Babar Azam dethrones Kohli to become top ranked ODI batsman

Published April 14, 2021
Pakistan captain Babar Azam on Wednesday ended the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Super League matches against South Africa as the number-one ranked ODI batsman in the world, overtaking Indian skipper Virat Kohli. — Photos M. Arif/White Star and AFP
Pakistan captain Babar Azam on Wednesday ended the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Super League matches against South Africa as the number-one ranked ODI batsman in the world, overtaking Indian skipper Virat Kohli. — Photos M. Arif/White Star and AFP

Pakistan captain Babar Azam on Wednesday ended the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Super League matches against South Africa as the No.1 ranked ODI batsman in the world, overtaking Indian skipper Virat Kohli.

Babar had moved ahead of Kohli to No.1 position after his 103 in the first match of the series. But, he slipped to second (five points behind Kohli) after scoring 31 in the second match.

However, after an innings of 94 in the series finale that earned him the player of the match award, Babar has once again leapfrogged the India captain who has slipped from the top for the first time since replacing AB de Villiers in October 2017, a press release issued by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said.

Babar had started the three-match ODI series 20 points behind Kohli and finished eight points ahead of the India batsman, earning 28 points in the series in which he aggregated 228 runs.

Babar’s No.1 ODI ranking supplements his No.6 Test and No.3 T20I rankings, which is a hallmark of a fine batsman across all three formats. At present, Kohli is the only other batsman to feature inside the top six across all formats, the PCB said.

"Babar is the fourth Pakistani batsman after PCB Hall of Famers Zaheer Abbas and Javed Miandad, and Mohammad Yousuf to peak to the top in the ODI batting table," it added.

Reacting to the news, Babar Azam said: “I feel privileged and honoured to have joined the company of stalwarts like Abbas, Miandad and Yousuf, who will always be shining stars in Pakistani cricket.

“This is another milestone in my career, which will now require even more hard work and absolute consistency with the bat in order for me to hold on to the ranking for an extended period of time, like Sir Vivian Richards from January 1984 to October 1988 and Kohli for 1,258 days.

“I have also previously topped the T20I rankings, but the ultimate ambition and goal is to lead the Test rankings, which are the real testament and reward to a batsman’s calibre, reputation and skills. I understand that to achieve this objective, I will not only have to perform consistently, but more importantly, against the top sides," he said.

“I am looking forward to this challenge and remain confident I will be able to accomplish this target with the support of my teammates and coaching staff.

“But at this stage, I will savour the moment as it has come almost 18 months after I was first appointed the white-ball captain and that too at the back of my performances that helped Pakistan become the first Asian side to win two ODI series in South Africa," he said.

Career-high rankings for Fakhar and Shaheen

Meanwhile, Fakhar Zaman returned to the top 10 following a stellar series against South Africa in which he won the player of the series award, while Shaheen Shah Afridi was just outside the top 10 in the latest rankings.

Fakhar had scores of eight, 193 and 101, which helped the left-hander jump from 19th spot to seventh – his career-best ranking to date. His previous best ranking was eighth, which he had achieved following his 138 against England at Southampton in May 2019.

The opener had moved seven places to 12th after his swashbuckling 193 in the second match, while he was rewarded with a jump of five more places following his 101 in the series-decider.

Meanwhile, Shaheen achieved a career-high ranking of fifth. He took three for 58 in the final match of the series, which helped him to jump four places to 11th in the bowling table.

His previous highest-ranking was 14th, which he had achieved following his two for 61 in the first ODI against South Africa.

While Shaheen moved in an upward direction, Hasan Ali and Faheem Ashraf slipped in the latest rankings, which were updated following the third ODI.

Hasan dropped six places to 54th, while Faheem is now 57th after sliding three places. However, Mohammad Nawaz vaulted 29 places to 96th after his figures of three for 34 at Centurion–third ODI.

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