Despite being the highest run-scorer for Pakistan across three formats in a record-breaking year for the Pakistani captain, no one quite divides opinion like Babar Azam.
Stats-wise, the 28-year-old Babar is up there with the best, in the Kohli bracket of talent, but some quarters of the cricket family are still not convinced, but is this harsh?
The team here at the-sports-buff.com, will delve deeper and find out. Cricket was first introduced to ‘Bobby’ in 2015 against Zimbabwe in a test match. A year later Babar made his debut in one of the shorter formats (ODI) against West Indies in 2016.
England would also see a young Babar in the same year, make his debut against them in the T20 format in a T20I at my local ground Old Trafford. The Lahore native had a lot of talent, but several other players have had talent, but maybe not the temperament to match.
Babar’s cousin Umar Akmal comes into mind if I was to mention a player. In the case of Akmal, one of the biggest tragedies of Pakistani cricket was that he didn’t utilise his potential and earn more international caps.
Thankfully for Pakistan fans, Babar Azam seemed to be a different kind of player and most certainly cut from a different cloth. Babar who it can be said is currently at the peak of his game at 28 years old, became captain in 2020.
The way it was handled wasn’t the best by the powers that be in the Pakistan game, but on the whole, the decision to appoint Babar has been the right one it can be argued.
In Babar Azam’s tenure, Pakistan have got to a World T20 semi-final and final, which arguably shows the progress that the men in green are making, so what’s the problem?
Well, the problem is this it can be argued in those games, smaller details cost the 2009 World T20 champions the game, in both of those games.
The reluctance to use a sixth bowler when the game has been screaming out for it due to one of the normal front-line bowlers facing some punishment.
Better captaincy and more reactive captaincy could have aided an under-pressure bowler and also kept the opposition second-guessing. But there have been signs that Babar is adapting to the need for change.
Mohammed Wasim is now a mainstay in the side and Shaan Masood is as well. In the case of the 32-year-old Masood, he’s been a shining light for Pakistan since coming into the side.
Again, another example of Babar being a bit more flexible as a captain. The way fans work, they will naturally rue the times that Babar was so set in his ways.
Just in case anyone thinks, the declaration Babar did in the first test against New Zealand is a sign of being flexible and changing approach, then this is not correct.
The Black Caps had 15 overs to make 150+, which seemed impossible, but credit to New Zealand they made it nearly possible, bad light was the obstacle that stopped this from happening.
On the other hand, Pakistan did go hell and leather when trying to chase down 500 to win a test match against Australia, so that’s one positive about their approach, on this occasion.
Babar as a captain, I am for, but against his approach in the big moments. This Pakistan team is a lot calmer and more disciplined in the field. Credit for this must go to the captain and the coaches.
As fans, the want is always more, but two wins over India in tournament cricket is also another feather in the cap for 28-year-old Babar. Trying to make this argument balanced then, I argue there’s a lot to admire about Babar’s captaincy.
Pakistan are a better side than what they have been in limited over matches in yesteryear. They’re fitter more disciplined and better in the field. Of course, that’s not solely down to Babar, but one associates him as one of the better fielders in the Pakistan side.
Babar Azam leads by example. Also, it can be argued although he’s not found a settled side in the test arena, he’s not afraid to blood some younger players. There are pros and cons to this approach.
Finally, Babar’s stats with the bat are up there with the best. In tests, he has scored 26 half-centuries and nine centuries, in ODI he has 17 tons and 22 fifties and in T20 he has scored two centuries and thirty 50s.
Surely this is impressive reading, but what does go against Babar, especially in the shorter form is the speed that he scores the runs. He does start slowly, which can put pressure on the middle order.
On the flip side, both he and batting partner Mohammed Rizwan usually score the bulk of the runs when chasing down totals in T20I, so it can be argued there’s a method to what some see as madness, but what do you think?
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