It has been a bumpy ride for Pakistan since Misbah and Younis Khan retired in 2017, their focus from winning has shifted to getting more games at home. In such a scenario, the rise of Babar Azam has given Pakistan hope for the future in that they not only have a great batsman in the making but a fine ambassador for the game.
Four years ago Babar Azam rose into prominence with consecutive hundreds against West Indies. He was termed as the next big thing, someone who could take Pakistan to the level where the aging legends Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan have taken. Fast forward a year later he was criticized for failing time and again. The situation is not new for the youngsters in the subcontinent. They are made heroes in a second and then they are thrown into the hubris in the next moment.
However, few of them are mentally tough to tackle the pressure and Pakistan found that Babar was one of them.
Today Babar is Pakistan’s captain, in-charge of the country’s most high-profile sports team. His records speak for him. In 29 Tests, Babar has made 2045 runs with an average of 45.44 in 29 Tests, and 3354 runs in 74 ODIs at 54.17. He has 5 hundred in the longer version and 11 hundred in fifty over game. A record that cannot be matched by any of the players in the current team. His recent consistency has been one of the reasons for his success and his appointment as a leader.
Pakistan and India have been countries which have always put heavy pressure on the players which at times have been destructing for the youngsters, there is a number of such examples. Players like Vinod Kambli and Basit Ali fell away after great starts. On the other hand, Inzamam-ul-Haq who was tagged as the next big thing by none other than legendry Imran Khan when he was only 22 and played a winning inning in the semi-finals of the 1992 Cricket World Cup.
After a great start, he also struggled a lot in his initial years just like Azam. From March 1992 to Oct 1994, Inzamam was always termed as behind Basit and was sometimes told that he was overrated. However in 1994, everything changed as he played one of the most crucial innings of his career, his 57* ensured that Pakistan won the Karachi Test by 1 wicket, a thrilling victory which went on to become one of the most memorable wins of Pakistan Cricket.
Inzamam never saw back his career moved in upward shape. Isn’t a beautiful coincidence that Inzamam played that inning in Oct 1994, the same month when Babar was born.
In spite of the fact that Babar is the most celebrated cricketer in his country currently, it would be unfair to compare him with Inzamam, who is one of the best cricketers that the cricket-mad country has ever produced but whatever the signs are Babar might soon be talked in the leagues of Zaheer Abbas, Inzamam, Mohammad Yousuf, Younis Khan, and Haneef Mohammad.
He has the capability to do so as he has shown in England and South Africa. Moreover, he has age on his side. Today he has turned 26 and if we go by the experts (the best batsmen peak between 29-33) then the world is still to witness the best of Babar Azam.
It suffices to say, that interesting times lay in front of the cricket fan, one obsessed with the Fab-Four idea- Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson, Joe Root, and Steve Smith. Although knowing Babar’s class, one might have to revisit the idea and call the elite list- Fab-five- no?