Babar Azam opens up on comparisons with Virat Kohli

Babar Azam Virat Kohli
Babar Azam's meteoric rise has evoked parallels with Virat Kohli's remarkable career

What's the story?

Pakistan's star batsman Babar Azam has gracefully played down those comparisons between himself and Virat Kohli. Opening up on head coach Mickey Arthur's words of praise drawing parallels between the two right-handers, he expressed desire to emulate the Indian icon. The Lahore-born cricketer also divulged that South African stalwart AB de Villiers was his inspiration in the early days of his career.

In a candid chat with ESPNCricinfo, Azam revealed, "I loved watching AB de Villiers in the early days. I used to follow him closely. I copied him a lot too. In the nets, I used to at least try some of the shots he played in the matches. Nowadays I follow Virat Kohli, Hashim Amla, and of course, de Villiers."

On Arthur juxtaposing his rise with Kohli's growth, the 23-year old conceded, "He compared me with a very big player. I think it shouldn't be done. But that is the coach's thinking. Maybe the stats at the start of our careers are similar. But he is the number one batsman in the world. I want to perform at a high level for Pakistan too."

The context

Following Azam's unbeaten 90 on a green-tinged pitch in last year's Hamilton Test against New Zealand, coach Arthur claimed that the talented youngster was as good as Kohli at the same age.

The heart of the matter

Earlier this year, Azam insisted that his playing style was completely different from that of Kohli. Since then, he has continued his golden run in ODIs by amassing runs on a regular basis. His stats in the 50-over format make for impressive reading. From 36 ODIs, the promising batsman has accumulated 1758 runs at an astounding average of 58.60 and strike-rate of 85.88 with as many as seven centuries.

In sharp contrast to ODIs wherein he is currently ranked number four in the world, Azam has struggled to come to terms with the rigours of Test cricket. From 11 matches in the purest format of the game, he has managed just 475 runs at a woeful average of 23.75 without a single century.

What's next?

Babar's next assignment will be the limited-overs tour of New Zealand. Pakistan are slated to play 5 ODIs and 3 T20Is against the Blackcaps between the 6th and 28th of January.

Meanwhile, Kohli will be looking to make a strong statement in India's upcoming tour of South Africa. AB de Villiers will be returning to Test cricket when the 3-match series begins at Cape Town on January 5.

Author's take

Considering Kohli's remarkable exploits across all three formats of the game, the Indian captain is shaping up as an ideal role-model for Azam. Having enjoyed a productive start to his ODI career, the Pakistani batsman will be aiming for a breakthrough moment in his Test journey.

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Edited by Ram Kumar