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Pakistan's Babar Azam bats during an indoor net session at Old Trafford Cricket Stadium in Manchester on June 14, 2019, ahead of their 2019 World Cup match against India. / AFP / Dibyangshu SARKAR Image Credit: AFP

Manchester: The rivalry between India and Pakistan may be legendary — but there is no dearth of mutual respect between the team’s players. Pakistan’s top batsman Babar Azam was candid to admit how he tries to improve his game by watching Indian skipper Virat Kohli.

Azam, who was approached by reporters after his training at the indoor stadium at Old Trafford for comments on his form, remarked: “Kohli is my favourite batsman. I watch his videos and try to learn from him. He is an experienced player and it is always good to learn from a player of his calibre. But on Sunday, he will be playing for his team and I will be playing for mine.”

The fact that he fine-tunes his game by watching Kohli has also helped him push his average in One Day internationals to 50.96. It was his knock of 63 that played a vital role in his team’s win over England in the ongoing World Cup. Azam is able to adapt to any condition and shape his innings and a lot of this has been possible due to Kohli’s influence on him. “I watch how he bats in different conditions and try to learn from that. Of course I also learn with experience.”

Azam also wants to win matches for Pakistan as regularly like Kohli does for India. “His (Kohli) winning ratio is higher (for India), so I am trying to achieve that as well.”

However, Babar is very clear that when it comes to playing against India, he will — at all cost — want to win the match for Pakistan despite all his admiration for Kohli.

“The 2017 Champions Trophy win gave us the confidence, and that will also help us here because the team is nearly the same.”

The question is: will the contest tomorrow be like the one where India trounced Pakistan by 124 runs in the opening match of the Champions Trophy or will it be like Pakistan’s 180-run victory over India in the final?

Azam wants the memory of that final Oval win to inspire him. “That win can never go off our memories and it’s a big inspiration. We are well prepared for this match because India-Pakistan matches are exciting and demanding and the whole world watches it. Our team is very positive about the match and we are looking forward to it. Not only me but all of us want to finish on a high; whoever hits form wants to win it for Pakistan.”

When asked about India’s leading pacer Jasprit Bumrah, Azam did not seem to be unduly worried. “No doubt India has a good bowling attack, but we have played well against England who also have a very good pace attack. So we are confident of handling the Indian pace attack well”.