As the dust settles on Pakistan’s early exit from the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, all eyes are on Babar Azam. The star batsman and team captain, whose leadership has come under intense scrutiny, returned to his hometown of Lahore to a reception that reflected the mixed sentiments of a cricket-obsessed nation.

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The T20 World Cup Debacle

Pakistan’s journey in the T20 World Cup was nothing short of tumultuous. Under Babar’s captaincy, the team failed to advance to the Super 8 stage, a result that sent shockwaves through the cricketing community. The most unexpected blow came from a Super Over defeat to tournament newcomers, the United States, a match that will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the greatest upsets in T20 history. This loss, followed by a heartbreaking defeat against arch-rivals India despite chasing a modest total, left the team and fans alike reeling.

Although Pakistan managed to secure victories against Canada and Ireland in their remaining group matches, these wins were too little, too late. The damage had been done, and Pakistan’s World Cup dreams were dashed.

A Captain Under Fire

Babar Azam, who had been reinstated as captain just before the tournament after Shaheen Afridi’s removal, found himself at the epicenter of criticism. The team’s inability to progress beyond the group stage led to an outpouring of frustration and anger on social media. Pakistani fans, known for their passionate support, directed their ire at Babar and his squad, questioning their strategies, preparations, and commitment.

The Return to Lahore

After the team’s elimination, Babar, along with key players Mohammad Amir, Azam Khan, Imad Wasim, and Shadab Khan, sought refuge in London, perhaps to escape the immediate backlash and regroup mentally. Upon his return to Lahore on Tuesday morning, Babar was greeted by a muted reception at the airport. The few fans who showed up were a mix of supportive and indifferent, a stark contrast to the hero’s welcome he might have received under different circumstances.

What’s Next for Babar Azam?

Speculation about Babar’s future as captain has reached a fever pitch. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is expected to hold a press conference soon to address the team’s disappointing performance and outline future plans, which may include changes in leadership and the white-ball squads.

Despite the criticism, Babar’s talent and potential as a cricketer are undeniable. His ability to anchor an innings and score runs consistently makes him an invaluable asset to the team. However, his leadership capabilities are now under intense scrutiny, and the PCB must decide whether to continue investing in Babar as a captain or to seek fresh leadership to guide the team forward.

Looking Ahead

Pakistan’s next major assignment is a two-match Test series against Bangladesh at home in August. This series will be crucial, not just for the team’s morale but also for Babar’s career. A strong performance could help regain the support of the PCB and the fans, while another failure might cement calls for his removal from the captaincy. As Pakistan cricket navigates through this challenging period, the nation’s fervent supporters will be watching closely, hoping for a turnaround. The team’s early World Cup exit is a bitter pill to swallow, but with introspection and strategic changes, there remains hope for a brighter future.

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