Who will become cricket's next Fab Four?
- A look at 4 cricket players who could replace the existing Big-4 of Kohli, Root, Williamson and Smith.
- The four players mentioned in the list have all shown their potential to succeed the Big-4.
The 'Fab Four' is a term we use in cricket to refer to the likes of Virat Kohli, Steve Smith, Kane Williamson and Joe Root. Their ability to score runs consistently year after year sets them apart from the rest.
However, the Fab four would eventually start to decline. So the question about who will take their places in the future arises.
Below are my candidates who I think can claim these positions.
Four players who could replace the present Big-4 in cricket:
#1: Babar Azam (Pakistan)
If there were anyone I would put my money on making it to the Fab-4, it is Babar Azam. Just like Sachin Tendulkar playing his signature straight drive, watching Azam cover drive the ball is a sight to behold in cricket.
The Pakistani middle-order batsman oozes the class that the current Fab 4 do. Babar Azam made his ODI debut against Zimbabwe in May 2015 where he scored an impressive 54 off 60.
He made his T20I debut against England in September 2016, scoring an unbeaten 15 off 11. Making his Test debut against West Indies a year later, Azam bagged 69 runs in the first innings. In the process, the right-hander became the first player to score a fifty on his Test debut in a day/night Test.
In the subsequent three-match ODI series against West Indies, he amassed 360 runs. This made him the only player to score over 350 runs in a three-match ODI series. He scored three consecutive centuries in that series, which made him the third Pakistan batsman to score ODI centuries in three successive matches.
In the third ODI against Australia in January 2017, Babar Azam became the then joint-fastest player to score 1,000 runs in ODIs and the fastest Pakistan player to reach the landmark, doing so in 21 innings. However, both his records were later eclipsed by his compatriot Fakhar Zaman.
After the ICC Champions Trophy in 2017 ICC sent a World XI team to Pakistan to play three T20I matches. Babar Azam scored 179 runs and was the top run-scorer in the series.
He unlocked his potential in ODIs and T20Is very quickly, but seemed to be struggling to do the same in Tests.. It took him 17 innings to score his first century in the longest format of the game, which came against New Zealand in 2018. The Test series against Australia in 2019 showed that Babar Azam belonged to the Test level as well. He scored 210 runs at an average of 52.50 against a hostile bowling attack.
In October 2019, he was named captain of Pakistan's T20 side. The right-hander has played 26 Tests scoring 1850 runs at an average of 45.12. In 74 ODIs he has tallied 3359 runs at an average of 54.17 while he has scored 1471 runs in 38 T20Is at an average of 50.72.
As long as Babar Azam makes consistent performances across formats, it may only be a matter of time before he is in the elite category.
#2: Marnus Labuschagne (Australia)
I am going to be one of the many people jumping in on the Marnus Labuschagne bandwagon. Yes, it may be premature to say anything about his long-term potential conclusively, but I feel he's got what it takes to become one of the best batsmen in the world.
Labuschagne arguably had one of the most incredible Australian summers by a batsman. He scored 896 runs in five games. The right-hander tallied 347 runs against Pakistan at an average of 173.5 and 549 runs against New Zealand at an average of 91.5.
He didn't have the best of starts in international cricket as he made a second-ball duck against Pakistan in October 2018 and failed to make an impact in the series.
Labuschagne was, however, added to the Australian Test squad to tour India in 2018-19 where he made 38 runs in his only innings. He retained his place in the side for the next two Tests against Sri Lanka, managing to score one fifty in four innings. He was unable to cement his place in the side, which meant that he was in and around the squad.
In April 2019, Labuschagne signed for Glamorgan County Cricket Club. He amassed 1,114 runs in his first County Championship season at an average of 65.52. Labuschagne was the second-highest run-scorer in the second division of the County Championship, having just played 18 innings.
He was rewarded for his performances when he was named in Australia's squad for the 2019 Ashes series in England. Not finding a place in the XI in the first two Tests, it looked like Labuschagne was going to wait for a while.
Little did he know that he would be batting on day five to save the match for Australia. Labuschagne became the first player to be a concussion substitute (for Steve Smith) in a Test match. He scored a gritty 59 which helped Australia save the game.
He was then selected for the third Test in Smith's absence where he impressed everyone by scoring fifties in each innings. Labuchagne scored 359 runs in the series and ended up as the fourth-highest run-scorer, having played only seven innings.
The right-hander finished 2019 as the highest run-scorer in Test cricket after scoring 1,104 runs.
In my opinion, Labuschagne has got what it takes to succeed in international cricket in the years to come. The right-hander has made a good start but only time will tell if he can prove to be one of the heirs to the Fab Four.
Aiden Markram captained South Africa U19 in the 2014 ICC Under 19 Cricket World Cup where the Proteas won the competition for the first time. Markram impressed one and all with the bat and with his captaincy that many felt he would go on to captain South Africa in the future.
Markram made his Test debut against Bangladesh in 2017 where he narrowly missed out on a century. But he wouldn't be denied for too long, reaching his maiden hundred in the longest format of the game in the next test against Bangladesh.
Later in the year, Markram scored his second Test hundred against Zimbabwe, becoming the first South African player to score two centuries in his first three tests.
He made his ODI debut against Bangladesh a month later, scoring 66 runs. In February 2018, Markram was made captain of the South African for the remaining ODIs against India as Faf du Plessis was ruled out of the series. At the age of 23, he became the youngest player after Graeme Smith to captain the Proteas in ODIs.
In the four-match Test series against Australia that year, Markram was the top-scorer with 480 runs at an average of 60, scoring two hundreds and a fifty.
However, after that series Makram has failed to score a hundred in his next ten Test matches, scoring only three fifties during this period. A string of inconsistent performances meant that he was in and out of the team.
With South Africa going through a transition phase, I am sure Markram will get enough opportunities to secure his place in the side. In my opinion, he has got the potential to succeed and became a batting mainstay for South Africa.
Nicholas Pooran raised several eyebrows with his performances at the 2014 ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup. He was the fourth-highest run-scorer in the tournament, scoring 303 runs with one hundred and two fifties at an average of 60.6.
The left-hander's 143 against Australia in the quarterfinals was undoubtedly the innings of the tournament and provided a glimpse of the talent he possessed. Pooran had a bright future, but fate seemingly had other plans.
In January 2015 he was involved in a car accident where he sustained ankle and knee injuries. His left patellar tendon was ruptured, and his right ankle was fractured. Pooran had to undergo two surgeries. It took him more than 18 months to make a comeback to cricket.
Pooran made his ODI debut against England in February 2019 where he bagged a four-ball duck. The left-hander was later named in the West Indies squad for the 2019 Cricket World Cup. He finished the tournament as the leading run-scorer for West Indies, scoring 367 runs in nine matches which included a maiden ODI century against Sri Lanka.
With his flamboyant stroke-play, it comes as no surprise that he has represented various franchises in T20 cricket. I feel it is not long before West Indies start looking at him as an option in Test cricket too. Pooran has undoubtedly got the game to succeed in all formats. He is an exciting player to watch and can take world cricket by storm in the years to come.