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HomeSportIs Pakistan’s Babar Azam really better than Virat Kohli? Numbers say yes...

Is Pakistan’s Babar Azam really better than Virat Kohli? Numbers say yes in ODIs & T20s

Early in their careers, Babar Azam has better numbers than Virat Kohli. But he’s yet to reach the point where Kohli became an all-time great — Hobart, 2012.

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New Delhi: Pakistani batsman Babar Azam has been on a prolific run in this World Cup. In fact, if the men in green are still in contention for a semifinal spot despite looking out of sorts in the first half of the tournament, Azam, along with fellow batsman Haris Sohail, can take a large share of the credit.

Last week, on a difficult Edgbaston pitch against New Zealand, Azam led Pakistan’s chase and scored a brilliant century in the process. With two other fifties and other small-but-significant contributions in this World Cup, he has given Pakistan’s supporters what they had lost after their heavy defeat to India — hope.

Noted cricket writer Osman Samiuddin recently wrote of him for ESPNCricinfo: “…we’re now in the age of Babar and that you can say that about any Pakistani batsman is an incredulous thing to be able to say”.

But is it really the age of Babar Azam? Has he done enough to surpass Virat Kohli as the defining batsman of the era? ThePrint sieves through the data to find the answer.

The rise and rise of Azam 

Azam, 24, was born in Lahore, and comes from a family which has a tradition of producing cricketers. The Akmal brothers, Kamran, Adnan and Umar, are his first cousins.

Azam had failed in his earliest attempt to enter the national academy in Lahore, where the top under-15 and under-16 players come from all over Pakistan. He didn’t let this deter him, and after a year of hard work, he not only managed to join the academy but was also adjudged the best under-15 batsman in the country.

Azam made his ODI debut against Zimbabwe in May 2015 at Lahore, scoring a 60-ball 54 in a match that had to be abandoned due to floodlight failure, a dust storm and rain.

His big moment came next year when he scored three consecutive centuries against West Indies in Pakistan’s adopted home, the UAE.

A Test debut followed against the same opposition, and Azam impressed in his very first innings, scoring 69 runs.

Also read: Virat Kohli beats Sachin & Lara to become fastest to reach 20,000 international runs

Kohli and Azam: Head-to-head

At the end of Pakistan’s eighth game of the World Cup, the narrow victory over Afghanistan, Azam has scored 3,117 runs in 71 matches at an average of 52.83, with 10 centuries.

Kohli, at the end of India’s first defeat of the tournament to England, has scored 11,225 ODI runs in 233 matches at an average of 59.70, with 41 centuries.

Azam has become the second fastest man to score 3,000 ODI runs, doing it in just his 70th match and 68th innings, behind South African Hashim Amla, who did it in 59 matches and 57 innings. Kohli took 78 matches and 75 innings to get to the landmark.

As the graph below demonstrates, Azam has been consistently above Kohli in terms of his career run progression.

Infographic by Arindam Mukherjee

What’s more, when Azam scores, Pakistan generally win. Eight of his 10 centuries have come in winning causes, while for Kohli, the number stands at 33 victorious tons out of 41.

However, keeping up with Kohli might get tougher and tougher for Azam from hereon.

When Kohli went from great to legendary 

Sachin Tendulkar was a good one-day player in the early part of his career, but cricket fans can still tell you the exact match he went from good to the best of his generation — the second ODI against New Zealand at Auckland in March 1994, where he opened the batting for the first time and scored 82 off 49 balls.

Ditto for Kohli, whose landmark innings came in the 2012 Commonwealth Bank tri-series in Australia. He cracked an unbeaten 133 in 86 balls as India chased down Sri Lanka’s total of 320 in just 36.4 overs.

In 81 innings before Hobart, Kohli had scored 3,100 runs at an average of 45.59, with eight centuries. Since Hobart, Kohli has scored 8,125 runs in 147 innings at an average of 68 with 33 centuries. The innings-per-century ratio for this period is 4.45.

Infographic by Arindam Mukherjee

Now, Kohli has become the fastest to 11,000 ODI runs, achieving the feat in just his 222nd innings as opposed to Tendulkar’s 276th. His average is the best among all active players, with only The Netherlands’ Ryan ten Doeschate holding a higher career mark (67.00). Kohli has also scored the maximum centuries among active players, as well as the highest number of runs.

Miles to go in Tests

For Azam to be considered in the same league as Kohli and other greats, he will also have to improve his middling Test record. In 21 Tests, Azam has scored just 1,235 runs with one century at a paltry average of 35.28.

Kohli’s Test average is 53.76 after 77 matches, good enough to put him in the all-time great category, which is conventionally supposed to be for batsmen with 50-plus averages.

Infographic by Arindam Mukherjee

However, Azam is turning out to be the better T20 player, giving Pakistani fans hope that he will become the first Pakistan batsman in over a decade to be in the conversation for the tag of ‘best in the world’.

Also read: With a flick of his wrists, Virat Kohli turned his weakness into his biggest strength


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  1. It is not fair to just see at the averages.. What is more important is how much percentage of runs scored against top three sides.. Another thing is his strike rate when it comes to T20..

  2. Test match is a toughest format of cricket and the real examination of a player.
    Virat is a king of all three format.
    Lastly, there is no comparison b/w virat and Babar.

  3. Most of his runs and centuries were scored against Minos and pitches of Abu Dabi… From now onwards he will be under scrutiny and will be tough for him to match Kohli…. And you can look at his test career it says it all.

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