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Babar Azam: A Legend in Making

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The biggest front of them all, ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, a particularly gloomy day in Birmingham, typical English weather. Amidst all this dullness and gloom, is a nerve-racking contest between two polar opposites.

New Zealand a consistent and defined opponent, Pakistan however the unpredictable one.

Out in the middle is Babar Azam, the powerhouse of the Pakistani batting line-up. Standing on a valiant, majestically constructed 99, on what seemed to be quite a tricky wicket to play on. As a vicious Lockie Ferguson paces down the pitch, the crowd crooning a couple of ‘oohs and aahs’ in cricket fever, the ball hurls itself towards Babar. In the dressing room are his teammates, some watching between the cover of their eyes and fingertips.

Time stands still, millions of prayers at stake too. The ball begins its journey towards him, darting at a daunting speed of 140kph. Yet keeping his nerve, Babar abashes the bowler, cutting one towards deep point. A cry of relief breaks from Babar’s mouth, as he brings his 10th ODI century. The first by a Pakistani middle order batsman, on an ICC stage, since the days of bliss in ’92. What follows is known to all. The “Edgbaston Hundred”, “Babar’s heroics”.

But why so much fuss over one particular innings? Because ladies and gentlemen, this was just the start of an era. It was a catalytic warning of the many incredulous, captivating, jaw-dropping innings that were yet to be unravelled. Babar at 24 is already being associated with the Godfathers of modern-day cricket, the likes of Ab de Villiers and Virat Kohli. Heck, Sachin too. Players whose attitudes have revolutionised the game as we know it. They did not just bring a change, they ‘Are’ the change. Some might label my assessment as over ambitious or overtly biased. But you are indeed looking at a phenom, a great in the making.

Since his debut in 2015, Babar has grasped worldwide cricketing attention. He has scored 6680 runs across all formats in 158 innings, averaging exactly 50 in all three formats combined. To top that, amongst his 16 100’s, 12 are on foreign shores. If compared to King Kohli, 9 of his first 16 were outside India.

Babar to top his striking track record, especially in comparison to the Fab-four, beats King Kohli in the race to fastest 1000 runs in T20, by one innings! If this isn’t a good enough reason for Babar’s signal towards greatness, then I don’t know what is.

Babar Azam is the youngest player, in the history of cricket, to be amongst top 5 batsmen across all 3 formats. Currently, he’s the only cricketing athlete in the top 5 (both bat and ball) of every format too. Lately, Babar has shown his skill in the red-ball department as well. His 143 against Bangladesh continued his purple patch in ICC World Test Championship. His average of 205 in Pakistani conditions surpasses that of any of his teammates.

One major odd which shifts the balance of the biggest challenge Babar faces, is his drive for success. He is a lone warrior in the battle to break a cricketing stereotype that has existed since the birth of the sport in Pakistan, a country usually known for its gallant and treacherous bowlers. There’s a reason why they call it the “Land of pace and swing”. Pakistan for long had been excluded from ICC’s lists of batting rankings, top scorers, record runs and averages and unfortunately, had never seemed capable of coming out of that pigeonhole. But not anymore. Babar’s arrival has brought new hope. In him young Pakistanis especially those aspiring to be a batsman have finally found a ‘Role Model’.

Babar Azam’s passion and perseverance to perform better is what makes him stand tall amongst his peers. It is this drive that has turned many struggling players of the past into stars. Cricketing legends like Imran Khan, Lasith Malinga and even Kohli’s work ethic and goal to be the best is what puts them at the top. Babar Azam is known to stand for hours in the nets until he feels he has attained perfection. He once stated, “Everyone plays, performing is the main thing. To be at the top and to be the best".

With Babar needing only 24 runs in his next innings to equal Kohli’s record of reaching fastest 1500 runs in T20 and only 1 century in his next 8 innings to become the fastest ‘ever’ to score 12 ODI centuries , he seems well on his way to emulate the Fab-four. Will he dominate the 2020’s like Sharma and Kohli did the decade before? Only time will tell. But for now, he is outperforming the best of the very best. With the likes of Kumar Sangakara already declaring Babar far better than himself he is decidedly Pakistan’s finest, a ‘hero’ both at home and abroad; most definitely “A legend in making”.

This article has been written by Fasih Taqvi, currently an O Levels student at Froebel’s International School, Islamabad. Pakistan.