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T20 World Cup 2021

Why Babar Azam didn’t make Wisden’s T20 World Cup team of the tournament

Ben Gardner by Ben Gardner
@Ben_Wisden 3 minute read

Babar Azam is one of the best all-format batters in the world right now. Let’s get that out of the way to start this off.

He’s already in the top tier in ODIs, and well on his way to etching himself among same company in Test cricket. In T20s, his consistency is matched by few within the world game. He is the No.1 ranked batter in both ODI and T20I cricket, and seventh in the Test rankings. And the scary thing is, he’s only 27. There could be the best part of a decade of Peak Babar left to enjoy.

During the T20 World Cup, his consistency was there for all to see. He topped the run charts, with only Virat Kohli and Tillakaratne Dilshan making more runs at a single world event than him. There was outcry over the ICC naming David Warner ahead of him as their Player of the Tournament, and he made most combined XIs from the event, with him captaining the ICC’s side.


He didn’t make Wisden’s T20 World Cup team of the tournament however, and for reasons that don’t include being contrary for the sake of it. Part of this can be seen in his strike-rate. In picking the openers for the side, we settled on David Warner and Jos Buttler, who each scored at at least 20 runs per 100 balls quicker than Babar. At No.3 we went with Moeen Ali, who batted between there and No.6 during the competition, with the all-rounder excelling with both bat and ball.

Still, some will feel Babar should have slotted in at first-drop, as he did in the ICC’s team and many others.  Our philosophy, though we’re liable to stray away from it, is to keep players in positions they played in, otherwise combined XIs can be dominated by openers, who tend to top the run charts. We also try and look at what impact each player had on the matches they played in, rather than their overall numbers. By this latter metric, it’s arguable that Babar only significantly positively impacted Pakistan’s position in one game, their first against India.

In that game, he was genuinely sublime, defying the historic weight of that clash to help his team cruise home without losing a wicket. After then, however, he made a low score against New Zealand, a slow fifty against Afghanistan in a game in which some late hitting was required to rescue Pakistan, big – but not especially quick – runs against Scotland and Namibia, two teams Pakistan would expect to beat regardless, and a slow 39 in the semi-final, in a game in which Pakistan’s lack of early-innings impetus arguably cost them.

Babar still had a very good tournament, and he’s still a very good player. But despite that, we felt others surpassed him.

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