Babar Azam is Pakistan's captain in all formats; should he lead the Kings as well? We look at both sides of the coin.
Since the dawn of sports, captaincy has been a major element of it for all the right reasons. It is crucial to opt for a suitable captain with the right skills as the team’s fate can depend on them. If we talk about Pakistan in particular, we have had a set of captains that have completely changed the dynamics and perception of Pakistan cricket with their exceptional leadership abilities.
The rise of franchise cricket has allowed many cricketers to experience captaincy without taking it up internationally. Some of them have proved to be cut out for it. On the other hand, some backed out as it didn’t suit them or consequently affected their batting/bowling form.
Karachi Kings is one of the biggest franchises of PSL in terms of money as well as fans. In 2016, when the tournament had commenced, Shoaib Malik led Karachi Kings. However, he couldn’t continue for various reasons. Since it was half a decade ago, few knew Imad Wasim as he was only a handful of games old. Similarly, Babar Azam had not even debuted for Pakistan in the shorter format.
An experiment that proved to be a game-changer was giving a chance to Imad Wasim to lead the Kings. Despite taking Karachi to the play-offs and winning the 5th edition of PSL, fans consistently express their desire to see Babar Azam as the captain.
Shift of Focus
Most fans have shown concern about Babar’s performance as they don’t want him to divert his attention from batting towards captaincy. We are aware of the fact that captaincy can be pressurizing and daunting. Various cricketers haven’t had the luxury to maintain a strong dynamic between their form and their captaincy. In the case of Babar Azam, he was given the responsibility of becoming Pakistan’s all-format captain in 2020 before captaining Karachi Kings. Despite doing well for Pakistan, the Kings’ management did not appoint him as their captain.
A fair number of fans appreciate this decision. Understandably, they want Babar Azam to work on his temperament and batting form before adding additional responsibility on his shoulders. It will allow him to experiment and improve his techniques without any pressure. After all, he already has a lot on his plate. Babar Azam has been the leading run-scorer for Karachi Kings in the PSL. Meanwhile, Imad Wasim has a winning percentage of 58% with the Kings, which is quite remarkable.
There is no doubt that there is an evident age difference between Imad Wasim and Babar Azam. Imad Wasim has been a part of the cricketing world for much longer. Thus, he is comparatively more experienced than Babar.
His involvement with Nottinghamshire helped Karachi Kings to take advantage of this. The introduction of Joe Clarke into the lineup helped the franchise overcome the lack of power hitters. His addition allowed the Kings to score well in the powerplay and dominate the game from the get-go. Clarke had the 2nd-highest powerplay strike rate (160) in the Karachi leg of PSL 6.
Not only has he represented different franchises overseas, but he has also led his domestic team Northern since 2017. All in all, he has been captain for 61 T20 games. In these, he scored 780+ runs in 49 innings with a strike rate of 129, which is pretty decent for a lower-order batsman. He has been extremely impressive with the ball, maintaining an economy rate of just 6.67 in 58 innings.
As a captain, he has made sure that he doesn’t compromise on his form and also continues to win for his domestic team. He has a winning percentage of 52.5% in completed T20 games.
We could also say that things worked in Imad Wasim’s favor as he was a part of Karachi Kings since the start, allowing him to be a prospective captaincy option. Babar Azam represented Islamabad United in the first season, while Karachi Kings picked him up in the second season.
Babar Azam has always been an integral part of Karachi’s batting lineup. However, after his appointment as T20I captain, fans started questioning whether he should lead the Kings. Unfortunately, the timing didn’t favor him, as Imad had already done wonders for the franchise by becoming the first captain to win the trophy.
Ironically, Babar Azam and Imad Wasim both have captained Pakistan’s Under-19 unit. Imad Wasim captained Pakistan in the 2008 U-19 World Cup, where they reached the semi-finals. Babar Azam, on the other hand, captained Pakistan in the 2012 edition. Here, Pakistan only managed to win 3 out of the 6 games they played, finishing at 8th position.
The Other Side of the Coin
As I mentioned earlier, some fans want Babar Azam to captain Karachi Kings despite all the reasons stated above. One reason people would prefer Babar to captain Karachi is that he is a long-term prospect for the team. Even though the age factor favors Imad Wasim when it comes to experience, it could also be a disadvantage as people regard Babar Azam as the future of Pakistan cricket. They are directly aiming towards the bigger picture. Hence, they want him to take responsibility for his franchise too.
A player’s form is not permanent as it changes with time. Unfortunately, despite dominating the ICC Rankings in the past, Imad Wasim is currently facing a dip in his performance in T20s. His T20I bowling average in 2020 was 38.6, picking up just five wickets. His economy of 7.72 was the worst for any year; he is renowned for keeping the run rate down.
Moreover, in the Karachi leg of PSL 2021, he consciously chose not to bowl at times. This decision didn’t sit well with the fans, as there were moments when the team needed his bowling. He ended up taking only three wickets at an average of 33.67 before the tournament was suspended.
Since we are talking about performance, we are all aware that Babar Azam is jumping from strength to strength. There is no doubt that he is Karachi Kings’ and Pakistan’s key player. He has gained a lot of fame and recognition in the last few months, which can be advantageous for Karachi. Since franchise cricket is all about marketing and reaching a global audience, his fanbase, as well as Karachi Kings’, would increase if Babar Azam is announced as Karachi’s captain.
Overall, Imad Wasim and Babar Azam are both highly-ranked and recognized players that bring a ton of value to Karachi Kings. One serves as the captain and the other as the vice-captain. Who would you prefer as Karachi Kings’ captain?
The opinions expressed solely belong to the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Grassroots Cricket.