Former Australian skipper Ricky Ponting lavished praise on ICC ODI Cricketer of the Year recipient Babar Azam. Apart from being named captain of the ICC's ODI Team of the Year 2022, he was also awarded the Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy for being the Men's Cricketer of the Year.
In a year where ODI cricket was a little subdued, the Pakistan skipper made his presence felt by scoring 675 runs at an average of 85. He had a prolific run in Tests as well, scoring centuries against Australia, New Zealand, England, and Sri Lanka over the course of the year, amassing 1184 runs at an average of 69.65.
Babar also played a huge role in Pakistan's success on the T20I circuit in 2022. While they failed to cross the line at the 2022 Asia Cup and the subsequent T20 World Cup, they still had a lot of positives to take away.
The skipper forged a solid partnership with Mohammad Rizwan at the top, which in turn became the backbone of the entire batting unit. He scored 735 runs at a strike rate of 123 in T20Is in 2022.
Opining that this version of Babar might not even be his best, Ponting told the ICC while citing Steve Smith, David Warner, and Kane Williamson as examples:
"He’s probably not (at his peak). Most batters come into their prime in the start of their early thirties. You’re sort of working on your game and improving your game right through to a certain point. And that for most guys is it. You look at where Steve Smith and (David) Warner and those guys have been. Steve Smith is probably playing as well as he’s ever played now, along with guys like Kane Williamson as well in their early thirties."
“So I think Babar’s still got a little bit of improvement to come, which is a pretty scary thought with what he’s been able to do, pretty much across all three formats over the last three, four years. I love watching him play. I think there’s some room for improvement, let’s hope we see it.”
Babar is still the reigning No.1-ranked ODI batter with a rating of 887. He ranks No.4 in Tests and No.3 in T20Is.
"He looked like he got a little bit flustered at times at the T20 World Cup, certainly the game against India" - Ricky Ponting
Pakistan's journey at the T20 World Cup 2022 was certainly a roller-coaster ride. After losing to India and Zimbabwe by close margins in the opening two matches, their campaign seemed all but over.
An inspiring win over South Africa kept them alive while a final-day upset brought them right back into it.
The skipper did not have a memorable tournament Down Under, scoring 14 runs off the first four matches. While he was among the runs as the competition progressed, it was still not enough for the Men in Green to secure the title.
Noting that Babar Azam's captaincy will improve with experience, Ponting said:
“I must admit he looked like he got a little bit flustered at times at the T20 World Cup, certainly the game against India when things got really tight at the end. You could see a few of the senior players, Shadab Khan in particular, going over to him and trying to settle him down and just make him think a little bit clearer."
“But that’s the T20 game. Being a captain of the T20 team is never an easy thing to do, especially in a World Cup, and especially in a moment that was as big as that one was when things were getting really tight.”I’m sure with a bit more experience under his belt, like he’s done with his batting, I’m sure he’ll find the right way to lead and be a very successful captain of Pakistan.”
There has been pressure on Babar with his captaincy across formats, especially in Test cricket. The Men in Green recently lost 3-0 to England on home soil and ended up without a single victory over Pakistan over the course of the entire World Test Championship (WTC).
Will Babar Azam end his career as Pakistan's greatest-ever player? Let us know what you think.
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