The fear factor around the Pakistan team that a generation grew up watching revolved around their incredible bowling attack. Still, each world-beating Pakistan unit invariably had a couple of terrific batters – be it Javed Miandad, Inzamam-ul-Haq,
or Younis Khan.
After a period of being in the doldrums in the 2010s, the sub-continental giants are showing signs of springing back to life.
It’s down to the same template – their inspirational captain
manning the batting front.
and Steve Smith has well and truly been turned into ‘famous five’ by Babar’s batting exploits in all formats of the game. The 28-yearold, who bats with unhurried elegance, has jumped to the top of the ODI batting charts.
In addition to that, he is also third in the standings of T20I batters and the only player in the top-five of all three formats.
India vs Pakistan: Who has the edge in the Asia Cup clash?
As if to underline his domination in the 50-over format, Babar smashed a 151 against Nepal in the first game of the Asia Cup, setting the stage beautifully for the first sub-continental derby of the season against India on Saturday.
There’s no brutality about the way Babar goes about his job. Beautifully balanced and equally comfortable both on the front and back foot, the right hander boasts of an incredible ODI average of 59.5 and a perfectly decent strike rate of 89.4.
There’s an element of a younger Kohli – back when Kohli was in his late 20s – in the way Babar goes about his job, and that’s probably the reason the Indian master hailed him as the “best batter in the world” not too long ago.
The respect, of course, is mutual and Babar himself has said in a recent interview how he has tried to incorporate elements of Virat’s game into his own.
“When I met Virat in 2019, he was at his peak, he still is. I wanted to take something from his game. I learnt a lot from him and he gave a detailed explanation to all my questions. When you do such things for each other, it feels really good,” Babar said in appreciation of his fiercest across-the-border rival.
What has made Babar’s achievements even more spectacular is the fact that he leads a batting lineup that is not the best in the business. Barring Babar, for years, there wasn’t anyone who could seriously invoke fear in the minds of the opposition – a one-off Fakhar Zaman effort being more of an aberration than a norm.
These days though, he has an Imam-ul-Haq at the top of the order who seems to have some class and is bringing a sense of calm to the proceedings. Still, more often than not, it boils down to how Babar anchors the ship and the skipper has been up for it, time and time again.
“Babar converts those 30s and 40s into hundreds and that becomes so important. When one of your top-three gets a hundred, you invariably get a 300-plus,” former India coach Ravi Shastri said.
On Saturday, that’s one thing the Indian team would love to curb. The teams may end up playing thrice in the Asia Cup and it will be followed by the World Cup at home, where there could again be more than one meeting. It’s mandatory that India’s bowlers deny Babar a sense of momentum.