Babar Azam

Brilliant Babar eyes more milestones

Pakistan's ODI record-breaker targets regular Test spot as 1000-run milestone looms in Australia this summer

Just a week after entering his name in the record books, ambitious Pakistan youngster Babar Azam has more milestones on his mind ahead of a likely Test debut in Dubai this week.

In the space of just six days earlier this month, Babar became just the eighth man and second youngest in history after South Africa's Quinton de Kock to amass three hundreds in consecutive innings in one-day international cricket.

In the course of setting the mark against West Indies and piling on a record 360 runs as Pakistan swept the ODI series 3-0, the 21-year-old took his career tally to 886 runs from 18 innings, the most by any batsman at this stage of his career, surpassing the great Sir Viv Richards (883).

And it's left Babar full of confidence ahead of the three-Test series against the Windies, starting on Thursday.

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"It is a great feeling to be in the record books,” Babar, the cousin of fellow Pakistan internationals Umar, Kamran and Adnan Akmal, told in the UAE.

"I am thankful to Allah who made me able to achieve it. I had confidence to perform well and the hard work I had done (has) paid off in this series.

"In the previous series against England I was getting out in the 40s after which I analysed myself and realised that I need more concentration, which helped me a lot.

"I just improved my concentration level and the results are in front of you.

"After scoring two hundreds I had an idea that not many batsmen have made it three in a row so the record was there in my mind before the third innings. I had a belief that I can do it.

"But it is not that I am just after the records. I just want to play positive cricket and give my hundred percent to the team. First it is about my team and then about records."

Babar’s rise and recent performances vindicate the notion that there is no shortage of untapped cricketing talent in Pakistan.

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Unlike some players in recent years, who have been drafted into Pakistan's senior team after just a handful of eye-catching performances in domestic cricket before failing to handle the pressure of international cricket, Babar was made to earn his chance having made his first-class debut way back in 2010.

Part of the Pakistan team that lost the final of the Under-19 World Cup to Australia six years ago, Babar then captained the team in the next tournament two years later.

But despite his excellent credentials in the junior ranks, national selectors didn't hasten his elevation into the senior team, and instead made him play three first-class seasons when his time at U19 level came to an end.

A regular part of the ODI side since his debut last year against Zimbabwe in Lahore, Azam had played a few promising knocks before his breakout series against the Windies. But despite his 54 on debut, a match winning 62 not out against England last November and a brilliant 83 in Wellington earlier this year, he wasn’t able to convert strong starts into a big total, a trademark of his in domestic cricket.

But his three consecutive hundreds against the Windies have both proven his ability at the top level and also earned him a call-up to Pakistan’s Test side, who lost the recently-earned No.1 Test ranking to India this week.

Not that certain members of Australia's pace attack will hold too many surprises.

Babar celebrates his third consecutive ODI century // Getty
Babar celebrates his third consecutive ODI century // Getty

And Babar is likely to receive his first Test cap on Thursday when the first Test in Dubai, just the second-ever day-night clash and Pakistan’s 400th Test match, gets underway.

"I am ready to play Tests and thankful to the selectors for showing trust in me," Babar said.

"Now it is my job to give my hundred percent to the team.

"Our Test team is well established and has some great players in it so to walk in this team will be an honour.

"My target will be to establish myself in the Test team and take my ODI form into the five-day cricket."

With ace batsman Younis Khan to miss the match as he recovers from a fever, Babar might get his chance to fill the vacant number four position, despite otherwise being spoken about as a potential number six.

Having mostly batted at second drop in domestic cricket, Azam has a chance to provide a nice headache for Pakistan selectors when Younis returns to the team, saying he "can bat at any position according to the team requirements".

Looking beyond the current series, Babar is also confident he has the skills and temperament to perform outside the subcontinent, in conditions where Pakistani batsmen have traditionally struggled.

It's worth noting that Babar's performances against the Windies, as impressive as they were, came against a below-par bowling attack on low wickets in Sharjah and Abu Dhabi, a luxury he won’t enjoy in most other countries.

And needing 114 runs in his next two ODI innings to become the fastest man in history to the 1000-run milestone, he'll need to prove his worth outside his comfort zone in Pakistan's next ODI assignment, in Australia in January.

Babar during the 2010 Under-19 World Cup // Getty Images
Babar during the 2010 Under-19 World Cup // Getty Images

"I have played in Australia before at U19 level so I have experience and idea of those conditions," he said.

"I am hopeful that I can perform in Australia too.

"Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Marsh are from my U19 batch and I have played against them before which gives me an idea about their team.

"So I’m confident that I’ll perform well against Australia."

Fastest to 1000 ODI runs

  • 21 innings - Sir Viv Richards (West Indies)
  • 21 innings - Kevin Pietersen (England)
  • 21 innings - Jonathan Trott (England)
  • 21 innings - Quinton de Kock (South Africa)

* Pakistan's Babar Azam has 886 runs from 18 ODI innings