The World is used to seeing Pakistani batsmen, fighting, throwing it away, fighting again and remaining the epitome of inconsistency on the cricketing field. Amidst all this chaos, one batsman has grown above the rest, standing tall amongst the ruins. The 23-year old, flamboyant, sublime, classy Babar Azam.
Self-admittedly, he is no Virat Kohli. He is no Steven Smith, Kane Williamson or Joe Root either. He isn’t among the long line of worshipped batsmen in modern day cricket. He isn’t capable of having the crowd on the edge of their seats with Pollard-sized sixes. Neither is he known to ooze the flair of Quinton de Kock or the brute power of David Warner or Shikhar Dhawan. He doesn’t have the lazy, beautiful grace of Rohit Sharma or the 360° shots of AB de Villiers and Jos Buttler.
We talk about Kohli, KW, Root.. Then there is Babar Azam.
33 games and 7 tons. Doesn't this stand him alongside aforementioneds. #PakvsSL
— Manish Shaarma (@Manishshaarma) October 16, 2017
Yet, in a batting line-up full of mediocrity, Babar Azam has been an exception. An exception so good that he is the fastest to seven ODI hundreds in the history of the game (33 matches as against Hashim Amla’s 41). He is also the fastest to 1000 runs at no.3 position in this format of the game.
It isn’t Azam’s greatest year by any stretch of the imagination. He has five ducks in his last six Tests and is far from accomplishing in the longest format of the game despite having the maturity, fortitude and obstinacy to thrive in Test cricket. But his outrageous form in One Day Internationals over the last two years has put him straight into the spotlight.
When Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur sparked controversy by comparing him to Virat Kohli last year, few would have thought that he is well on his way to emulate the Indian skipper, even if only in a miniscule manner.
Young Babar Azam is a run machine in ODIs. Yet another century!
— Cricketwallah (@cricketwallah) October 16, 2017
Since the start of 2016, Azam has seven hundreds in the format and a stunning average of 62.13. David Warner has ten during this time frame but no other batsmen has more than seven (Virat Kohli has seven too). His brilliant streak of form in the UAE is also something to be adored. The lad has five consecutive hundreds in the country with his two against Lanka preceded by a hat-trick of hundreds against the West Indies last year.
“There is no comparison. Virat Kohli is a great batsman and I am just a beginner. But I would like to be recalled as (the) Babar Azam of Pakistan,” Azam had once written on Twitter while replying to one of his fans.
He has indeed been the Babar Azam of Pakistan cricket so far. His two back to back hundreds against Sri Lanka in the ongoing One Day series reeks of composure and temperament well beyond his age.
In Dubai, in the first ODI, Azam gritted through a penetrative Sri Lankan attack to notch up a sixth One Day hundred. Instead of lauding his efforts, the fans decided to mock his seemingly slow hundred (it had come in 130 balls). In the age of T20s, the strike rate for a triple figure score is indeed low but these are testing conditions where the ‘bash all’ method wouldn’t work.
“I am playing cricket since my childhood. I am playing cricket right now because my family likes this game so much, every time they talk about cricket, as a child when you are hearing something so much then you usually adopt it. So my all focus was on cricket that’s the reason I am playing cricket”, Azam had said in an interview. That kind of love for the game augers particularly well for him.
No batsman has scored more runs and centuries in their first 33 ODIs than Babar Azam.
1659 runs, 7 100s. #PakvSL
— Bharath Seervi (@SeerviBharath) October 16, 2017
Further proof of that was provided at Abu Dhabi when he smashed the best of his seven hundreds, another 130 ball knock but this time around the value of it was for everyone to see. Pakistan were wobbling at 101/6 before Azam and 19-year-old Shadab Khan resurrected the innings with a century partnership.
Not only did Azam compile a hundred himself, but also played tutor to the young all-rounder at the other end, guiding him to a half-century and taking Pakistan to a total from which they could fight. They did fight and win the game but none of it would have been possible without their surprisingly stable no.3.
The youngster has phenomenal numbers in matches Pakistan have won, a sign towards his contributions in victories. Five of his six hundreds have come in matches Pakistan have won. He averages a spectacular 82.72 in those matches underlining his match-winning capabilities. He may not be there yet, but Azam does have the ability to become a great, great batsman for Pakistan cricket.