Pakistan's star batsman Babar Azam has moved up to a career-high 6th place (up from 9th) in the International Cricket Council (ICC) rankings for Test batsmen, it was revealed on Tuesday.
Earlier on Sunday, Azam struck 100 not out, his fourth Test century, in the second Test against Sri Lanka in Karachi, in what turned out to be the first series victory for Pakistan on home soil in a decade.
In October, Azam maintained his place as the top-ranked batsman in T20I, with no one being able to knock him over from the position he has made his own since January, when he helped Pakistan claim a 2-1 series victory against New Zealand in New Zealand. In April, he cemented his place at the top of the T20I rankings, amassing 165 runs in the 3-0 whitewash of the West Indies.
Last month, former Australia batsman Michael Hussey, while praising Azam, had said: “I honestly believe this guy [Babar] can be in the same conversation when we start talking about the best players in the world.”
Azam is often compared to star Indian batsman Virat Kohli. Earlier in June, Pakistan's then batting coach Grant Flower said he certainly believed Babar had the X-factor.
“He is very special,” Flower had said. “I believe he is going to be one of the best that Pakistan have ever produced. He's really hungry, is fit and still very young at 24.”
“I think he'll have a really good career if he keeps his feet on the ground, which I think he will. He's got Virat's hunger. I think he could be (another Kohli) at some point in the future.”
Kohli currently has a far better record than Azam, with 41 ODI centuries, and an impressive average of nearly 60.
But Azam's stupendous start to his international career suggests he has the ability to match the Indian superstar. He reached the milestones of 1,000, 2,000 and 3,000 ODI runs faster than Kohli. Azam scored five hundreds in his first 25 ODIs, compared to Kohli's two, although the Indian skipper has since taken his batting to astronomical heights.
Earlier in June, Azam became the second-fastest to reach 3,000 ODI runs, in 68 innings, behind South Africa's Hashim Amla, who reached the mark in 57.
Babar's journey to stardom was marked by hard work but driven by passion. Back in Lahore, he would walk four miles every day to the nets and would be the last to leave the ground. He had topped the batting averages in under-15 cricket in Pakistan and his talent was refined at the National Cricket Academy in Lahore.
“He is a product of an under-16 talent hunt in 2007 and went to West Indies with Pakistan under-15s in 2007 and was the best batsman,” said Haroon Rasheed, a former Pakistan batsman.