The Pakistan cricket team’s journey in the 2023 World Cup has been marked by a series of ups and downs. After facing several off-the-field controversies and four consecutive losses, Pakistan managed to regain momentum with a convincing 7-wicket victory against Bangladesh in Kolkata. This victory, coupled with South Africa’s win against New Zealand, means that Pakistan’s fate is once again in their own hands. To secure a place in the knockout stage, they need to win their upcoming matches against England and New Zealand and ensure that their run rate surpasses that of New Zealand.
In the midst of this resurgence, there is an interesting case concerning Babar Azam, Pakistan’s captain and a highly regarded batsman. While he has scored three half-centuries in the tournament, the team has lost all three matches in which he crossed the 50-run mark. This includes his 50 against India, 74 against Afghanistan, and 50 against South Africa.
Conversely, Pakistan has won matches when Babar has not scored as many runs, such as his scores of 5, 10, and 9 against the Netherlands, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, respectively. This statistical anomaly has left cricket enthusiasts perplexed.
It’s important to note that the outcome of a cricket match is influenced by many factors, and one player’s performance alone does not dictate the result. However, there appears to be a pattern in the way Babar Azam approaches his innings. Former Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi has suggested that one of the reasons for Pakistan’s challenges has been Babar’s inability to convert his starts into substantial scores. In some instances, Babar’s dismissal after reaching a half-century seemed to hinder Pakistan’s progress. Afridi highlighted that players like India’s Virat Kohli and KL Rahul ensure they stay at the crease until the end, finishing off matches effectively.
“Babar Azam ka run run karna alag cheez hai lekin Babar Azam ke score se match jeetna alag hai. Virat Kohli, KL Rahul wagera kya karte hai? Woh apne run bhi karte hai, balls bhi khelte hai aur apne team ko jita ke bhi ate hai. (Babar scoring runs and Babar scoring runs in a winning cause are two different things. Look at what Virat Kohli and KL Rahul do. They score their runs, consume deliveries and make sure they win the match for the team). I’m Babar’s fan, make no mistake. We say Babar is a big player. Reaching that level is one thing and maintaining your performance once you reach that level is much more difficult. When Babar Azam walks into bat, we should get a feeling that we will win it for us. But that feeling doesn’t come. We know that he will score 50-60 but we are confident that he will win us the match,” Afridi stated on SAMAA TV.
Comparatively, Virat Kohli, India’s star batsman, has been pivotal in helping his team secure wins in the World Cup. He has been unbeaten twice during run chases, scoring match-winning knocks of 103* against Bangladesh and 55* against Afghanistan. Even when he got out in a chase, he ensured that India was within touching distance of victory. KL Rahul, another Indian batsman, has remained unbeaten thrice in run chases during the tournament and played crucial roles in India’s victories.
This analysis suggests that Babar Azam might benefit from emulating the approach of batsmen like Kohli and Rahul, who excel in finishing matches for their teams, a quality that has been critical in India’s World Cup campaign. However, cricket is a complex sport, and various factors influence match outcomes, making it challenging to attribute success or failure solely to one player’s performance.
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