Former Pakistan fast bowler Mohammad Asif recently made a stunning statement when he claimed that current Pakistan captain Babar Azam and not Virat Kohli comes close to Sachin Tendulkar. According to Asif, Azam is a lot more like Tendulkar because, like the Indian legend, he is an upper-hand player. On Kohli, Asif said that he is a bottom-hand player and is doing well because his fitness is supporting him. He went to the extent of claiming that the present Indian captain would not be able to make a comeback once he goes into decline.
Yes, Asif is factually right. Tendulkar was an upper-hand player and so is Azam. As for Kohli, he is very much a bottom-handed batter. However, mere holding of the bat and the kind of stance one has while playing strokes cannot be good enough to determine the ability of a cricketer. Every individual has his own method which he can develop and chart his own path to success. There is no fixed formula to it. This is why we have batters like Rohit Sharma and Mahela Jayawardene, known for caressing the ball, as well as Adam Gilchrist and Sanath Jayasuriya, who bludgeoned deliveries. Each of the above-mentioned names achieved fame through their own game. Nobody remembers them just because they were upper-hand or bottom-hand batters.
Asif’s theory that Kohli has succeeded because of his fitness is the most bizarre cricketing logic heard of in recent times. Cricketers need to maintain high-fitness level no doubt but that is part of a cricketer’s success recipe and not the main ingredient for a batter to do well at the top level. Going by Asif’s logic, the cricketers who do the best in the yoyo and other fitness tests should be given preference in the national side ahead of performing players who fail in the yoyo and other fitness examinations. Yes, Kohli may be past his prime now, but a batter cannot achieve what Kohli has achieved in international cricket unless he has some serious talent and has put in tons of hard work.
Numbers don’t lie
To measure how good a player one is, it is imperative to look at his Test record. Azam is without doubt a very good batter and one of the best in the business today. But the fact is that, in comparison to Kohli, he is still relatively new to international cricket. If we look at his record, he has played only 35 Tests till date and has scored 2362 runs at an average of 42.94 with five hundreds and 18 fifties. Further, in ODIs and T20Is he has played 83 and 61 matches respectively, and has scored 3985 and 2204 runs at very good averages.
It can be said that Azam, who made his international debut, has had an excellent start to his international career in his first few years. But that isn’t enough for him to draw comparisons to Kohli and Sachin. He can only say towards the end of his career, once he starts getting close to the number of matches Kohli and Tendulkar have played.
Yes, Kohli’s career is on the decline but it is a fact that Kohli has been on top for quite a while. The Indian captain has played 96 Tests and 254 ODIs for India, amassing 7765 and 12169 runs respectively. He also has 3000-plus T20 runs to his name in 90 games. In all three formats, Kohli averages about 50. Whether he is as good as Tendulkar, who dominated world cricket for nearly two decades of his 24-year career, is open to debate. But the fact is that he has earned the comparisons with the all-time great. Azam needs to first get where Kohli is presently. The comparisons with Sachin can start after that.