Why Babar Azam is on his way to becoming the greatest Pakistan batsman in ODIs

Why Babar Azam is on his way to becoming the greatest Pakistan batsman in ODIs

Let us pit Babar Azam against some of the very best willow wielders that Pakistan has ever produced to arrive at some important conclusions.

Babar Azam
Babar Azam. (Photo by PHILL MAGAKOE/AFP via Getty Images)

What is it that sets great players apart from the merely good ones? What keeps these great players at a pedestal that is out of reach of the other ‘also rans’ who have graced the sport? Every time a great player finds his back against the wall, he bounces back. Every time it seems as if every path to success is closed, a great player charts a way out and succeeds. And, every time the voices of the critics begin to gain weight, a great player shuts the cacophony with a special performance, one that even the critic would silently applaud.

Coming into the third ODI against England, there was a lot of pressure building on Babar Azam. He had been dismissed for a duck in the first ODI, had thrown away a start, and had scored a breezy 19 in the second rubber. And, his performance had mirrored the plight of his side. Pakistan had been walloped in both the matches and failed to even go past the 200-run mark on both occasions.

And, it was in these circumstances that Babar Azam took guard in the third ODI against England. Azam took his time in the third ODI, but once he got his eye in, the shots began to flow. There was the resplendent cover drive, the sizzling square cut, and the raging pull shot for all to see. And, in a masterclass that lasted 139 deliveries, Azam recorded his highest ever ODI score, a masterly 158, and powered his side to a total of 331/9 in 50 overs.

Yes. There is no doubt that this was one of Azam’s best knocks in his sparkling ODI career. But then, another pertinent question needs to be asked. And that is, is Babar Azam on his way to becoming the greatest Pakistan batsman of all time in ODIs?

Babar Azam: Way Ahead of the all-time Pakistan batting greats in ODI cricket

Babar Azam
Babar Azam. (Photo by Aamir QURESHI / AFP) (Photo by AAMIR QURESHI/AFP via Getty Images)

So, let us do some number crunching. Let us now pit Babar Azam against some of the very best willow wielders that Pakistan has ever produced to see if we can arrive at some conclusions. In the tables below, let us have a look at the overall records of the top five run-getters for Pakistan in ODI cricket, and compare Azam’s numbers with the numbers of these batting gladiators.

Overall Record of the Top 5 run-scorers for Pakistan in ODI cricket

Player Name Innings Runs Average 100s 50s 50+ scores Innings per 50+ score
Inzamam-ul-Haq 348 11701 39.53 10 83 93 3.74
Mohammad Yousuf 267 9554 42.08 15 62 77 3.47
Saeed Anwar 244 8824 39.21 20 43 63 3.87
Shahid Afridi 364 8027 23.81 6 39 45 8.09
Shoaib Malik 258 7534 34.55 9 44 53 4.87

Note: The above table takes into account only the ODI matches played for Pakistan

Among these 5 batsmen, Mohammad Yousuf is the only willow wielder to average above 40. Also, Yousuf has the best Innings per fifty-plus score ratio, and he recorded a fifty-plus score once every 3.47 innings in ODI cricket. Also, Saeed Anwar has scored the most number of ODI tons. Anwar scored 20 centuries in 244 innings, which means that he scored a century once every 12.2 innings in ODIs.

Now, in the table below, let us look at Babar Azam’s record in ODI cricket.

Innings Runs Average 100s 50s 50+ scores Innings per 50+ score
81 3985 56.92 14 17 31 2.61

Phew! Babar Azam’s numbers are way ahead of the pack, isn’t it? Azam has already scored close to 4000 ODI runs, and averages a whopping 56.92 in ODI cricket, a good 14.84 more than Mohammad Yousuf, who is the only Pakistan batsman among the top 5 run-getters to average above 40. Also, Azam takes just 2.61 innings to record a fifty-plus score, which is once again way ahead of the 3.47 innings taken by Yousuf, who is the best in the list again.

Also, Azam has scored 14 three-figure scores in 81 innings in ODI cricket, which means that he scores a ton once every 5.79 innings. This ratio of Azam is more than twice as good as Saeed Anwar’s ratio of 12.2 innings per ODI hundred, the man who has the best innings per century rate among the top 5 run scorers for Pakistan in ODI cricket.

So, there is no doubt that Azam is way ahead at this juncture when pitted against the all-time greats of Pakistan cricket as far as their overall records are concerned.

How good were Pakistan’s all-time batting greats after 83 ODIs?

