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Babar Azam: Slowly climbing the ladder and catching up with ODI greats including Virat Kohli

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When you watch him bat, it seems like a poetry in motion. Nothing flashy, not a lot of flamboyance. Simply pure, smooth and serene. Babar Azam is growing constantly as a batsman, breaking record after record and is certainly on his way to becoming one of the greatest Pakistani batsmen of all time.

There is often comparison with Virat Kohli, there’s often criticism about his Test game (which is also improving with each passing day) but the way he’s shaping up in white-ball cricket is simply fabulous.

In the second ODI against Sri Lanka at the National Stadium in Karachi, Azam stroked a sublime ton, his 11th in ODI cricket and 1st in Pakistan. He scored 115 off just 105 balls which included eight fours and four sixes. It was largely due to his efforts which set up the platform for Pakistan to got past the 300-run mark.

In 2019, Babar Azam has made over a 1000 calendar runs in only 19 innings making him the fastest Pakistani batsmen to 1000 calendar runs in a year (in terms of innings). In 2019,  other cricketers to have 1000-plus runs are Virat Kohli (1,288), Rohit Sharma (1,232), Aaron Finch (1,141) and Usman Khawaja (1,085).

It was only a little more than four years (in May 2015) that Azam made his ODI debut. Since then, he hasn’t looked back. We often talk about the consistency of the ‘Fab 4’ (Kohli, Steve Smith, Kane Williamson and Joe Root) but Azam is not too far behind. The Pakistan No. 3 has churned out runs consistently as well. Thus, let’s take a look at some of the big numbers.

 

Third-most ODI hundreds by a Pakistani batsman

There’s absolutely no doubt that the likes of Inzamam-ul-Haq, Ijaz Ahmed and Javed Miandad are Pakistan cricket legends. They’ve been some of the most successful batsmen in the history of their nation’s cricket. However, 24-year-old Azam has left them all behind. While Inzamam and Ijaz have 10 hundreds each, Miandad scored eight in 50-over cricket. Azam has gone past all of them as he now has 11 ODI tons and is joint third (with Mohammad Hafeez who has 11 hundreds in 218 games) on the list. Only Mohammad Yousuf (15) and Saeed Anwar (20) are ahead as far as ODI hundreds by Pakistan batsmen are concerned.

Average and runs since debut


Azam made his debut in May 2015. Since his debut, only six other players have scored more runs than the Lahore-born Pakistani batsman. However, none of those six players have played less than 75 games. In fact, only Williamson has played 75 games and rest have played more than 80 games. Hence, Azam has played quite a few innings less than the top six in this list. Azam has amassed 3328 runs at an average of 54.55. Moreover, he has scored 11 hundreds and 16 half-centuries as well. Moreover, his 11 ODI hundreds are bettered by only four other players in the aforementioned period.

Second-best innings/hundred among Pakistani batsmen

Babar Azam’s 11 hundreds are the third-most by a Pakistani batsman. Most of the other batsmen took quite a bit of time to get hundreds throughout their career. However, Azam is getting them thick and fast. In fact, he is the second-best (minimum 10 innings) among Pakistani batsmen as far as innings/hundred is concerned. He gets a hundred every 6.45 innings. This is bettered by his current Pakistani teammate, Imam-ul-Haq (seven ODI hundreds) who has an innings/hundred ratio of 5.28.

 

Rise in 2016-17, dip in 2018 and back to his best in 2019

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Azam had a sedate first year in ODI cricket. In seven games, he scored 230 runs and averaged 38.33. However, the tide began to turn in the second half of 2016. He scored three back to back tons against West Indies and finished the year with 656 runs (average of 59.63). He got better in 2017. In 17 innings, the Pakistan No. 3 scored 872 runs at an average of 67.07. He scored four hundreds and two fifties.

However, there was a dip in 2018. In the same number of innings as 2017 (17), Azam could muster 509 runs at an average of 36.35 and had just three fifty-plus scores in the whole year. But the change of year brought change in fortunes for the Lahore-born cricketer. In 2019, Azam has accumulated 1061 runs at an average of 62.41. He is fifth on the list of most runs this year. He’s been the rock for Pakistan at No. 3 and has invariably scored heavily in almost every game.

Azam may have made his debut in 2015 but it was only in September 2016 when he first batted at No. 3. He soon made the position his own and hasn’t looked back ever since. Since his debut, only Virat Kohli has more ODI hundreds than Azam at No. 3. Kohli has scored 21 while Azam has scored 11 (Root also has 11). However, Azam has also played 22 lesser games than the Indian skipper.

Third-fastest to 11 ODI tons (number of innings)

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We often compare batsmen with the time they take to reach certain records. Azam has overtaken the likes of Kohli, David Warner, Shikhar Dhawan and Aaron Finch in terms of innings while reaching 11 ODI tons. Azam reached the landmark in just 71 innings and only Hashim Amla (64) and Quinton de Kock (65) have got to 11 ODI tons quicker.




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