rizwan and occasionally the support of Fakhar Zaman. Babar’s quality is way above his teammates and I think this acts as a disadvantage for him.”

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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