Zak Crawley has enhanced his burgeoning reputation with a near faultless first Test century to lead England to a commanding 4-332 at stumps on Day 1 of their third and final Test against Pakistan in Southampton.
After two legends of Pakistan, Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan, retired from ODIs in 2015 and then from Tests in 2017, the Pakistan team is still finding their replacements to stabilise their middle-order.
Younis and Misbah were considered to be the wall of Pakistan’s batting with Azhar Ali giving some help from the top of the order. Pakistan had almost a hundred per cent record at home under the captaincy of Misbah in Tests.
After their retirement, Babar Azam has found his place in the top of the order and the rest is history. In May 2015, Babar was included in the Pakistan ODI squad for the home series against Zimbabwe. He made his ODI debut in the third ODI and scored an impressive 54 runs off 60 balls.
His first away tour was of New Zealand in 2016 where he scored two fifties in two innings. Despite Pakistan losing the series, he was praised by the experts because he was the leading run-scorer with 145 runs in two innings at an average of 72.50.
The biggest breakthrough came when he scored three consecutive centuries in a three-match series against the West Indies and became the third Pakistani to score hundreds in three successive innings. After this series, he was the headline of almost every newspaper. This is where his greatness began.
He did not have a great Test record in his early career but after 13 Tests he scored his first century. Then he began dominating in Tests also. In 2019 he smashed two centuries in two matches against Sri Lanka at home.
He was also in the Champions Trophy squad where Pakistan won the final match by 180 runs and lifted the Champions Trophy. It was Azam’s first international tournament.
His dream year came in 2019 when he got selected in his first World Cup and the ICC named him one of the five exciting talents making their World Cup debut. In May 2019, he was signed by Somerset as their overseas player for the 2019 T20 Blast.
Azam was the main player for Pakistan in the World Cup. He scored a century versus New Zealand, and became the first middle-order batsman from Pakistan to hit a century in a World Cup match in 32 years.
He also broke Javed Miandad’s record of the most runs by a Pakistani batsman in a single edition of the World Cup, scoring 474 runs in eight innings.
Cricket experts used to compare him with the legend Javed Miandad because Azam broke his record. His technique, grit and temperament are similar to Miandad, who was known for his unconventional batting style.
But he always rejects this comparison, stating that he is not even close to him but accepts him as an ideal since childhood. The ex-captain Sarfaraz Ahmed had also talked about this comparison.
“See players like Javed Miandad are legends of the game,” Sarfaraz said in 2017. “We have some other big legends as well in Pakistan. But yes, Babar Azam is a very special player for us and he has been performing so well with the bat. Hopefully, he will continue to perform like this and become a legend for Pakistan in the future.”
Babar is a phenomenal player but his comparison with Miandad, who played for almost 20 years and scored almost 16,000 runs in international cricket, is too early because Azam has spent only four years in international cricket.
Miandad played in an era when Pakistan played very less cricket and there were no T20 leagues at that time. But still making such an impact made him a world-class player. So his comparison with a young guy who is just 25 doesn’t justify his class.
Babar Azam is also an exciting talent and is definitely in the top four or five players in the world cricket at the present time. If he continues his form, then he will definitely match Miandad one day and he has the potential to shatter some records and make some new records. Now he has more responsibility because he is the captain in T20Is and vice-captain in ODIs.
Babar Azam has represented Pakistan in 26 Tests, 74 ODIs and 38 T20Is with an average of almost 50 in all three formats. He is the only batsman who is in the top five of the ICC rankings in all three formats and is ranked number one in T20Is, number three in ODIs, and number five in Tests.