Pakistan’s emerging star, Babar Azam on Tuesday emphasized the importance of playing at home; wanting more international games in the country as playing in front of their home crowd gives them a special feeling after playing a match-winning against World XI in Lahore.
The 22-year-old top-order batsman Azam scored 86 off just 52 balls, including 10 fours and two sixes, which was his highest ever T20I score, to guide Pakistan to a 20-run win and take a 1-0 lead in the ongoing three-match T20I series against the ICC World XI at the Gaddafi Stadium on Tuesday.
It was definitely a big moment for Pakistan fans as the International Cricket has finally returned to the country after a gap of eight long years. The ongoing ‘Independence Cup’ series is the first series that held in Pakistan since an attack on Sri Lankan team in 2009, barring Zimbabwe toured in 2015.
The World XI players were protected by high security, as well as around 9,000 police officers and paramilitary forces were deployed to the area, cordoning off the team's hotels and stadium.
Highlighting the importance of playing at home, Babar Azam told ESPNCricinfo, “It’s obviously difficult to play your own home series away from home because playing at home is relatively easy for us.”
The right-hander further added on the same, “It’s mainly because we grew up playing at our home venues, attuned with the conditions and with the crowd support it’s more enjoyable. It helps a lot also playing in front of a crowd that loves cricket and loves you and performing make us more special.”
Babar credited his partnership of a 122-run for the second-wicket with Ahmed Shehzad (39 off 35 balls) for Pakistan’s win over high profile World XI. He added, “We, unfortunately, have been deprived of playing at home regularly [sic] while every team around the world enjoys the privilege of playing at their home. I did play one game earlier against Zimbabwe at home and it also gives you immense pleasure to play.”
Meanwhile, World XI skipper Faf Du Plessis said at a press conference, “It is not just about cricket. This short tour is for something bigger. We are just happy that after a long time Pakistani cricket fans can watch the international action at home.”
The second game of the T20I series will be played on Wednesday (13 September), while the third and final will be held on Friday (15 September) at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore.