Pakistan captain Babar Azam has continued his terrific form with the bat in the home ODI series against the West Indies. In the first match in Multan, he smashed 103 off 107 balls as the hosts easily chased down a target of 306. During the knock, Azam broke a few more records. The 27-year-old scored his 17th ODI ton in the match and broke another of Virat Kohli’s records.
The former India skipper held the record for being the fastest to 1000 runs as captain in ODIs. He achieved the landmark in 17 innings. On the other hand, Azam needed only 13 innings as captain to reach the figure and break the record. Sachin Tendulkar and Kohli are widely hailed as the two greatest batters in ODIs. But is Azam better at this stage of his career as compared to where Tendulkar and Kohli were? Here’s an analysis.
Azam, Sachin and Kohli after 88 ODIs
The 2nd ODI of the series against West Indies was Azam’s 88th in the one-day format. He also impressed in that match, smashing 77 off 93 as the hosts reached 275 for 8 batting first. The Pakistan skipper has a terrific record after 88 one-dayers. He has smashed 4441 runs at an excellent average of 60.01 with 17 hundreds and a best of 158.
If we look only stats-wise, Tendulkar averaged almost half of Azam after 88 ODI matches. He had scored 2575 runs at an average of 34.33 with two hundreds and a best of 115. However, there is more to it than just numbers. The Indian legend batted in the middle and lower-order for the first few years of his career. It was only in 1994 that Tendulkar started opening the innings. After that, his career went on a completely different path. So Tendulkar’s comparison with Azam at the same stage of their careers is a rather unfair one.
A better assessment will be Azam vs Kohli after 88 one-day matches. They are playing in the same era and bat at similar positions. The former Indian captain has an excellent record after 88 ODIs. However, his numbers actually pale in comparison to the current Pakistan skipper. After 88 one-dayers, he had 3735 runs to his name at an average of 50.47 with 12 hundreds and a best of 183.
How they fared against the best
An in-depth assessment of the three batters in varied conditions against tough opponents will give us a better idea of their respective standings after 88 one-dayers. Starting with Azam’s performance against top countries, he averages 73.50 against Australia after nine matches with three hundreds. In Australia, he averages 56.40 after five games. Against South Africa, he averages 65.37 after 10 games. In the Proteas nation, he averages 60.42 in eight matches. Azam has played 26 matches in England, where conditions are tough for batting, and has a credible average of 51.43 with three hundreds. So, the Pakistan batter has scored runs against all big opponents in various conditions.
Shifting focus to Kohli, he has a poor average of 33 against Australia in nine matches. He has scored 264 runs, 118 coming in one game. He has an average of 53.28 in Australia, but those include some knocks against Sri Lanka during the 2012 tri-series. He averages 52.44 against England with two hundreds. However, his batting average in the country falls to 38.80 in five games. In South Africa, he averages 57.60 from eight games. However, Kohli played 28 of his first 88 matches against Sri Lanka, which helped him boost his average.
Tendulkar played 15 of his first 88 matches in Australia and averaged 42.91. He averaged 45 in New Zealand (9 matches) but only 20.57 in South Africa (7 matches). Even in Sri Lanka, he averaged just over 30 after seven games. Master Blaster’s numbers in his first 88 matches are nowhere near as good as Azam’s. But it must be remembered that Tendulkar started playing at the age of 16 and took some years to blossom.
As for Kohli vs Azam, the numbers clearly prove that the Pakistani is ahead in the race at the same stage. One cannot arrive at a conclusion, though, for only the future will tell whether Azam can carry on his amazing run over an extended duration.