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Sunday, Aug 18, 2019

ICC World Cup 2019: Azam ends search for special one

Babar Azam makes you sit up and take note not with his technique. What takes your breath away though is that single-minded determination to take Pakistan across the line

cricket Updated: Jun 28, 2019 11:23 IST
Somshuvra Laha
Somshuvra Laha
Pakistan's Babar Azam celebrates after a World Cup match
Pakistan's Babar Azam celebrates after a World Cup match(Action Images via Reuters)

When the best teenage years are spent repeating Inzamam-ul-Haq’s flick off the pads or praying that Saeed Anwar doesn’t come out swinging his bat like he had in Chennai in 1997, it’s hard to be impressed by a current Pakistan batsman. Babar Azam however makes you sit up and take note.

Not with his technique. What takes your breath away though is that single-minded determination to take Pakistan across the line. With maturity beyond his years, Babar pulls off a remarkable feat against one of the most professional cricket teams ever: he scores a century. Then, he takes off his helmet and does a sajdah in a background of green and white.

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These seem like familiar memories; flashbacks of Herculean batting efforts in Tests and of a time many Indians could remember the name of every Pakistan squad member. It is a throwback to the time of Aamer Sohail and Anwar’s belligerence, of the street-smart Javed Miandad, the doughty Ijaz Ahmed and his strange backlift, Inzamam’s ability to infuriate and calm at the same time, the classical approach of Mohammad Yousuf (Yousuf Youhana to another generation), the batting of Misbah-ul-Haq and the ruggedness of Younis Khan.

Watch: Kohli, Shami imitates Cottrell’s salute celebration

Babar has been around since 2015 and considering how several batsmen and bowlers find themselves out of the Pakistan team every year, he must has done something special to consistently figure in discussions and, most importantly, in the team. And when someone starts playing like that against the pace of Trent Boult and the bounce of Lockie Ferguson, you know something special is about to happen.

Curbing instinct

There is no method to Babar’s batting. Once you are told he is related to Lahore’s Akmal brothers, you stop expecting as well. But he isn’t all attack. When Pakistan romped to victory on Wednesday, Babar had a strike rate of just under 80. That tells you about planning, about building an innings, despite the natural urge to attack that fetched most of his 11 boundaries.

Highlights of India vs West Indies World Cup match


“I was given a role to bat until the end and others bat around me and that worked well as (Mohammad) Hafeez and then Haris (Sohail) batted well to establish partnerships,” said Babar after Wednesday’s win.

“I don’t remember seeing a better innings in chase than the one Babar played against New Zealand. I dare say Babar is one of the best players of this generation,” wrote Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmed in the PCB official blog later. This from a man who has been Pakistan captain for around three years now, another record by itself, and knows what it takes to win in English conditions.

Babar has been quicker than Virat Kohli to every ODI aggregate landmark: 1000 runs, 2000 runs or 3000 runs. He is also brutally honest. Unfair comparisons with Kohli don’t embarrass him. Babar is 24, Kohli is 30. He is still establishing himself while Kohli is Kohli. But Babar is honest in admitting he looks up to him, even though that would mean more taunts from former cricketers who want him to walk his talk. Finally, Babar has done that and more. He isn’t media savvy too. Babar probably doesn’t know it’s a done thing to ‘dedicate’ his century to fans. He does that only on being prompted from a few quarters. At times it’s good to know all you need to do is bat. And try and be the best batsman in the world. “I can say that this is one of my best knocks because the aim is to be the best batsman in the world,” he said. No one speaks like that now. People want to know you are humble and only want to contribute to the team’s wins. But you do long to be the best batsman, don’t you? Babar’s just being honest, about his batting and about his ambitions.

First Published: Jun 28, 2019 11:22 IST

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