It is often said, one can predict how the weather will play for the rest of the day by just looking at the sunrise. Babar Azam’s story is no different. In his handful of appearances so far, Azam has shown what he is made of and looks hungry for success. One of the toughest challenges a batsman faces in his career is consistency. Most of the cricketers playing at the international level or even club cricket for that matter can bat. Then what makes champions out of them? The ability to score runs on a consistent basis certainly has a big role to play in the making of a champion. Pakistan’s top-order batsman Babar Azam is slowly establishing himself as one of the pillars of strength in the batting line-up with his impeccable consistency against the white ball, for now.
Hassan Ali, Shadab Khan and Babar Azam…. Youngsters helping Pakistan to win. Malik, Hafeez, Shehzad and Akmal are burden on team. #WIvPAK
— Qasim Umar (@QasimUmar210) April 2, 2017
Pakistan bounced back emphatically in the second One-Day International of the three-match series and squared it with a much-needed win. With this win, Pakistan have not only levelled the series but also kept the competition alive and the stage is set for a thrilling final. Babar Azam powered Pakistan to a challenging first innings total of 282 riding on his unbeaten 125 off 132 deliveries. His innings was an apt example of timing and classical display of cricketing shots. He just belted three sixes and seven boundaries in his innings but ran a lot of single and doubles, which speaks about his ability to rotate the strike well.
After being asked to bat first, Pakistan got off to a shaky start, losing Kamran Akmal for 5. Babar walked in at three and had a task in hand to weather the early storm. Pakistan were under pressure after losing the first game and were in dire need to get massive runs on the board. This was no less than a do-or-die game for them and Azam came out hard to deliver under pressure.
Azam gelled well with Mohammad Hafeez for a crucial 69-runs stand to built a solid platform. But Shoaib Malik and Sarfraz Ahmed fizzled out quite early. Imad Wasim walked into bat and the partnership between him and Azam created wonders for the visiting side. They stitched a crucial 99-runs stand, off 68 deliveries and guided Pakistan to a challenging 282.
Azam was astute in his approach and placed his innings sensibly. After reaching to his fifth ODI ton in 123 deliveries, Azam took no time in shifting gears and launching an attack on the opposition. He scored 25 runs from next nine deliveries, which included three sixes and a solitary boundary. This part of his innings is a testament to his versatility and ability to switch gears in no time. He showed amazing composure in the death overs. Imad Wasim was striking the ball well, Azam was quick to spot that and quickly stepped into a supporting role. He rotated the strike well to reach closer to his century and also ensured Wasim had most of the strike.
Jonathan Carter was unexpectedly bowling the ultimate over, Azam had the strike for the last delivery. The expectations are always high on the very last delivery of an innings as there is hardly anything to lose and the batsman can go full monty. Very often, a batsman loses his calm and ends up playing a shot or a slog, which he is not good at. But with Azam things were different. He had a fantastic finish to an incredible innings. He lofted a length delivery with a straight bat to milk six runs off the final delivery.
Azam has played 25 ODIs so far, scoring a staggering 1306 runs at an astounding average of 56.78. These numbers are too impressive for a 22-year-old. Azam has smashed five centuries and six fifties in his ODI career so far and certainly gives an impression of making it big in international cricket. His Twenty20 Internationals (T20Is) numbers are no different, averaging 50.60 in eight outings so far.
— Saj Sadiq (@Saj_PakPassion) April 2, 2017
Though his Test figures are in stark contrast, but one can only expect him to get better with the time passing by. Also, Azam has only played six Tests so far, his technique suggests that he will succeed in this format as well, and it’s just a matter of time before he does so. With Azam setting his standards so high against the white ball, that his Test average of just over 27 looks extremely mediocre for someone who scores big in shorter formats.
Azam scored three consecutive ODI hundreds against West Indies in the UAE last year. Three centuries in as many matches is no joke. This proves his strong mentality and never satisfying attitude for scoring big runs. Bright times are ahead for the wily right-hander and with Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq about to call it a day in Test cricket, it’s a golden opportunity for Azam to cement his side in the Test line-up also. If things continue in a similar manner for Azam, he will soon emerge as one of the most shining stars of contemporary cricket. Pakistan have found a gem in Azam and with Champions Trophy around the corner, Azam will play a huge role in Pakistan’s batting order.