ICC Hall of Famer Mahela Jayawardene, a legend of Sri Lanka, used the most recent episode of The ICC Review to suggest which batsman is most likely to dethrone Joe Root of England as the leader of the MRF Tyres ICC Test Batting Rankings and Babar Azam is that kind of batsman.
Since June of this year, Joe Root has dominated at the top of the Test batter rankings. The Englishman is now enjoying a strong World Test Championship and is in rich form.
The former England captain won the ICC Men’s Test Player of the Year title in 2021 for good reason—he has scored more runs than any other player since the decade began.
However, Jayawardena has identified Pakistan captain Babar Azam as the person most likely to overthrow Root as the leader of the No.1 test batter since he is aware of how many top-tier batsmen are contested to replace him.
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Who can dethrone Joe Root as a no.1 Batsman in Test?
On the most recent episode of The ICC Review, when host Sanjana Ganesan put Jayawardena on the spot, the Sri Lankan legend predicted that Babar would dethrone Root as the number one Test player.
“Tough one!” Jayawardena exclaimed. “I would say Babar Azam has an opportunity. He’s been consistent in all three formats and it shows in his rankings. He’s a naturally gifted player, plays in all conditions, he’s got the game to adapt as well.”
“It depends on the amount of cricket, who’s playing when, and how much but the Babar might be the guy.”
Babar holds the top slot in each of the white-ball formats and is now ranked No. 3 in Tests, making him the only player in the top three in the batters’ rankings in all three formats.
With his recent ascent in the Test rankings, Babar Azam has made noises about wanting to be the uncontested No. 1 in all competitions, and Jayawardena believed the Pakistan captain is capable of pulling off the challenging task.
- “T20Is and ODIs, it is a tough one to hold on to because there are a lot of good players who have to be consistent,” Jayawardena said.
- “As long as he can be that, because he has a very good role to play in that Pakistan setup – they have batters to bat around him, so he can play his own game – he should be able to hold on to that and at the same time, push himself to get better.
- “He batted really well in Sri Lanka. I think Prabath (Jayasuriya) was his nemesis – he got him three times out of the four innings. That was a very good battle to watch. Babar got a really good hundred in the first Test match.
- “He’s always going to push himself to get better. Seen in a couple of his interviews recently that it is his goal as well to be No.1 across the table. There’s no harm in challenging yourself to get there.
- “Being the captain as well, he has taken responsibility and performed, which is great to see. (It’s) Not an easy thing to do.
- “I would put my money on him at least for a little while to hold to all three but there are some good quality players around who will keep pushing him.”
What makes Babar Azam such a Special Player?
When asked in greater depth about what makes Babar Azam such a special player, Jayawardena responded that he is most amazed by how much time the Pakistani captain spends at the crease.
- “I think it is just the technique, the time that he has, and the composure that he has out there in the middle,” Jayawardena said in praise of Babar Azam.
- “He’s not rattled at any time, whether he plays T20Is, ODIs, or Tests, he adjusts quite brilliantly.
- “Joe (Root) in Test cricket is the same. He knows what he needs to do, he can the tempo when he wants to, and bats to what the conditions offer. Babar has that same quality, so that’s why he’s been so consistent in all three formats.”
Later this year, when England visits Pakistan for a three-match Test series in December, the two stars will square off.
The forthcoming series against South Africa could help Root further establish his No. 1 ranking, while Babar will have to wait until the series against England later in the year to challenge Root’s no.1 position.
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