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How Kane Williamson and Virat Kohli helped Babar Azam rise to No.1 in the world

How Kane Williamson, Virat Kohli helped Babar Azam rise to No.1
Rupin Kale by Rupin Kale 3 minute read

Babar Azam, the new No.1 in the ICC ODI Batting Rankings, recently spoke about how contemporaries Kane Williamson and Virat Kohli helped him improve his batting.

Babar Azam has an enviable ODI record already. He’s third-highest on the list of most ODI centuries for Pakistan and he recently became the fastest batsman ever from any country to 13 ODI centuries.

Babar’s rise in the ICC ODI rankings has been concurrent with his significant growth as a batsman in the last few years. A part of the development in his game can be credited to his contemporaries, Williamson and Kohli.

Talking in the Pakistan Cricket Board podcast after his ascension, Babar revealed that he had made a conscious decision to play the ball late in recent times. He explained how watching Williamson helped him in that process.

“I learned this from Kane Williamson,” said Babar in conversation with Imam-ul-Haq. “We often talk about how he plays on the back pocket. I realised that because he played it so close, he had more time and better command over the ball.

“That’s why, I started integrating that into my batting slowly. The more you play, the more experience you get. Trying it in international matches gives you the confidence and command that you need.”

Another factor that helped the Pakistan batsman take his career to the next level was a changed approach to his practice in the nets. In the initial stages of his career, Babar did not take practise sessions as seriously as he does now. He said that a chat with Virat Kohli helped him understand how important nets are.

“If my net session doesn’t go great, my entire day is bad. Initially, I didn’t focus as much on how my net practice went,” said Babar. “Slowly, though, I overcame that and realised that if I didn’t take it seriously, I wouldn’t be able to perform in the match. If I am getting out three or four times in the nets or I’m unable to middle the ball there, how will I apply that in the match?

“I had spoken to Virat Kohli about this once and asked him about it. He told me – ‘how you think in the nets, what do you in the nets – that’s exactly what happens in the game. The way you bat in the nets, that’s how you perform in the match.’ That helped me a lot.”

Babar also revealed that his cover drive, one of the best shots in world cricket right now, was derived from AB de Villiers.

“I loved AB de Villiers’ cover drive. I used to watch it and try to copy it,” he revealed. “That’s how I started. Daily I used to knock it on cement tracks. I never felt confident before hitting a cover drive in my innings. Seniors told me to let go of that obsession early on. But you can’t leave the things that you love and that come naturally to you. So I overcame that pitfall by getting better at that shot.”

Fans might love to draw comparisons between players like de Villiers, Williamson, Kohli and Babar, but amidst all of the competition, top batsmen are evidently learning from and helping each other navigate elite cricket.

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