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Get out of nets or he will kill you: Babar Azam recalls facing Shoaib Akhtar

Incident occurred during a training camp for the emerging players

PHOTO: AFP

Pakistan’s limited-overs captain Babar Azam has revealed an incident, during his teens, when he nearly got into trouble while facing former speedster Shoaib Akhtar.

While talking to Cricbuzz in an exclusive interview, Azam recalled how he kept playing drives against Akhtar despite the pacer telling him not to do so.    

"I remember, there was a camp for the emerging players or Pakistan A. That time, they would even call some of us from the Under-15 team to practice with them. Mudassar Nazar, who was there, would call us to bat first. We were asked to bat first so that the bowlers could warm up and understand their paces," said Azam.

"Shoaib Akhtar would come there at times, towards the end of the camp to bowl for a bit. One day, he asked for a batsman to bowl at and Mudassar bhai asked him to take me along with him. So I got ready and was quite excited. Shoaib told me, 'Kid, I will pitch the ball full, just block it, don't drive'. I said okay. I blocked the first two balls but drove the third one,” he added.

This frustrated Akhtar, who decided to have a go at Azam with the new ball, but a timely intervention from former cricketer Mudassar Nazar made it all go away.

"I kept doing that - block two balls and drive the third one. He was like, 'Get me a new ball, I will show him'. Immediately, Mudassar bhai told me, 'get out of the nets or he will kill you'. He took me out of the nets,” he said.

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The duo kept on facing each other in the nets, later on, but it in a friendlier manner except for one occasion.  

"However, whenever he would come to the nets thereafter, he would ask me to come and face him. He would bowl full but once, by mistake, he bowled a bouncer and luckily the ball went over my head," he said.

Azam also opened up on comparison with Indian star batsman and skipper Virat Kohli.  

"Virat Kohli is one of the best players in the world. I am way behind him and I still have a lot to achieve. I will try to be like him and win matches for my country,” he concluded.

Azam also picked a current Indo-Pak XI for the shortest format of the game, after the host Harsha Bhogle insisted the Lahore-born batsman to include himself in the team as well.

Babar Azam’s Indo-Pak combined T20I XI:

Rohit Sharma, Babar Azam, Virat Kohli, Shoaib Malik, MS Dhoni (WK), Hardik Pandya, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir, Kuldeep Yadav, Shaheen Afridi, Jasprit Bumrah.