After visualising Sachin Tendulkar in Asad Shafiq a couple of months back, Pakistan’s head coach Mickey Arthur now believes that his latest middle-order batsman Babar Azam is as good as Indian Test skipper Virat Kohli. Impressed by the 22-year old right-hander’s unbeaten 90 on a green-tinged surface in the second Test against New Zealand in Hamilton, he has predicted a bright future for the Lahore-born batsman.
Speaking to The Sydney Morning Herald, the 48-year old South African compared Azam with Kohli when they were at the same age and did not think twice before giving him the lofty adulation.
Arthur claimed, “He's (Azam) a young gun who will be an exceptional player. I'll go so far as to say at the same age, I reckon he's as good as Virat Kohli which I know that's high praise but he's right up there.”
Upon making his international debut during a 2008 ODI against Sri Lanka as a 19-year old, Kohli has grown leaps and bounds with every season. From 176 ODIs, he has scored 7570 runs at an astounding average of 52.93 including 26 centuries. Despite an indifferent start to his Test career, the Delhi batsman constantly worked on his technique to register 3959 runs from 51 matches at an average of 48.28 with 14 tons. In T20Is, his average of 57.13 is significantly better than any batsman with at least 1000 runs.
But, how good was Kohli when he was at the same age as Azam is currently? At 22 years and 46 days*, the run-machine was still under construction and had not yet made his Test debut as the Indian batting lineup still contained giants like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. In ODIs, he had scored 1479 runs from 40 games at an average of 46.21 with four tons whereas his T20I career had only just begun.
On the other hand, Azam has played 18 ODIs and scored 886 runs at an average of 52.11 with three centuries while his T20I career currently stands at only four matches. From his first three Tests, he has tallied 232 runs with two fifties. It becomes pertinent to note that Kohli had a torrid start to his Test career with the 3-match series in West Indies (2011) yielding him just 76 runs.
Kohli truly announced himself at the international arena during the 2011/12 tour to Australia. With India tottering at 87/4 in reply to the home team’s mammoth total of 604, he registered a scintillating century to start his love affair with Australian conditions. His affinity to chase targets was enhanced in the Hobart ODI when he smashed an 86-ball 133 against Sri Lanka to make a mockery of the required run-rate.
Interestingly, Arthur has made the comparison when Pakistan are set to kick start a grueling tour of Australia comprising of 3 Tests and 5 ODIs from December 15th. Having lost their last three Tests including a 0-2 whitewash in New Zealand, they are currently at fourth in the Test rankings and face a stiff challenge to improve their dire record in the country which reads – nine defeats from their previous nine Tests in Australia. As far as ODIs are concerned, the Aussies are still the top-ranked team in the world*.
(*All statistics and data are as of November 30, 2016)