BABAR Azam might not have lifted many trophies as Pakistan’s all-format captain in the last year but the star batter nevertheless ended up bagging the biggest individual award cricket has to offer. And the timing of the announcement of the ICC Cricketer of the Year award couldn’t have come at a better time. Under mounting criticism for Pakistan’s inability to win any of their three home Test series — against Australia, England and New Zealand — last year, Babar was also under fire for the ODI series loss to New Zealand in Karachi. With the ODI World Cup later this year, questions over his captaincy have been rife. The results may have not come — though Pakistan did reach the Twenty20 Asia Cup and World Cup finals last year and they remain one of the top sides in the shortest format of the game — but the burden of leading the team hasn’t affected Babar’s performance. He’s piled on the runs across every format in the last year and the numbers are staggering. Four centuries and seven scores of over 50 in nine Tests saw Babar accumulate 1,184 runs at an average of 69.64. Another 679 runs came in nine 50-over games with three centuries as Pakistan won eight out of nine of those, seeing Babar also named ODI Cricketer of the Year for the second time in two years and the captain of the ODI Team of the Year. There was a century in T20s as well for Babar in 2022 as he ended with 735 runs.
His winning the award meant it stayed with Pakistan after pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi won it last year. It meant that some of Babar’s harshest critics have applauded him. The hope is the award spurs Babar on as captain. He has a chance to elevate himself into cricketing eternity by leading Pakistan to World Cup glory, but though a fine batter, Babar alone can’t do it all.
Published in Dawn, January 31st, 2023
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