Pakistan One Day International captain Azhar Ali is obviously feeling the heat. His anger in his last two press conferences has been palpable and directed largely at his critics, which includes the media.
After defeating West Indies by 59 runs in the 2nd ODI at Sharjah international Cricket Stadium, the first question he faced was obviously about his non-performances in his last two matches. He was prepared for this, saying “In nets the ball is coming off the bat nicely and it’s just a matter of time before I score, my confidence is still high.”
Media management is a skill that all superstars and their agents have developed over time and Azhar being in Test captain Misbah-Ul-Haq’s mould, is usually dignified and courteous. He rightfully said that it takes at least a year for a team to settle and raise its standards. However, his take that “The nation has no patience and want to win immediately,” shows a lack of shrewdness in dealing with criticism. Alongside performance, a star’s media image and popularity is directly linked to potential sponsorship deals.
One newspaper journalist irked him by saying he lacked energy in the field. Media Manager for this tour, Amjad Hussain tried to stop the press conference from deteriorating further by saying the question had already been answered. It was Azhar’s subsequent response that made it to the headlines, “So then should I start jumping around?”
When a radio host mentioned the value of Number 3 batsman Babar Azam’s ton, Azhar Ali’s response was sarcastic. “Finally, a good question.”
Implying that the previous six questions were bad, is not the way to subdue an-already hostile press. In contrast to Azhar Ali, all-rounder Shoaib Malik’s answers to the queries were far more sedate and well thought-out. He explained that Babar Azam not having been dropped after his inability to convert his 30s and 40s into hundreds during the England tour, shows the importance of continued selection and its impact on performance.
For now, though, there are whisperings that after the T20s whitewash, Sarfraz Ahmed is coming across as a better candidate for future ODI captaincy. Sarfraz has also handled the press with forthright responses and yet managed not to antagonize them.
The Fourth Estate is not necessarily the most important aspect of a player’s career, but it does play a large part in how he is perceived by the public. Azhar Ali has become more aggressive of late in his press interactions, many are hoping this latent energy is now directed onto the field.