The 2023 ODI World Cup began positively for the Pakistan cricket team, securing an impressive 81-run victory against the Netherlands at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad. They continued their strong performance by successfully chasing down 345 runs against Sri Lanka at the same venue, setting a new record for the highest total chased in a Men’s ODI World Cup match. However, their fortunes took a drastic turn as they endured a series of four consecutive defeats, pushing them down in the points table.

Their string of losses started with a seven-wicket defeat against arch-rivals India in Ahmedabad, followed by a 62-run loss to Australia in Bengaluru. Pakistan faced another setback when Afghanistan stunned them with an eight-wicket victory in Chennai. The team came close to breaking their losing streak when they faced South Africa in Chennai but ultimately suffered a heart-wrenching one-wicket loss.

With four straight defeats, Pakistan’s chances of reaching the semi-finals now seem bleak. Each loss has increased the pressure on captain Babar Azam and drawn criticism. While cricket is a team sport, the captain is expected to be a strong leader. In this respect, Babar has faced challenges and may be considered one of the weaker captains in the 2023 World Cup.

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Lack of Control Over the Team: Effective leadership requires a captain to earn the respect and confidence of the team. While social media may portray team harmony, on the field, a different image emerges. Babar appears to lack the necessary control and assertiveness expected of a strong leader. Seeking guidance from senior players is one thing, but Babar’s leadership seems to lack the assertiveness and control required, particularly in challenging situations. He has been observed as passive and uninvolved when the team faces adversity, lacking the communication and motivation necessary to inspire the players.

Poor Tactics: The 2023 World Cup has exposed Babar’s tactical limitations as a captain. His bowling decisions, particularly against Afghanistan, were puzzling. His choice to employ spinners when fast bowlers should have been used allowed Afghanistan to secure victory. Additionally, Babar’s decision to bowl left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz in high-pressure situations has led to unfavorable outcomes in critical matches. His decisions have not complemented Pakistan’s bowling performance, further undermining the team’s chances.

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Pressure on Batting: Babar’s leadership responsibilities have also taken a toll on his batting performance. His struggles in major tournaments, such as the 2022 Asia Cup and the 2022 T20 World Cup, reflect this pressure. He has failed to inspire the team with his batting in these tournaments, scoring modestly. In the 2023 World Cup, while he has managed to score three half-centuries in six innings, these have not been achieved with the required strike rate for one-day cricket. Babar’s inability to dominate bowlers like Quinton de Kock and Virat Kohli has been evident.

The Future of Babar’s Leadership: While Babar possesses undeniable batting talent, the impact of leadership on his primary skill raises concerns. Pakistan may benefit from relieving him of the captaincy responsibilities. Ultimately, Pakistan requires Babar as a batter more than a captain. Babar’s struggles have been evident in both his leadership and batting performance, and the future of his captaincy post the 2023 World Cup remains uncertain.

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