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Why Kane Williamson was chosen over Babar Azam in Wisden’s current world Test XI

Kane Babar Test
by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

A select Wisden panel, comprising Wisden.com managing editor Ben Gardner, Wisden.com features editor Taha Hashim and Wisden India editor Aadya Sharma sat down this week to pick a current world Test XI, selecting a team based on recent form and overall record.

As always, there was plenty to discuss and debate over, including one of the middle-order spots in the XI. Pitted against each other were Babar Azam, Pakistan cricket’s crown prince, and Kane Williamson, the inaugural World Test Championship winning captain.

Here’s how the conversation went:

BG: Do we go for Babar, who is the in-form guy, or do we go for someone like Kane Williamson who has obviously got a bit more of the overall record? That’s where it gets tough. Taha’s got Williamson… I guess you want to argue for him over Babar.

TH: Yeah, I mean he’s…Kane Williamson. Williamson has the record, but also he has the big thing he’s added to his CV this year, where he has captained the side that has won the World Test Championship. So, I’d find it hard to look past him. With the whole big four thing, it felt very justified to leave Virat Kohli out, it’s been two years since the last century. With the other three, I couldn’t really look past them. He had a bumper home series where New Zealand won those series to get into the final, and he played a pretty handy knock in the final itself.

BG: Williamson for me, out of the big four batters, is the one with the patchiest overall record. He’s got obviously a brilliant record at home. He’s got an amaze record in UAE which is very creditable. He’s got good numbers in West Indies, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, and he’s a bit weaker in England and India. His record in Australia is pretty good but it is not standout, he’s got a pretty poor record in South Africa and Sri Lanka.

There are gaps there which there aren’t in, say, the records of Steve Smith and Joe Root to the same extent, which is why if we’re looking for an XI around the world… I am not saying that edges Babar over him. If Babar had had a bumper series against England last year – he looked pretty good, he looked the part but he didn’t get that statement score – if he had that, I would have been pretty confident with Babar over Kane. But I can just about see having Kane if we’re having Marnus as opener.

TH: Is the leadership argument persuasive? Because I am trying to look for a captain here.

BG: Yeah, that’s true. You got Steve Smith, the disgraced, Rohit Sharma, T20I captain, Joe Root, the England captain. But yeah, Williamson is the leader in the pack.

How do we feel then, about what feels like a top-five of Rohit, Labushagne, Root, Smith and Williamson, or Aadya, are you going to dig your heels in and say Babar over Williamson?

AS: Well, Taha does make a pretty convincing case, bringing in the captaincy element as well. See, the reason why I did not pick Williamson was that he did have a great home summer, but if you think about all conditions…those two double centuries play a big part in his record recently. I think I am fine with Williamson, again, only because Taha mentioned the captaincy element. He does have a trophy at the end of the day, and he did lead New Zealand to it. So I am fine with that.

BG: I have just looked at Babar’s record and it is really good, but I think let’s go with Williamson.

The panel eventually settled on Williamson, with the final XI reading as follows:

Rohit Sharma, Marnus Labuschagne, Joe Root, Steve Smith, Kane Williamson, Mohammad Rizwan, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Pat Cummins, James Anderson, Jasprit Bumrah.

You can watch the entire discussion here:

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