Babar Azam – The Ball-Boy Who Would Go On To Rule World Cricket With His Bat
On Babar Azam and how the Pakistan captain has become a source of inspiration for all young Pakistani batsmen.
The time was late 2015. Pakistani fans were all but jaded by their unreliable and outdated ODI batting over the last decade, which had reached its ultimate crescendo of disappointment in the then recently concluded 2015 World Cup.
It was the second innings of the 1st ODI against England in Abu Dhabi, and Pakistan were 110/4 chasing 217. In a regular scenario, this target would be comfortably achievable. But this was no regular scenario. This was the aforementioned Pakistan ODI batting lineup of the early to mid-2010s against whom the opposition’s score came with an automatic hidden 1.5x multiplier.
The usual collapse was all but inevitable when in walked Babar Azam. The 20-year-old had shown great promise in his short international career thus far—but had been thrust into a difficult situation out of his usual position against the side that would go on to win the next World Cup.
Over the next few minutes, an astonishing sense of calmness descended upon the Sheikh Zayed Stadium and enveloped the hearts of confused Pakistani supporters through the TV screen. The source of this being none other than Babar Azam’s batting, consisting of an impregnable defense combined with the ability to rotate the strike and hit boundaries at will. His run-a-ball 62* and partnership with Mohammad Hafeez ultimately led to a Pakistan win.
The team would go on to lose the series but gain something infinitely more significant.
Nearly a decade later and Babar Azam has cemented his place as one of the greatest batsmen in the entire world—to the point where his name being echoed by ex-players and pundits in all corners of the cricketing fraternity has become a regular occurrence. The emergence of a generational player is an intrinsically beneficial and laudable occurrence, yet there are factors at play here that amplify the importance of this specific case. Most notably, Babar providing aspiring Pakistani players with a batting role model from within their country.
When an individual witnesses a rags-to-riches story take place in the often seemingly hopeless confines of their own culture and region, the likelihood of them replicating it only increases. What do Saim Ayub, Abdullah Shafique, Mohammad Haris, Haseebullah Khan, and many others have in common besides being the flagbearers of a golden generation of young Pakistani batters? They all cite Babar Azam as an inspiration. That this is occurring while Babar is an active player who has not yet crossed the age of 30 makes it all the more astonishing.
Imagine the impact of Babar years from now when his legacy has been firmly embedded within the chronicles of Pakistan cricket, and multiple generations regard him as the personification of batting excellence. After all, Plato’s allegory would be incomplete without the enlightened philosopher returning to the cave and showing everyone else the light.
The concept of intangibles permeates through all levels of every sport, and the various effects of various actions remain unquantifiable despite rapid advancements in modern methods of analysis. Babar Azam’s record is staggering when looked at purely through this statistical lens. And yet the greatness of Babar is immeasurable because it extends beyond the pitch.
His runs and innings will forever be cemented within the annals of the sport—but the true miracle of the once 13-year-old ball boy who would go on to rule the world with the bat in hand is his role in almost single-handedly revolutionizing the cricketing psyche of an entire nation.
The opinions expressed solely belong to the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Grassroots Cricket.