What Comes After Bobby Prince
Mercurial, collapses, unpredictability. The most predictable entities of Pakistan cricket. Among the other predictables are throwing tantrums of players being one glory wonders, too slow, too fast, too fat, etc. The recent times have seen a new slogan for Pakistan cricket, one that we have never seen before – that it’s the age of a certain player. A player who is not unpredictable, a player who is not inconsistent, a player whose primary concern isn’t to score mild 30s to save his place for the next match. A player who knows to play according to the situation, pitch, and the opposition.
A player is Babar Azam.
But hasn’t there been much said about him already? Admittedly, it is never enough to talk about the exotic cover drive that comes out of the middle of his bat. The flick that seems to be so underrated. The cut… and yes, we have yet again wet ourselves in the swamp of his glory. But what comes after him? Who is the second most trusted batsman in that shaky line up where none of the batsmen can claim to be the automatic choice for the starting eleven? Imam-ul-Haq? Maybe. But let’s not dwell ourselves into that discussion just yet. Let’s look ahead to someone else.
Someone, who in the era of distribution of fraud titles, is a rare underrated player. Someone, whose chewing gum, unlike Ben Dunk, goes unnoticed often while he holds the bat in his hands, calmly in the utmost pressure situations. Somewhere, he is pushing that collapsed batting line up for the whole series to a manageable target of 250 and above in England. Somewhere, he is hitting a last over six in a last-wicket partnership after Anwar Ali blasts Sri Lanka. Somewhere, he is snatching the game from the teeth of the Afghanistan team at the 2019 World Cup. Are we ready to admit that he is our second most important batsman, often wasted at number 7?
A batsman who, while being a regular at #7, has an ODI average of 42 and a strike rate of 110. A batsman who has a strike rate of 145 in T20Is. Someone who hasn’t debuted in Tests but has a First Class average of 40 with six hundreds to his name. And we haven’t spoken about his economical bowling yet. In an era of 350s and 400s, his economy in ODIs is a mere 4.8 and 6.17 in T20Is.
We haven’t named him yet. But do we have to? Because we only name him when there’s a 100 needed off 30, and he fails to slog madly like an Andre Russell. We name him when we have to meme him on his once increased belly weight or his Kuch Kuch Hota Hai Kajol hairband bashing at the 2017 Champions Trophy vs. India. Or when he goes for a six. Rarely. But he does.
We name him a lot when he miserably fails to deliver. With Shadab Khan improving his batting and potentially making a case for a number 5 spot, it can be a bonus to have this batsman at #6. The modern teams, the progressed ones, do have lower order sloggers to add the cherry onto the cake. But they try not to leave too much to that position. We, throughout our history, have left too much to be done for #6 and below. Maybe it’s time to have some players who, when at the crease, do enough that the number 7s don’t need to make 100 off 30.
The player is a left-hand batsman and a left-arm spinner. He is the second-best batsman for any situation, and we are still not naming him.