'Not crime to make mistakes': Pakistan's Azam under pressure

'Not crime to make mistakes': Pakistan captain Babar Azam watches as his team exits the World Cup in defeat to England (DIBYANGSHU SARKAR)
'Not crime to make mistakes': Pakistan captain Babar Azam watches as his team exits the World Cup in defeat to England (DIBYANGSHU SARKAR)

Pakistan captain Babar Azam was described as "depressed" and under pressure to save his job Sunday after the team crashed out of the Cricket World Cup, failing to make the semi-finals for a second successive tournament.

A 93-run loss to England sealed Pakistan's fate, ending the 1992 champions' already slim hopes of squeezing into the last four.

Former Pakistan captain and ex-chairman of the country's cricket board Ramiz Raja said that 29-year-old Azam was "depressed" over the reaction at home.

Fans' anger would have been made more acute by seeing arch-rivals India sweeping to eight wins out of eight, becoming the first team to reach the semi-finals.

Azam's team lost five of their nine games including a seven-wicket mauling by India in front of more than 100,000 fans in Ahmedabad.

That was India's eighth victory in eight World Cup games against their neighbours.

Pakistan also lost to Afghanistan for the first time.

Azam made 320 runs at the World Cup with four fifties at an average of 40 and remains the world's second highest-ranked batsman. He has almost 13,000 runs in all international cricket.

However, it was his captaincy in India which was questioned when he faced accusations of lacking aggression in field settings.

Pakistan media consistently accused him of favouring his friends in selection.

"I get behind Babar. Babar is very, very close to me. He's a young guy that needs to be taken on the journey, he needs to be shown the ropes," said Pakistan's director of cricket Mickey Arthur.

- 'Time to grow' -

Azam has been captain of the Test and ODI teams since 2020.

"He's still learning all the time. We know he's a very, very fine batsman. He learns every day with his captaincy," added Arthur.

"We have to allow him the time to grow. And in order to do that, you make mistakes. It's not a crime to make mistakes as long as you learn from those mistakes."

Despite the despondency of fans at home, Azam and his team found sympathy in India.

Only a smattering of Pakistan fans -- mostly expatriates -- were at the venues as visa complications effectively meant a ban on those wishing to cross the border.

As a Pakistan squad playing in India for the first time in seven years, they were virtually confined to hotel rooms once playing and training commitments were completed.

Security details would accompany players and squad members if they wanted to venture outside their hotel.

Arthur compared the situation to touring "in Covid times".

Raja believes that Azam may become the first victim of bloodletting in a Pakistan cricketing environment often plagued by infighting.

"There's so much pressure on him that he may leave the job," Raja told the BBC's Test Match Special.

"Back home there has obviously been a massive backlash, as expected. The Pakistan media have targeted certain players, and especially Babar Azam.

"It's just a World Cup so you have to take the heat somehow. The problem with this team is it has the potential to play modern-day cricket but they have been a bit shy and timid with their approach."