Babar Azam is a Pakistani cricketer who plays for the Pakistan National Cricket team in all three formats of the game usually at the No. 3 or 4 spot. A right-handed batsman, Babar has quickly proven himself to be a strong technical batsman and is viewed by some to be the best batsman of Pakistan of the modern era. He started his cricket playing for the Pakistani “U-19” team and “A” team before making his way to the national side. Currently, he is ranked 5th in the ICC ODI batsmen ranking and 1st in the T20I rankings. Before his debut to the national team, Babar captained the U-19 Pakistani team in the 2012 ICC U-19 Cricket World Cup. Babar Azam currently holds numerous records and considered by analysts to be the backbone of the Pakistani batting line-up. Babar’s batting in the WC 2019 would be crucial for the Pakistani team to win the tournament.
Babar Azam was born on 15th October 1994 in the Walled City of Lahore, Punjab. He started his domestic cricket there playing for regional teams like ZTBL and Islamabad Leopards. Eventually being selected to play for the U-19 team, he led the team during the 2012 U-19 WC. Pakistan lost the tournament but Babar’s performance earned him a chance to represent the national side. He comes from a family of cricketing background with three of his cousins already representing the team internationally.
International Career (Early Career, Champions Trophy and onwards):
Babar Azam’s success in ODIs and T20Is is very well documented. After playing for the “A” team for a while, Babar was included in the Pakistan squad for the home series against Zimbabwe in 2015. He made his ODI debut against Zimbabwe on 31st May scoring an impressive fifty. He was selected for the away series against Zimbabwe but didn’t get a chance to play. In October, he was selected for the home series against England. His performance in the series was impressive scoring two fifties and a century in the final match. In January 2016, Pakistan toured New Zealand and Babar was retained for the ODI squad. Babar scored two fifties and was the leading runs scorer in the ODI series. He made his T20I debut against England in on 7th September 2016.
Babar came to prominence during their home series against West Indies. In the series, Babar Azam scored three consecutive centuries and became the third Pakistani to score three centuries in three consecutive ODIs. His three match score was 120, 123 and 117. Babar was named “Man of the Series” for his performance. He debuted in tests against West Indies on 13th October 2016.
Pakistani team toured Australia in 2016 and he continued his marvelous form in ODIs finishing the series as the leading runs scorer and ended the series with a century. Babar was appointed vice-captain of the team for the series against West Indies. He scored an unbeaten 125 in the 2nd ODI and played a crucial knock in the 3rd ODI to seal a 2-1 series win against West Indies. Babar broke the record of scoring most runs after 25 ODIs.
Babar Azam’s performance in Champions Trophy was pretty decent. He scored a crucial 46 against India in the CT Final although the spotlight was on Fakhar Zaman’s century. Babar continued his impressive form in the limited overs cricket scoring two consecutive centuries and a fifty against Sri Lanka in ODI series. He was the leading runs scorer for Pakistan in ODIs and T20Is in 2017. Currently he is ranked 5th in ODI batting rankings.
Babar performed well in almost all T20 series since Champions Trophy. His performances against New Zealand and West Indies in 2018 helped him attain No. 1 spot in T20I rankings. After recovering from a minor injury against England, Babar made his return against Zimbabwe and scored a century in the final ODI to secure a 5-0 win for Pakistan. He was selected for the 2018 Asia Cup squad for Pakistan to be held in UAE but didn’t perform well only managing to score 156 runs.
In the recent series against South Africa, Babar only managed to score 69 in the 3rd ODI and Pakistan lost to South Africa 4-1. Currently Babar Azam is playing Pakistan Super League (PSL) representing Karachi Kings. Due to constant play in the last five months, Babar Azam has been rested for the ODI series against Australia. His impressive batting milestones include:
- Fastest Batsman in the world to reach 7th ODI hundred
- Second youngest cricketer to score 3 consecutive ODI hundreds
- Most runs in first 25 ODI innings in the world
- Fastest to 1000 T20I runs in the world
Role in Pakistan Cricket Team:
As a sound, technical batsman, Babar Azam’s role is to provide stability to the batting line-up. Depending upon the team, he comes in to bat at No. 3 or 4. At this point, the opening partnership is broken and team expects someone to do some damage control. His job is to prevent the fall of wickets and bat deeper into the innings. If the opening stand has not performed well and doesn’t manage to get a good score, he is expected to build up a partnership and keep the scoreboard ticking. Rotation of strike is necessary for a decent score in ODIs. But if the opening partnership is good then Babar’s role changes accordingly. He is expected to maintain the momentum and don’t put pressure on the batsman at the other end.
Babar Azam leading to WC and performance review since Champions Trophy:
Babar Azam has a formidable track record in limited overs cricket since Champions Trophy. His crucial innings helped Pakistan put up good totals in both ODIs and T20s. His performances against West Indies and New Zealand are well documented. His batting works as a backbone for the Pakistani team. Due to an unfortunate injury in the series against England, Babar was out of action for some time but made his comeback in the series against Zimbabwe and although rusty in the beginning, he found his form in the last ODI scoring a ton. His performance against South Africa might not be up to mark but he is good at picking the gaps and look for loose balls for boundaries. Pakistan Cricket Board has decided to give rest to him in the upcoming Australia series citing the reason that the players who have been playing for quite long have been rested off to ensure their availability for ICC WC 2019. PCB plans to rest these players in this series in order to ensure these players play series against England in order to get accustomed to the conditions and pitches of England. This would certainly help Pakistan in WC.
Responsibility in WC:
Babar’s major role in WC would be to provide stability to Pakistani batting. According to the circumstances, he would have to change his gameplay and make sure Pakistan get to a good total. Pakistan would be depending a lot on his batting. If the opening partnerships do well, then he would be expected to carry on the momentum but if opening stand proves insufficient then he’ll have to build up some partnerships and ensure that the Pakistani bowlers have a decent enough total to defend.
Babar Azam’s International Stats:
Table 1: Babar Azam’s International Statistics