The rise of Babar Azam, Pakistan’s batting sensation, continues. The 26-year-old is now his country’s captain in all formats and set to take the reins in Test cricket for the first time next month in New Zealand.
Twelve months ago he was Pakistan’s T20I skipper and undoubtedly a white-ball phenomenon, but his record against the red ball – while steadily improving – was yet to rival the best in the game. There are fewer questions to answer now, with Babar having established himself as one of the finest all-format batsmen in the world.
Here are a few numbers to tell the tale of a transformative year in the career of Babar Azam:
Babar’s Test batting average from 21 Tests prior to the first Test against Australia last November. Then came a stellar run of form that kicked off at the Gabba with Pakistan 25-3 in their second innings and on the way to a heavy defeat. Babar slowed down Australia’s victory march with a 173-ball 104 and then came up just short of achieving back-to-back tons when he fell for 97 in the second Test at Adelaide.
The following month he was triumphant upon the long-awaited return of Test cricket to Pakistan, recording scores of 102 not out, 60 and 100 not out in a 1-0 series win over Sri Lanka. His fourth Test ton inside three months then arrived at Rawalpindi in February, a career-best 143 helping Pakistan to an innings win over Bangladesh.
While he didn’t reach three figures in the Test series against England in August, the average now sits at 45.44, his last eight Tests resulting in 810 runs at an average of 81.
Babar’s tally of runs in the 2020 Pakistan Super League. The right-hander was the tournament’s leading run-scorer as he guided Karachi Kings to their first PSL title, returning five half-centuries from 11 innings and averaging 59. He was particularly inspiring in the playoffs, his 65 in the Qualifier followed by an unbeaten 63 in the final against Lahore Qalandars.
Babar’s first international century as Pakistan captain, brought up in the third ODI against Zimbabwe earlier this month. Pakistan went on to lose the match in a super over, after Babar’s ton had helped them tie the game. Nonetheless, his first assignment as an ODI skipper was a victorious 2-1 series win, with the 125 following his unbeaten 77 in a six-wicket win in the second ODI.
Babar’s strike rate in T20Is in 2020, with his six innings resulting in 276 runs at an average of 55. Babar did still lose his spot at the top of the ICC’s T20I batting rankings to England’s Dawid Malan in September, but his prowess in all forms means he sits second in T20Is, third in ODIs and fifth in Tests.
Babar will begin the tour of New Zealand in excellent form: he has crossed fifty in each of his last six innings. This includes the ODIs and T20Is against Zimbabwe, as well as his excellence in the PSL playoffs. The world now waits to see what worlds are left to conquer for Pakistan’s star man.