Babar Azam
Babar Azam. (Photo Source: Twitter)

You might wonder what is so special about the number 83. Well, that is the number of matches that Babar Azam has currently played in the ODI format of the game. In the table below, let us analyze the records of the top 5 highest run scorers for Pakistan after 83 ODI matches.

Player Name Matches Runs Average 100s 50s
Inzamam-ul-Haq 83 2746 39.79 4 19
Mohammad Yousuf 83 2622 39.72 3 17
Saeed Anwar 83 2580 34.40 8 7
Shahid Afridi 83 1923 24.65 2 10
Shoaib Malik 83 1931 31.65 4 8

Among these great batsmen, not a single batsman has even scored more than 3000 ODI runs after 83 ODI matches. Also, none of these batsmen averaged above 40 after playing 83 ODI matches. Also, the highest number of tons scored after 83 matches among these 5 batsmen was by Saeed Anwar, who scored 8 centuries.

Now, let us take a look at Babar Azam’s record in ODI cricket at present, after 83 matches

Matches Runs Average 100s 50s
83 3985 56.92 14 17

Babar Azam’s records place him at a different plane altogether. While Inzamam-ul-Haq had scored the most runs among the top 5 run-getters with 2746 runs after 83 ODI matches, Azam has scored a whopping 1239 runs more than Inzamam-ul-Haq at the same juncture. Also, Azam’s average of 56.92 is 17.13 points higher than his nearest competitor, Inzamam-ul-Haq, who averaged only 39.79.

Also, Saeed Anwar had scored the most numbers of tons (8 tons) after 83 ODI games. And, Babar Azam comfortably beats Anwar and has scored 6 tons more than the former Pakistan batsman. Clearly, Azam has outshone each of the 5 Pakistan batting greats after 83 ODI matches.

Records in a win: Babar Azam and other Pakistan batting greats

Babar Azam
Babar Azam. (Photo Source: Twitter)

Let us now come to the final parameter, and compare the records of Babar Azam in an ODI win with the top 5 run scorers for Pakistan in ODI cricket. The two tables below will reflect the numbers.

Player Name Innings in a Win Runs in a Win Average in a Win 100s in a Win 50s in a Win
Inzamam-ul-Haq 190 7402 51.04 7 55
Mohammad Yousuf 147 6265 56.44 14 39
Saeed Anwar 140 6347 51.18 16 37
Shahid Afridi 192 5110 30.23 5 29
Shoaib Malik 128 4363 44.97 7 27

Note: Only the ODI matches played by these players for Pakistan has been taken into consideration

From the above table, we can see that three out of Pakistan’s top 5 run-scorers average above 50 in a win for their country. Mohammad Yousuf averages an excellent 56.44 in a win in ODI cricket for Pakistan, while Saeed Anwar has scored the maximum number of centuries.

Now, in the table below, let us take a look at Babar Azam’s record in a win in ODI cricket for Pakistan and draw some inferences.

Innings in a Win Runs in a Win Average in a Win 100s in a Win 50s in a Win
38 2342 86.74 10 8

Read the numbers generated by Babar Azam in a win again. The 26-year-old batting sensation averages a staggering 86.74 in a win for Pakistan, and that is a colossal 30.3 higher than Mohammad Yousuf, who averages the highest among the five 5 highest run scorers for Pakistan. Also, Azam has already scored more hundreds in a win for Pakistan than all-time greats like Inzamam-ul-Haq, Shahid Afridi, and Shoaib Malik.

With such stunning numbers in a win for Pakistan that are way ahead of some of the greatest Pakistan willow wielders in ODI cricket, Babar Azam has proven to be an asset for Pakistan with the bat in the ODI format of the game.

In The End

Babar Azam
Babar Azam. (Photo Source: Twitter)

Babar Azam’s stroke play is pleasing. He caresses the ball into the gaps with precision, his cover drive is arguably one of the best of the modern era, he can render any bowling attack helpless on his day, and most importantly, Azam has already generated stunning numbers for his country in ODI cricket.

His overall record at this point is way ahead of some of the greatest Pakistan batsmen of all time, and his numbers in a win prove that he is a match-winner for his side in ODI cricket. Azam is only 26 but has already carved his name as one of the special talents produced by Pakistan in ODI cricket. And, if he can continue in the same vein, he will definitely end up as the greatest batsman Pakistan has ever produced in ODI cricket, and there is no doubting that.

Note: All the stats have been taken from Cricinfo and Howstat Cricket and have been updated as on 15th July 2021