Why the Virat Kohli-Babar Azam comparison makes perfect sense
Let us do a deep dive and analyze the numbers of both Kohli and Azam.
Updated - Aug 12, 2020 12:42 pm
James Anderson had the ball in his hand. He bowled a delivery just short of a length, the batsman got on top of the bounce with elegance and drove him through cover for four. It was a special shot from a very special player. Babar Azam had made a difficult shot look ridiculously easy.
And, in the first innings of the first Test against England at Manchester, the batting sensation scored a stroke-filled 69. In fact, in his last 10 Test innings, Babar has scored as many as 4 hundreds, and has set the stage on fire with the willow in hand.
After his knock of 69 in the first innings, this is what former England skipper Nasser Hussain had to say.
So, does the comparison between Azam and the legendary Virat Kohli make sense? Let us do a deep dive and analyze the numbers of both Kohli and Azam.
Babar and Kohli in Test cricket- Babar ahead
Babar Azam has played 50 innings in Test cricket so far. So, let us have a statistical comparison between both Kohli and Azam after 50 innings in red-ball cricket.
From the above table, we can see that Babar leads Kohli in most of the parameters after 50 Test innings. He has scored 89 runs more than Kohli at the same point, and has also scored as many as 5 fifties more than the Indian batting maestro. Babar also averages 4.85 points more than Kohli. The only place where Kohli has edged out Azam is in the number of hundreds scored, where he has 6 tons as compared to Azam, who has scored 5.
While Kohli had already scored hundreds in Australia, South Africa and New Zealand by then, Babar has scored 4 of his 5 hundreds in UAE and Pakistan, while he scored one hundred in Australia at Brisbane last year.
So, Babar has performed better than Kohli at the same juncture in Tests.
Babar Azam leads the race in ODI’s too
Now, let us take a look at Kohli and Babar in ODI cricket in the table below. Babar has currently played 72 innings in ODIs. Let us see how he stacks up against the Indian batting legend after 72 innings.
In the ODI format too, Azam is ahead of Kohli. Azam has scored 468 runs more than Kohli at the same juncture and also averages over 7 points more than Kohli. He has also scored 3 hundreds more than Kohli at the same juncture. One place where Kohli leads is the number of fifties, and he has scored 3 more half-centuries than Azam at the same point.
T20 cricket- Very little to separate the two
Now, let us move to the shortest format of the game and compare these two batsmen. Babar has played 38 innings in T20 cricket and let us analyze his numbers against that of Kohli at the same point.
In T20Is, the two stand neck to neck. They both have almost scored the same number of runs and fifties and are yet to score a century in T20I’s. While Babar averages 50.72, Kohli’s average is slightly better at 52.50 at the same juncture. Also, Babar is the fastest batsman in history to reach 1000 T20I runs, getting there in just 26 innings. And for the record, Kohli took 27 innings to breach the 1000 run mark in T20I’s.
The similarities beyond the numbers
Now, let us move away from the numbers to find out a few more similarities. After the retirement of the legendary Sachin Tendulkar, Kohli has carried the burden of the Indian batting line up. He has plundered several bowling attacks with mastery and is well on his way to batting immortality. He has acted as the fulcrum of the Indian batting line up and the hopes of the nation now rest on Kohli.
Babar too, is the linchpin of the Pakistani batting line up, especially in the ODI format. In the recently concluded 2019 World Cup, Babar was the fulcrum of his side with the willow. He scored as many as 474 runs during the competition, at a colossal average of 67.71. He is the most prized scalp of the opposition.
At the age of 25, Babar Azam is well on his way to greatness. He averages over 50 in both ODIs and T20 cricket, and has already scored 5 hundreds in the longest format of the game. While he still has a long way to go before he can be taken in the same breath of Kohli, Babar has already shown signs of greatness.
Pakistan will be hoping that Babar continues in the same vein and the comparison between Kohli and Azam makes perfect sense when we crunch the numbers.
And surely, Nasser Hussain had a valid point to make, when he compared Kohli with Pakistan cricket’s most valuable possession today.