Pakistan faced a disappointing exit from the 2023 Asia Cup on Thursday, with Sri Lanka inflincting a narrow two-wicket loss on Babar Azam‘s men in a ‘virtual semi-final’ in Colombo. The equation was fairly simple for both sides – win the match and play in final against India – and Pakistan did produce an impressive fightback after being put on backfoot by Sri Lanka in a rain-curtailed 42-over game. However, Charith Asalanka’s heroics with the bat eventually led Sri Lanka to a thrilling last-ball win, crushing Pakistan’s hopes yet again.
The men in green had already been facing twin-setbacks with injuries to Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf before the must-win game in Colombo, and on the day of the match, also endured further absences in Imam ul Haq (injury) and Saud Shakeel (fever). Despite the notable absences, Pakistan put a target of 252 (DLS) on the board in 42 overs and pushed the game to the final ball, with Asalanka smashing the required two runs with a flick towards deep square leg.
While Babar is now facing criticism for his captaincy decisions in the game – and throughout the tournament – it seems another storm is brewing inside the Pakistan cricket team. There have been reports coming from the national media that a rift has ensued in the dressing room, with Babar Azam facing some opposition from fellow players. While nothing concrete has come out so far, the side’s former wicketkeeper Moin Khan spoke in detail about the same during an appearance on Geo TV.
“You can rectify it before the World Cup. If there are differences and you sort them out before the big event, it helps in uniting the team even more. But of course, it’s not good for the team that dressing room arguments are come out in media. If players have an issue with Babar, or if Babar is not handling the issue well in absence of head coach or team director, it’s unfortunate because it’s their job to intervene in such things. They have to be in dressing room to take care of these things,” Moin said.
“If I’m the captain, and you don’t perform well, I’ll take your name, look at you in the eye, but calmly tell you that we have a lot of expectations from you and we back you, but you need to perform better. But if I’m talking about you while not paying much attention to you, you’d feel offended. You’d think I’m making fun of you in front of others. Everyone has an ego. Man management is very important for Babar as well,” stated the former wicketkeeper.
‘No one came to Babar’
Moin also noted a startling pattern during Pakistan’s games in the Asia Cup, insisting that it felt Babar was isolated throughout his time on the field.
“We saw in the entire tournament, I’ve commented about it earlier as well… no player walked towards Babar. Neither Rizwan came to him, nor even the vice-captain was coming to him. No one was going to him. It felt everyone was scattered, there was no unity,” said Moin further.