“He’s a young gun who will be an exceptional player. I’ll go so far as to say, at the same age, I reckon, he’s as good as Virat Kohli, which I know that’s high praise but he’s right up there.”
Mickey Arthur, Pakistan’s head coach at one time, said in 2016. The comment sparked off huge outrage as Kohli was at the peak of his prowess milking runs for fun while Pakistan’s Babar Azam was still at a nascent stage in his career. From statistics to technique, everything stood against Azam at the time and Arthur coped a lot of flak for the comment so much so that he modified it in 2018.
“I was a bit quick off the gun when I said two years ago that he would be almost as good as Virat Kohli but it has taken him a while to show that class,” he said.
While this might be true in ODIs, a look at the T20 numbers of the two batsmen suggest that Arthur wasn’t merely jumping the gun.
Since the last T20 World Cup, Babar Azam is the highest averaged T20I batsmen in the world (min 15 innings) while Virat Kohli comes in at No. 10 in the list. Azam, who has played all his games in this time frame, has an average of 54.21 with 10 half-centuries while Kohli has an average of 38.52 in the format in this time frame.
Best averages for batsmen in T20Is since 2016 WT20 (Min 15 innings)
Babar Azam (PAK)
GJ Maxwell (AUS)
KD Karthik (ICC/INDIA)
RD Berrington (SCOT)
KL Rahul (INDIA)
MK Pandey (INDIA)
Shoaib Malik (ICC/PAK)
MS Dhoni (INDIA)
CS MacLeod (SCOT)
The Minnow cloud
The criticism often levied against Azam is that he scores a lot of runs against minnows. While this might be a tad true in ODIs, in T20Is he has never played against any of the minnow nations. So his overall record has come against some of the best teams in the world. Kohli, however, has played matches against Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, UAE and Ireland.
Although his average against top teams is better than his average against minnows, he hasn’t still reached Azam’s overall average against the top-tier teams.
Minnows* - Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Ireland, Bangladesh, UAE
Asia and outside Asia
Kohli has played 43 of his 67 T20I innings inside Asia. He averages a stunning 56.26 in the sub-continent while making 1688 runs with 16 half-centuries. Outside Asia, though, his average drops to 40.1 and he has 762 runs with 6 half-centuries.
The drop in average within and outside Asia holds true for Azam too, but his averages are better on both fronts when pitched against Kohli.
Azam has 770 runs in 18 innings within Asia at an average of 59.23. Outside Asia, he averages 47.7 – as against Kohli’s 40.1 – and has made 477 runs in 12 innings.
Kohli might still trump Azam on the longevity factor but the Pakistani cannot be disregarded as a better batsman than the Indian skipper in this format of the game at least.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Paul Ellis & Sajjad Hussain