Ricky Ponting, a member of the ICC Hall of Fame, feels the cricket world is yet to see the best of Babar Azam, who won two ICC Awards for his performances in 2022. In the 2022 ICC Awards, Babar Azam won both the Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy and the Men’s ODI Cricketer of the Year, defeating tough fields in both categories. Speaking on The ICC Review, Ponting joined the chorus of plaudits for Babar, highlighting the Pakistan captain’s textbook basis and ability to react in varied situations as essential to his success.
Babar Azam bagged the ICC Men’s ODI Cricketer of the Year
He’s extremely excellent technically,” Ponting added. “He plays spin bowling extremely well, he plays fast bowling pretty well, and he’s been able to adapt to various circumstances throughout the globe – which is what distinguishes the great players from the mediocre ones. “I’ve seen him firsthand be able to be dominant in various surroundings (from the ones he was raised in). The best players are also psychologically tough.
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You simply have to look at when he plays, how long he bats for in Test matches, how he manages the innings in one-day games, and how he has the capacity to move up and down the gears as a batsman when the game and the scenario need it.” Babar‘s stats are great across all three international forms. In 2022, Babar Azam scored 1,184 Test runs with a strike rate of less than 70, 679 ODI runs at a strike rate of 85, and led his team to the T20 World Cup semi-final in Australia, scoring 735 runs at a strike rate of 123.
For many, such statistics would be the limit, but Ponting believes there is more to come. “He’s most likely not” (at his peak). “Most batters reach their peak in their early thirties,” he says. “You’re kind of working on your game and enhancing your game up to a particular point. That’s all most males need. Look at where Steve Smith and (David) Warner have gone. Steve Smith, like Kane Williamson, is probably playing as well as he has ever played in his early thirties.
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“So I believe Babar’s still got a little bit more development to come, which is a really terrifying concept given what he’s been able to achieve, pretty much across all three forms over the past three, four years. I like seeing him play. Let’s hope there’s some opportunity for progress.” What makes Babar Azam’s record even more amazing is that he has cashed in all while carrying the weight of leadership. In addition to his remarkable run total, Pakistan won eight of nine ODI matches last year, giving them a record of 14 victories in 26 matches until 2022.
While leading Pakistan to a second straight T20 World Cup semi-final, Ponting believes there are creases to smooth out in the leadership department, however, he advises Babar Azam to learn from whatever position he finds himself in. “I must say he seemed like he was a little bit agitated at times during the T20 World Cup, notably the game against India when things were pretty close towards the end. “You could see a number of the veteran players, like Shadab Khan, walking over to him and trying to calm him down and help him think a little bit straighter,” Ponting said. But that’s the T20 game.
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Being captain of the T20 squad is never an easy thing to do, particularly in a World Cup, and especially at a moment as crucial as that one, when things were becoming pretty close.” “I’m sure with a little more experience under his belt, as he’s done with his batting, he’ll find the perfect approach to lead and be a very successful captain of Pakistan.” So, how far can Babar Azam go in the pantheon of Pakistan’s greats? Ponting feels there is no reason why he cannot be ranked at the absolute top, even in a pantheon of such greats.
He’s on his way to becoming the all-time great. I know there are individuals like Inzamam ul-Haq and Younis Khan who have more runs than him. “By the time he’s through, I’m confident his stats will stack up with the very best Pakistan has produced, which will be terrific for him, but also for all the cricket fans across the globe who love seeing him play.”
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