Pakistan skipper Babar Azam on Wednesday achieved a major landmark when he toppled Virat Kohli to become the official No. 1 ranked batsman in the latest ICC ODI ratings. Later in the day, Azam made it a reason for double celebration as he slammed 122 in just 59 balls with the help of 15 fours and four sixes in a T20 against South Africa. It was Azam’s first hundred in T20Is as Pakistan chased down a record target of 204 to clinch victory by nine wickets. In the wake of his recent achievements, we take a look at five reasons why Babar Azam is a ‘GOAT’ in the shorter formats of the game.
1. He is incredibly consistent
Babar Azam made his ODI debut in May 2015. Few players have climbed the charts of success as quickly as Azam has. His record speaks for itself. In 80 ODI matches, he has smashed 3808 runs at an excellent average of 56.83 and an impressive strike rate of 88.7. From these games, he has 13 hundreds and 17 fifties, a highly striking conversion rate. The numbers are equally good in T20Is too. Having played 50 matches, he has smashed 1916 runs at an average of 49.12 and a brilliant strike rate of 132.04. Azam just scored his first T20I ton and also has 17 fifties to his name. If this is not consistency, nothing is.
2. Self-belief of a champion
Azam’s mindset is what separates him from modern mortals of the shorter formats. He has a lot of faith in his ability, which, in turn, translates into champion performances. There have been many instances during his career when Pakistan has looked in trouble. But Azam has lifted the team out with amazing ease, and has rarely seemed hassled. He believes that he can pull off incredible feats. In the ongoing series in South Africa itself, he has played some amazing knocks in extraordinary circumstances. In fact, take the most recent case of the third T20I in Centurion. Pakistan were chasing history, but Azam owned the Proteas bowling and batting as if he was having a walk in the park. Only geniuses can achieve such incredible feats. In the ODIs as well, he came up with two fantastic knocks to lift the team.
3. No perceptible weakness in his game
Azam did face some struggles with his technique in the longer formats in his earlier days. Some even went to the extent of claiming that he scored only against weak bowling attacks. In limited-overs though, he has been a winner from the start. There is no perceptible weak point in his came as such. He can play shots all around the ground. He cuts, drives and swivels with confidence. Pace or spin, Azam is equally at ease against both. His technique is his best friend when it comes to facing the best in the world.
4. Leading from the front
Even when he was not the captain, Azam was well aware that he was the best batsman in the team. And he has conditioned his mind to play like the best in the world. He knows the expectations will always be on him to deliver and has done the needful more often than not. If we look at the South Africa series, he has led from the front in the literal sense with the bat. He kicked off the ODIs with a hundred, taking on Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje and slammed a match-winning 94 in the decider. His century in the third T20I, in a record chase was in a league of its own.
5. Excellent record away from home
For a player to be regarded as exceptional, he needs to perform away as well as he does at home. Azam has ticked the boxes in this aspect as well. He averages nearly 50 in away ODIs, with five hundreds. In T20Is, he has an average in excess of 50. The bad news for bowlers around the world is – the Babar Azam era has only just begun.